Government must reject use of depleted uranium weapons

3 May 2011

Government must reject use of depleted uranium weapons

SP Member of Parliament Jasper van Dijk describes himself as ‘outraged’ by the government’s position on depleted uranium (DU) weapons. On hearing reports that the US Air Force has used DU munitions in Libya, the SP’s parliamentary group in The Hague asked the government to supply further information. At the same time the party is urging the imposition of an international moratorium to put a stop to the use of DU weapons. ‘It’s extremely regrettable that the Dutch government doesn’t want to put an end to this insane type of weapon,’ says Van Dijk.

Jasper van DijkIn answering questions from the SP and the PvdA (Labour Party), the government stated that it ‘could not confirm’ that the US had used DU munitions in Libya. The military use of depleted uranium is based on the substance’s ability to pierce armoured targets, but the long-term effect is that the stuff remains radioactive for many years, causing birth defects and cancer on a large scale in the countries where it has been used, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The government also stated that certain metals are needed to ensure the effectiveness of depleted uranium and that ‘such a moratorium would not be desirable.’ The Netherlands does not wish to take any action against countries which employ DU weapons, and the government does not consider that there is any evidence of adverse effects on the health of citizens and soldiers caused by these weapons. ‘A clear expression of unwillingness to act,’ says Van Dijk.

At the end of 2009 a majority in Parliament’s main legislative chamber backed a motion from the SP calling for a moratorium. “I’m in favour of a moratorium on the use of depleted uranium,” Van Dijk confirms, “one which must also be confirmed by international treaty. This is in line with the precautionary principle: as long as you don’t know precisely how harmful the long term effects are, you should not be using them. We are afraid of the consequences for the health of civilians and of soldiers in affected areas. That’s why these weapons shouldn’t be used.” The then government was unwilling to implement this motion, and its successor is just as reluctant. “In the debate on the arms trade I’ll be proposing that the Netherlands no longer allows DU weapons to pass across our territory,” Van Dijk promises. “The Netherlands needs to make a serious contribution to getting rid of these radioactive weapons.”

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