International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) is a global coalition of 160 groups in 33 countries. ICBUW was formed in 2003 in Berlaar, Belgium to promote a campaign based on reliable information on depleted uranium (DU) weapons at a time when the most vocal opposition to uranium weapons had become increasingly speculative. It is now based in Manchester, England.
ICBUW campaigns for a ban on the use, transport, manufacture, sale and export of all conventional weapon systems containing uranium (usually called depleted uranium weapons). It also seeks health monitoring and compensation for communities affected by the use of uranium weapons and the environmental remediation of such sites.
Current legal status of depleted uranium weapons
ICBUW believes that the use of conventional weapons containing uranium runs counter to existing principle of International Humanitarian, Human Rights and Environmental Laws. However, as has been seen with chemical and biological weapons, land mines and cluster bombs, an explicit treaty has proved the best solution for confirming the illegality of such weapons. ICBUW anticipates that such a treaty would not only outlaw the use of uranium weapons, but would include the prohibition of their production, the destruction of stockpiles, the decontamination of battlefields and rules on compensation for victims.
Although ICBUW believes that the use of weapons containing uranium should already be illegal under International Humanitarian laws, this is not the view held by Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Louise Arbour, Del Ponte's predecessor as chief prosecutor, had created a small, internal committee, made up of staff lawyers, to assess the allegation. Their findings, that were accepted and endorsed by Del Ponte, concluded that:
There is no specific treaty ban on the use of DU projectiles. There is a developing scientific debate and concern expressed regarding the impact of the use of such projectiles and it is possible that, in future, there will be a consensus view in international legal circles that use of such projectiles violate general principles of the law applicable to use of weapons in armed conflict. No such consensus exists at present.
Subsequent legal opinions have sought to highlight the fact that, while the secondary effects of uranium weapons have similarities to other classes of banned weapons, their primary role as an anti-materiel weapon means that they do fit well into existing legislation. Nevertheless an acceptance of the hazards inherent in their use should support a legal instrument based on the precautionary principle.
ICBUW has prepared a draft Convention for such a ban on depleted uranium weapons. ICBUW's Draft Convention contains a general and comprehensive prohibition of the development, production, transport, storage, possession, transfer and use of uranium ammunition, uranium armour-plate and of any other military use of uranium. The Convention also outlines obligations concerning the abolition of uranium weapons and the destruction of uranium weapons construction facilities. In addition it obliges states to ensure a rapid decontamination of radioactive battlefields and test ranges, emphasising the protection of, and assistance to, civilians living in these areas and obliges states to compensate the victims.
Example of landmines and cluster munitions
In advocating for a treaty ban on uranium weapons, ICBUW states that it is following the example of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Cluster Munition Coalition. ICBUW’s grassroots member organisations lobby at a national level, while ICBUW itself works with supranational bodies such as the European Parliament and the United Nations. A global ban is supported by EUROMIL - the European Organisation of Military Associations.
Developments at an international and national level
The European Parliament has passed four resolutions calling for a moratorium on the weapons in 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2008. Depleted uranium has been the focus of four United Nations General Assembly resolutions. The first, sponsored by Iraq was not passed but subsequent resolutions sponsored by the Non-Aligned Movement in 2007 (62/30), 2008 (63/54), 2010 (65/55) and (67/36) have passed with increasing majorities. They have highlighted the potential risks from depleted uranium; called for increased research in affected states, called on the user of the weapons to transfer targeting data to affected states when requested to do so and requested a precautionary approach to DU use and management.
ICBUW's member organisations have been instrumental in promoting domestic legislation on depleted uranium weapons in Belgium, Costa Rica and Ireland. The Belgian ban was followed by a state ban on investment into the producers of depleted uranium weapons.
In 2010, ICBUW published a report examining depleted uranium user transparency, the capacity of states to manage depleted uranium contamination and the development of health studies, seen through the experiences of Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo. In 2012, studies were published by ICBUW and its partner organisations on the military utility of large calibre kinetic energy penetrators, on the history of UK DU policy, the risk reduction measures adopted by militaries to reduce the risk of DU exposure and on an analysis of the acceptability of DU munitions based on the precautionary principle.
In 2011, ICBUW released an animated short film developed in cooperation with Dutch non-governmental organization (NGO) 'IKV Pax Christi'. When the Dust Settles outlines ICBUW's position and calls for a precautionary approach to the weapons.
Toxic remnants of war
In 2012, ICBUW and Dutch NGO IKV Pax Christi launched the Toxic Remnants of War Project which aims to consider and quantify the detrimental impact of war, military operations and munitions on the environment and human health, with particular focus on the release of toxic materials during military activities.
- Stuart, R (28 May 2010). "Radiation, DU and Burn Pits -- Iraq's Cancer: "America's Gift That Keeps Giving"". Huffington Post. Retrieved 13 November 2013. "Two international workshops/conferences on Depleted Uranium were held earlier this month at the United Nations by the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons. ICBUW's focus has been to inform and advise policy makers and governments on the threat to human health and the environment of uranium weapons. ICBUW was formed in 2003 in Berlaar, Belgium and is based in Manchester UK. They campaign for a ban on the use of uranium in all conventional weapons and weapon systems and for monitoring, health care, compensation and environmental remediation for communities affected by their use. ICBUW represents more than 120 NGOs worldwide and seeks to do for uranium weapons what the International Coalition to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munition Coalition did for those types of weapons, in essence to develop a uranium weapons treaty that would prohibit the use of uranium in all conventional, i.e. non-nuclear, weapons. research projects."
- http://www.wise-uranium.org/pdf/duemdec.pdf Fahey, D. The Emergence and Decline of the Debate Over Depleted Uranium Munitions
- Staff. About ICBUW on the website of The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons
- The Associated Press & Reuters contributed to this report: Use of DU weapons could be war crime CNN January 14, 2001
- Joe Sills et al. Environmental Crimes in Military Actions and the International Criminal Court (ICC)-United Nations Perspectives (PDF) (HTML) of American Council for the UN University, April 2002. Page 28
- The Final Report to the Prosecutor by the Committee Established to Review the NATO Bombing Campaign Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: Use of Depleted Uranium Projectiles
- http://www.unidir.org/pdf/articles/pdf-art2757.pdf Avril MacDonald - Depleted uranium weapons: the next target for disarmament? UNIDIR
- Staff. Draft Convention on the prohibition of development, production, stockpiling, transfer and use of uranium weapons and on their destruction on the website of ICBUW
- http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/i/70.html About ICBUW on the website of ICBUW
- Godrej, Dinyar (15 November 2007). "Depleted Uranium developments". New Internationalist. Retrieved 12 November 2013. "Now, after intense lobbying by the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW), wheels at the UN are beginning to creak. The UN First Committee in New York has just passed a resolution by a landslide majority urging UN member states to re-examine the health consequences of DU weapons."
- Ahmed, Nafeez (13 October 2013). "How the World Health Organisation covered up Iraq's nuclear nightmare". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2013. "The International Coalition to Ban Depleted Uranium (ICBUW) has called for WHO to release the project's data-set so that it can be subjected to independent, transparent analysis. The UN body continues to ignore these calls and defend the integrity of the research."
- http://www.euromil.org/images/Positionpaper/euromilpositionpaperdumay2007.pdf EUROMIL position paper on depleted uranium
- Thompson, Rachel (8 October 2012). "Depleted Uranium: An Unacceptable Toxic Legacy". New Left Project. Retrieved 12 November 2013. "The UN First Committee discusses and proposes resolutions to the plenary session of the UN General Assembly. This year a resolution sponsored by the Non-Aligned Movement will table a resolution concerning depleted uranium. ICBUW have been advocating for the text to include a request that states take a precautionary approach to depleted uranium (DU) weapons."
- http://www.motherearth.org/news/news.php?article=150 Belgium Bans Uranium Weapons and Armour
- http://www.amigosparalapaz.org/?p=408 Costa Rica bans depleted uranium weapons
- http://www.afri.ie/depleted-uranium-ban-bill-passes-through-the-seanad/ Depleted Uranium Ban Bill passes through the Seanad
- http://www.netwerkvlaanderen.be/en/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=426&Itemid=268 Belgium bans investments in depleted uranium weapons
- http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/docs/134.pdf A Question of Responsibility
- http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/docs/187.pdf Overstating the Case
- http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/docs/198.pdf Managing Acceptability
- http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/docs/197.pdf Hazard Aware
- http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/docs/195.pdf Precaution in Practice
- http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/a/374.html When the Dust Settles