International campaign urges U.S. to drop opposition to UN resolution on depleted uranium
Domestic and international civil society groups are mobilizing a grassroots campaign to urge the State Department and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations to stop opposing UN resolutions on depleted uranium in advance of a pivotal vote scheduled next month in the General Assembly.
For the fifth time, the Non-Aligned Movement – a global grouping of 120 states not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc – has submitted a resolution on depleted uranium weapons (DU) at the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. This year’s resolution contains new language calling for governments to assist countries affected by the weapons.
In a new operative paragraph, the text “Encourages Member States in a position to do so to provide assistance to States affected by the use of arms and ammunition containing depleted uranium, in particular in identifying and managing contaminated sites and material.”
Since 2007, the General Assembly has passed a series of resolutions, backed by the majority of the world’s nations, affirming the need for disclosure of where weapons containing DU have been used, as well as research on the effects of these weapons. But the U.S. government has consistently opposed these resolutions. Another resolution will be introduced later this month and a vote is scheduled for November 5.
Through the Right to Heal Initiative, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights is working to raise awareness about skyrocketing rates of cancer and birth defects associated with the U.S. military’s use of DU in Iraq. CCR and Iraq Veterans against the War recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the U.S. military’s firing coordinates of depleted uranium weaponry in Iraq – information that is crucial to begin cleaning up toxic areas in Iraq and so that U.S. veterans and service members are aware of possible exposure.
Together with Roots Action, the groups are gathering signatures for a petition to demand that the United States join the rest of the world in its growing concern about use of depleted uranium and end its opposition to U.N. action on this issue.
The text of the petition is as follows:
Dear Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Power,
We, the undersigned, urge the United States government to address the toxic legacy of its depleted uranium use in Iraq.
On November 5, a new resolution on depleted uranium weaponry will be introduced to the United Nations General Assembly. While the text of this year’s resolution is still being negotiated, since 2007, UN resolutions have included language affirming the need for research on the potential harmful effects of depleted uranium as well as the need for disclosure of where this weaponry has been used. The resolutions have been passed by the vast majority of the world’s nations, indicating a growing global concern. Unfortunately, each year the U.S. has isolated itself by opposing these resolutions, alongside only a few other countries.
The U.S. must end its opposition to UN action on depleted uranium. It must also support clean-up of areas where it has used depleted uranium and further scientific study of the impact of these materials on people, such as the relationship of these materials to increased cancer rates and birth defects, so that proper treatment can be pursued for those who have been exposed. These actions are critical to both civilian communities in Iraq and U.S. veterans and servicemembers.
We note the renewed urgency of this matter given the current U.S. military actions in Iraq and Syria.
As the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons explains,
Overwhelming evidence from the peer-reviewed literature now indicates that DU is a carcinogen and can damage DNA. ICBUW argues that it is therefore imperative that those most at risk of harm, such as children living in proximity to contaminated sites, and those most at risk of exposure, such as scrap metal workers are assessed. To date the overwhelming majority of exposure studies have been on military personnel only.
Since 2010 the resolution has called for DU users to transfer targeting data to affected states when requested to do so. To date the US has refused to disclose targeting data to Iraq and its failure to do so is a major barrier to clearance and health research. Last month, the US Center for Constitutional Rights and Iraq Veterans Against the War submitted a FOIA request calling for the data to be released.
Earlier this summer, Iraq called for help from the international community in dealing with contamination resulting from U.S.-led wars in 1991 and 2003. Two recent reports from the Dutch NGO PAX have documented the problems Iraq has faced in trying manage contaminated sites and material.
In Fallujah – which was targeted mercilessly by U.S. forces in 2004 – the use of depleted uranium has led to birth defects in infants 14 times higher than in the Japanese cities targeted by U.S. atomic bombs at close of World War II, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
To add your name to the petition demanding that the U.S. drop its opposition to the UN resolution on depleted uranium, click here.