Depleted Uranium: Parliament supports SP call for ban on use

24 November 2009

Depleted Uranium: Parliament supports SP call for ban on use

A parliamentary majority today voted to support a proposal from the SP for a temporary ban on the use of weapons containing depleted uranium and heavy metals. SP Member of Parliament Harry Van Bommel explains: “The SP has long argued for a ban on these weapons, which have caused enormous suffering amongst ordinary civilians, including children, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. In view of Parliament's vote, the government must now take active steps to persuade the Americans and the British to accept a moratorium on these weapons. The SP believes that such a move would lead eventually to a total ban."

A picture from a 2003 edition of the SP's monthly magazine, Tribune. Depleted uranium continues to create thousands of victims. Photo: Geert van Kesteren/HH

Depleted uranium (DU) is used by US and British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Weapons containing it are radioactive, and though the radioactivity level is relatively low, the material continues to give off radiation for many years. Munitions are equipped with DU to, for example, enable them to penetrate armoured cars and tanks. Researchers confirm that they are responsible for massive and widespread health problems amongst civilians, including children contaminated while playing on burnt-out tanks. Harry van Bommel's SP colleague in Parliament, Krista van Velzen has fought for many years against the use of these weapons. As long ago as 2004 she attempted to persuade the AFMP, the soldiers' union, to get rid of all munitions enriched with uranium and has since organised numerous expert meetings, including a conference in Parliament itself. Describing the parliamentary vote as "an enormous step forwards," Van Velzen said: "The government has fought tooth and nail to avoid having to speak out to the Americans, British and others on this. Parliament has now pronounced. to the effect that the Dutch government must make efforts on the international stage to bring about a moratorium. I'll be holding them to it.”

In addition to a halt on the use of DU weapons, Parliament also backed a demand for a similar moratorium on armaments containing heavy metals. The UN Goldstone Commission's recent report on the war on Gaza report noted that this sort of weapon, in this case containing the heavy metal tungsten, had been used by Israel. In common with DU, these weapons carry disproportionate consequences for the civilian population.

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