The Dutch Labour and Socialist Parties have demanded transparency from the over the possible by the US of depleted uranium weapons in Operation ‘Unified Protector’. 6 April 2011 – Wim Zwijnenburg

Following the US deployment of A10 Thunderbolt gunships and A/V 8 Harriers to , concern grew that depleted uranium weapons would be used against tanks and armoured vehicles. The use of DU would violate the rationale behind the operation, which is focused on protecting civilians. The Royal Air Force is actively participating in enforcing the no-fly zone with F16s, a tanker plane and a minesweeper vessel.  

Dutch members of parliament Eijsink and Timmermans from the Labour , and Van Bommel and Van Dijk from the Socialist addressed these concerns, and asked the following questions:

  1. What practical consequences does the Minister connect to the Dutch government’s support of UN General Assembly resolution A/65/44, considering that the Defence Minister is of the opinion that DU is "heavy polluting stuff"?
  2. What precautionary steps will the government take, as proposed by UNEP in resolution A/65/55, to prevent the pollution of the environment from DU, and which steps are you prepared to take to implement a moratorium on the use of DU?
  3. Are you prepared, based on UN General Assembly resolution A/65/55 to ask the governments of the , Israel, Russia and the United Kingdom to release the firing coordinates of DU munitions? If not, why not?
  4. Is the Defence Minister prepared to establish if DU munitions have been used in Libya? Is the Minister prepared to insist that the United States refrains from using DU munitions in maintaining resolution SC1973 in Libya? If not, how does this relate to the government’s support of UN General Assembly resolution A/65/55? If DU has been used, is the government prepared to insist on implementing measures to protect the local population? If not, why not?
  5. Why is the government not prepared to increase their work towards a moratorium of the use of DU weapons if they, at the same time, feel obliged to take precautionary safety measures against DU exposure for Dutch military personnel?

IKV Pax Christi has been campaigning on this issue for the last four years and welcomes these questions. They hope they will contribute to increased transparency over the use of DU weapons. 

Wim Zwijnenburg, Policy Advisor for IKV PC said: “Currently, there is a lack of transparency over the use of these weapons, which hampers proper research in areas affected by their use. We can only hope that the US did not deploy them in Libya. There is also a strong need of transparency over the use of DU in , in order to carry out research and provide technical assistance to clean up the 400,000kgs of DU that has been fired during the last two Gulf Wars. We cannot afford to have another area polluted with, as the International Atomic Energy Agency puts is “low level radioactive waste&;. We hope that increased international attention on this issue will further stigmatise the use of DU.

In the past, the Dutch government has been reluctant to take a strong position on DU weapons, despite repeated requests for them to do so from the parliament. The government even put aside a motion from the parliament that called for a moratorium on depleted uranium weapons. The Netherlands supported UN General Assembly resolution A/65/55 in December 2010. This resolution called for transparency over the use of DU and asked member states to implement recommendations made by, amongst others, the and the Environment Programme. The latter recommended a precautionary approach to the use of DU weapons.

dutch def mins
Centre: Hans Hillen, Dutch Minister of Defense

In January 2011, and in response to questions asked by the Socialist Party about the increase of in Fallujah and their possible link with the use of DU, the Dutch government answered that they: “are of the opinion that current research conducted by a large number of relevant authorities showed that the potential health effects of DU could not be established.” However, the government refused to call upon the United States to share information on the type of weapons used in the conflict.

Yet it is detailed information on weapons use that is needed to facilitate better research. However, during a debate in the parliament in November 2010, the Defence Minister Hans Hillen said that the “fight against DU” has his “warmest sympathy”, because it is “heavy polluting stuff” and promised to increase his efforts to address this within the international community. But when a call was made for additional transparency over the use of the weapons, the government didn’t respond. We hope that the government will support their votes at the UN and past comments on DU with concrete action.

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Source: International Coalition to Ban Depleted Uranium Weapons