UK parliamentarians from across political spectrum call on government to support UN depleted uranium resolution
The letter, published today in The Telegraph newspaper has been signed by representatives from all the main UK political parties. It was also signed by crossbench peer, academic and prominent Muslim feminist Baroness Afshar. Signatories to the letter had all signed the recent Early Day Motion 825 which, at the time of writing, had attracted the support of 86 Members of Parliament.
This is an estimate because America, unlike Britain, has not released data on where these munitions were used, or in what quantities. Until this is made available, hazard-awareness programmes, monitoring and, where necessary, decontamination, will be impossible.
Reports of increased illness in Fallujah, and the legacy of the weapons’ use in the Balkans, have inspired a UN resolution calling on uranium weapon users to release data, upon request, to affected states. Britain, America, France and Israel voted against the resolution in the first round of voting; 136 states voted in favour.
The Ministry of Defence subsequently argued that, as there is no international legal obligation for states to release this information, the resolution is “irrelevant”. This is disingenuous in the extreme.
There will be a second vote on the resolution on December 8, and motions in Westminster and Holyrood are calling on the Government to vote in favour or abstain. Given that the resolution asks for nothing more than the MoD has already undertaken, it would reflect poorly on Britain if we opposed it a second time.
Peter Bottomley MP (Con)
Tim Farron MP (Lib)
Tony Lloyd MP (Lab)
Angus Robertson MP (SNP)
Elfyn Llwyd MP (Plaid Cymru)
Margaret Ritchie MP (SDLP)
Caroline Lucas MP (Green)
Naomi Long MP (Alliance)
EDM 825 makes a detailed and compelling case for the UK government to support the General Assembly resolution next month. During the first round of voting at the UN First Committee in October, the UK, along with the US, France and Israel were the only four states to vote against the text. In their explanation of vote, the UK, US and France claimed that they are under no obligation to release data on where they have used depleted uranium – and therefore that the resolution is irrelevant. Instead they claimed that: ”…it is up to each state to provide data at such a time and in such a manner as it deems appropriate. It is nearly 19 years after depleted uranium munitions were first used in Iraq and the government is still waiting for this data to be released.
The UK signed up to the this joint UN position despite having cooperated with UN agencies over their use of 1.9 tonnes of depleted uranium in the 2003 Iraq War. They also part-funded a capacity building programme for the Iraqi Environment Ministry to train staff in sampling sites. It has therefore come as a disappointment that the UK Ministry of Defence has so far refused to endorse this resolution, given that it asks for little more than they have already done voluntarily.
ICBUW believes that, given the potential risks from these weapons, and given their obligations under International Humanitarian Law to protect civilians and the environment during armed conflict, it is incumbent on militaries to rapidly transfer detailed and accurate data on their use of depleted uranium to the governments of affected states.
While the debate over the weapons long-term impact is ongoing, the IAEA, WHO, UNEP and British Royal Society have all called for remedial work at contaminated sites to be undertaken. This includes marking, monitoring, hazard awareness programmes and, where necessary, decontamination. Needless to say, all these are impossible without the timely release of accurate strike data.