UK Uranium Weapons Network

Campaigning for a ban on Depleted Uranium weapons

Update: Latest articles and reports, upcoming events and the UN General Assembly meeting

Apologies that we have not blogged in a while, it has been a busy time in the UWN office and we haven’t had chance to write it all up yet.

Here is a quick update on what we and our partner organisations have been up to and a few dates for your diaries:

Our latest article has been published by New Left Project. It gives a summary of the use of DU weapons, highlights the UK’s hypocrisy in using them and states why we believe precaution should be on the UN agenda this month:

Depleted Uranium: An unacceptable toxic legacy

We are continuing to seek legal advice regarding the publication of the Article 36 legal review and will update you when we know more.

In June we attended an excellent an exciting workshop run by the Toxic Remnants of War Project in Berlin. A report on this workshop can be found on the TRW site.

Today marks the beginning of the 2012 UN General Assembly First Committee meetings. The International Coalition to Ban DU Weapons hopes a precedent will be set in disarmament politics with a resolution calling for precaution to be taken with DU weapons.

Next week we hope to be working with MP’s and launching an EDM asking for the UK to support this resolution. The UK is one of only 4 states to consistently vote against depleted uranium UN resolutions. We will need your help to get more MP’s on board to sign this EDM and change the UK’s voting stance. Keep an eye on the CADU website for more details on this.

In even more exciting news, three reports regarding depleted uranium we released last week:

A report by IKV Pax Christi which analyses the precautionary measures adopted by militaries to reduce their own troops’ exposure to DU munitions and asks whether these could form the basis for civilian protection norms:

Hazard Aware: Lessons learned from military field manuals on depleted uranium and how to move forward for civilian protection norms.

A report by ICBUW which judges the acceptability of DU weapons by utilising the structure of common interpretations of the precautionary principle. In doing so it asks whether a precautionary approach should be applied to DU and whether its use could ever be compatible with precautionary values:

Precaution in Practice – challenging the acceptability of depleted uranium weapons

CADU released a report which provides a historical review of the methods that the UK government has used in seeking to maintain the public acceptability of DU munitions, having recognised very early on in their development that public opposition to the use of DU in conventional weapons would be significant:

Managing Acceptability: UK policy on depleted uranium

The CADU report will be formally launched in a public meeting on 25th October in Friends Meeting House London. We will be joined by Aneaka Kellay, CADU campaigner and report author, Andrew Feinstein, author of ‘The Shadow World’, Revd. Nicholas Mercer, former Army Senior Legal Advisor and Chris Cole, Drone Wars UK Co-ordinator.

There will be a 15 minute presentation from each of the speakers followed by a 45 minute panel discussion where you will get chance to pose questions to the speakers. I hope you can join us.

There is more information on our Facebook page.

UWN and CADU Response to ‘flawed’ Article 36 Legal Review

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) legal review has concluded that CHARM3 is capable of being used lawfully by UK Armed Forces in an international armed conflict. In a parliamentary statement, defence minister Nick Harvey has failed to respond to concerned citizens and MP’s who have called for the review to be made public.

The Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (CADU), the UK Uranium Weapons Network (UWN) and the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) continue to demand that the review be published and made publically available.

The legal review was undertaken after it was brought to defence Minister Nick Harvey’s attention that despite assurances to the contrary, CHARM3 the UK’s only DU round has never been legally reviewed.

In regards to the parliamentary statement released on 12th July 2012, a rationale was given for finding CHARM3 legal. CADU has assessed and challenged this rationale:

• The use of DU in weapon systems is not prohibited by any treaty provision.

Although DU in weapon systems is not prohibited by any treaty provision, these weapons have been the subject of a number of domestic and international legislation and resolutions.

– DU weapons were the subject of domestic bans in Costa Rica (2011) and Belgium (2007) .
– DU weapons have been the focus of three UN General Assembly resolutions . The November 2010 resolution called for greater transparency following the use of DU to facilitate research and decontamination. The UK was one of four states that voted against the resolution, which was supported by 148 states, despite an Early Day Motion signed by 93 MPs urging the UK to vote in favour.

– The use of DU weapons has also been condemned by four resolutions in the European Parliament, including a landslide resolution in 2008, which called for a moratorium on DU’s use and efforts toward a global ban . This resolution was supported by 94% of MEPs. Alongside European efforts, a resolution calling for a regional moratorium on uranium weapons was passed in 2009 in the Latin American Parliament .

The legal review asked legal experts to examine current and possible future trends in international humanitarian law. Yet these well supported domestic legislations and international resolutions have gone unnoticed.

• There have been extensive scientifically based studies, undertaken by the World Health Organisation in relation to the long term environmental and other health effects allegedly attributable to the use of DU munitions. In light of the reassuring conclusions drawn by such scientific studies, and noting the continuing military imperative underpinning retention of CHARM3 as a weapon system, it was concluded that use of CHARM3 does not offend the principle prohibiting superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering in armed conflict.

The MoD has referred to the WHO monograph on DU to justify a statement that CHARM3 does not offend the principle prohibiting superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering in armed conflict. Firstly, the question of whether DU munitions will cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering in armed conflict depends on whether the use of DU causes enemy combatants unnecessary harm, and whether alternative munitions exists with comparable military utility.

The Royal Society note that there is an increased risk of developing cancer for soldiers who are in a vehicle struck by a DU munitions, and those involved in cleaning up struck vehicle. If it were the case that CHARM3 was the most effective armour piercing round within international law, the health risk posed to enemy combatants through the use of DU might be overlooked.

However, in 2005 a MoD commissioned study found tungsten round combined with a German smoothbore barrel more effective than the current CHARM3 DU round . Most nations use a tungsten alternative to DU munitions. Thus the use of DU in anti-armour weaponry cannot be justified through arguments of military utility.

Secondly, a wider view of WHO conclusions contradicts the MoD’s perception of them as ‘reassuring’. The paper recommends: monitoring the levels of DU contaminating of food and drinking water which might be detected even after a few years; and clean-up operations where contamination levels are deemed unacceptable.

The WHO also notes that:

“Young children could receive greater depleted uranium exposure when playing within a conflict zone because of hand-to-mouth activity that could result in high depleted uranium ingestion from contaminated soil. This type of exposure needs to be monitored and necessary preventative measures taken.”

The monitoring of drinking water and milk as a means to assess civilian exposure was also recommended by the Royal Society , these recommendations have not been taken up by the UK.

• Crew training, weapon design and automated targeting systems mean CHARM3 is capable of being used indiscriminately.

The issue of discrimination in regards to DU weapons has been misunderstood by the MoD legal team here. The potential for DU weapons to be indiscriminate arises from the chemically toxic and radioactive dust that arises once the munitions have been fired, not the ability for the munitions to be fired accurately.

The toxic dust generated by firing DU weapons can travel up to 400m from the hit site immediately following an impact . The inhalation of this carcinogenic and genotoxic dust puts civilian health at potential risk. This risk lasts beyond conflict and if not managed properly has potential for prolonged civilian exposure. Given that DU munitions have been used in urban areas by the UK Armed Forces the potential for civilians to be indiscriminately impacted by these munitions exists.

• Where DU ordnance residues have existed, in the aftermath of an armed conflict, annual potential radiation doses have been shown by scientific study to be well below the annual doses received by the general population from sources of natural radiation in the environment and far below the reference level recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency as a criterion to determine whether remedial action is necessary. An environmental footprint inevitably will be left by use of DU munitions but one where a credible and authoritative body of scientific evidence (drawn from both international and national sources) has demonstrated there is no proven link between exposure to DU and, neither, a significant risk to public health, nor, a significant risk of any long term damage to the environment.

This statement makes no reference to the chemical toxicity of DU residues, despite the fact that the MoD does recognise DU’s its chemical toxicity and radiation. In fact the US Army’s training manual states that:”the primary concern from a health perspective is uranium’s chemical properties” .

In respect to the environmental footprint of DU munitions, in 2010, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), a credible and authoritative organisation, called for a precautionary approach to DU weapons citing scientific uncertainties in relation to long-term environmental impacts as justification:

“…major scientific uncertainties persisted regarding the long-term environmental impacts of depleted uranium, particularly with respect to long-term groundwater contamination. Because of these scientific uncertainties, UNEP called for a precautionary approach to the use of depleted uranium, and recommended that action be taken to clean up and decontaminate the polluted sites. It also called for awareness-raising among local populations and future monitoring.”

This statement seems to have been ignored by the MoD legal team.

Finally, civilian exposure levels remain unknown, despite calls from UNEP, Royal Society and WHO for long term environmental monitoring to take place, which have been ignored by the UK. By stating that there is no proof that DU exposure leads to public health risks, despite the fact that DU is accepted as hazardous by the MoD presents a poor practise. As UNEP has shown, uncertainty should justify a precautionary approach, rather than ‘no proof’ being used as a justification for potentially harmful action. The legal principle of precaution (Article 57 of 1977 Additional Protocol I) should be taken into account in this instance.

• Finally it was concluded that DU continues to be a material of choice used by states in the manufacture of anti-armour munitions. To date no inter-state consensus has emerged that DU munitions should be banned and the available scientific evidence (developed in the aftermath of the Gulf War in 1991) continues to support the view held by the UK that such munitions can be retained for the limited role envisaged for their employment.

Again it is important to note that a majority of states use tungsten as their anti-armour munitions. The United States, the most prominent user of DU weapons, has taken a long term decision to discontinue using DU in medium calibre rounds. Strikingly, when tendering the contract for the ammunition for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the US listed the presence of “toxic materials such as Cobalt, Nickel, Beryllium or depleted-Uranium” as being non-desirable criteria for potential bidders . They later purchased a tungsten-based round from the German manufacturer Rheinmetall, as they were the only supplier to satisfy all the requirements. Recent reports also suggest that the US is also planning to develop a non-DU successor to its current 120mm DU round appear to confirm this picture.

Available scientific evidence supports the view that major uncertainties exist. International organisations have called for clean-up, long-term monitoring, hazard awareness raising and a precautionary approach; this has not been adequately taken on board by the MoD or UK government.

The rational given noting why CHARM3 has been found lawful are far from robust. CADU finds it irresponsible that the MoD legal team have ignored key international organisations such as UNEP, overlooked wider conclusions of WHO reports, ignored the potential risk the chemical toxicity of DU poses, misconstrued the meaning of the legal principles of discrimination, and unnecessary suffering or superfluous injury, and found CHARM3 capable of being lawfully used UK Armed Forces in an international armed conflict.

We call on the MoD to publically release the parts of the legal review that will not compromise security issues.

Nick Harveys Ministerial statement can be found here:

Toxic Remnants of War Project

Toxic Remnants of War Project

Today saw the launch of a new research project to ‘explore state responsibility for the toxic legacy of military activity’. The Toxic Remnants of War Project will provide a hub of information resources analysing the humanitarian and environmental impact of the release of toxic and hazardous materials during conflict.

UWN welcomes such a valuable resource and hopes that by highlighting the disastrous consequences that toxic munitions continue to have upon states and their populations both during and following armed conflict. It is very early days for the project but could the approach eventually find parallels with Explosive Remnants of War (ERW)?

The process to manage and restrict the concept of ERW drew attention to the devastating impact that unexploded ordnance such as landmines, cluster munitions and IED’s had on civilian populations trying to rebuild their lives after war. In doing so campaigners gained amazing public support which led to landmines being banned by the Ottawa Treaty.

Efforts to restrict ERW have now led to the adoption of two further instruments of international law. In 2003, Protocol V was added to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons 1980, which created an obligation for states to remove and destroy ERW. Protocol V also introduced a special responsibility to protect civilians on states which used them. The Convention on Cluster Munitions banned the use, manufacture and acquisition of cluster bombs by all state parties.

Toxic contamination and the damage it causes is not always as visible as ERW, meaning that it is sometimes a forgotten consequence of armed conflict. Who knows what the long term impact of materials such as depleted uranium are having on the environment in contaminated areas and the health of those living there.

Some work has been done to legislate against the use of certain toxic weapons with the adoption of the Environment Modification Convention (ENMOD). This treaty came about following the uproar surrounding the use of the dioxin based defoliant Agent Orange in Vietnam but unfortunately it only covers weapons or chemicals that intentionally modify the environment, as opposed to munitions or activities where the environmental damage is secondary to its original intention, such as depleted uranium.

The serious public health issues occurring in Fallujah stress the need for research to be done into the long term effects that various munitions have on the local environment. Fallujah has seen a well above average rise in the number congenital birth defects, miscarriages and cancer rates. Whilst there is no conclusive proof, there is a strong possibility that it is a consequence of the military activity in the city.

UWN hopes that by bringing a focus on to these issues, the TRW Project will highlight the harmful effects that military operations and munitions can have and place the responsibility of decontamination at the door of states which use them. We further hope that this will serve to strengthen obligations on states to carry out environmental and public health impact assessments before weapons are used.

We are confident that such an important source of information will prove to be an excellent tool to help not only our campaign against depleted uranium but the use of many other toxic weapons.
More information on TRW can be found on their website

International Women’s Day Blog: What is going on in Fallujah?

What is going on in Fallujah?

Today marks the 101st anniversary of International Women’s Day.   In less than one month it will be the 8th anniversary of Operation Vigilante Resolve, a day that will not be celebrated by the women of Fallujah.

Operation Vigilante Resolve, the codename for a failed operation to retake and ‘pacify’ the city of Fallujah, saw a massive US military bombardment of the densely populated city.  This was followed by a second assault in November and December 2004 carried out by a joint UK, US and Iraqi force.

Since then, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of miscarriages and women giving birth to children with congenital abnormalities. Unfortunately there are no definitive figures for the number of babies born with birth defects.  Some doctors in the region have attempted to keep their own records but there is no centralised database or monitoring system in place.

In 2010 a Guardian report on this stated:

‘The latest Falluja study surveyed 55 families with seriously deformed newborns between May and August. It was conducted by Dr Samira Abdul Ghani, a paediatrician at Falluja general hospital. In May, 15% of the 547 babies born had serious birth defects. In the same period, 11% of babies were born at less than 30 weeks and 14% of foetuses spontaneously aborted.

The researchers believe that the figures understate what they describe as an epidemic of abnormalities, because a large number of babies in Falluja are born at home with parents reluctant to seek help from authorities.’[1]

Although many believe depleted uranium to be one of the major causes of these problems in Fallujah, a lack of transparency by the US government as to the quantity and locations of munitions used, and a lack of any form of environmental assessment into potential causes of the problems, means that there is no conclusive evidence to prove this.

One cannot imagine how traumatic an experience this must be for new mothers or for women considering the prospect of raising a family.  A similar situation within any city in the UK or the US would not be a tolerated.  Health epidemics such as Swine Flu or Mad Cow disease rarely go unnoticed in the UK. We only have to look at the E-coli outbreak last year to see how quickly and seriously the government seek to investigate and take preventative measures. Yet the epidemic in Fallujah, of which the UK and US may well be responsible for, has gone by barely noticed. There seems to be no political will to find out why this is happening in Fallujah.

We join with ICBUW to ask for:

  • An urgent assessment of all risk factors in the environment in Fallujah
  • Medical assistance especially for pre and post-natal women
  • A detailed and transparent health monitoring system to be put into place for the population of Fallujah
  • The US to urgently release all available data on the locations of uranium weapon strikes in Iraq to NGOs and international agencies to help facilitate decontamination and risk awareness programmes

Please take a moment on International Women’s Day to think about the women and children of Fallujah, write to you MP and ask them ‘What is going on in Fallujah?’

[1] Research links rise in Falluja birth defects and cancers to US assault, 30 December 2010


Article 36 Legal Review and CHARM3

In November 2011, the armed forces minister Nick Harvey admitted in a parliamentary question that he had inadvertently misled MPs about a Ministry of Defence review that he said had concluded the weapons were permissible on humanitarian and environmental grounds under the Geneva conventions. He told his questioner Katy Clark MP on 26 October that. “Though incorrect, the statement in my letter was made in good faith on the advice of officials, and I apologise for the error.”

The review is now taking place and is due to be completed at the end of February 2012. In the past legal reviews have never been published which means that they are not subject to any further analysis than the review board itself. To this end the Uranium Weapons Network, other interested NGO’s and cross party MP’s have written an open letter to Nick Harvey requesting that he make certain elements of the review available to the public.

Article 36 is a part of Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions 1977. It states:
Art 36. New weapons

In the study, development, acquisition or adoption of a new weapon, means or method of warfare, a High Contracting Party is under an obligation to determine whether its employment would, in some or all circumstances, be prohibited by this Protocol or by any other rule of international law applicable to the High Contracting Party.

Article 36 of Additional Protocol I was a very welcome addition to the Geneva Convention in that it provided a mechanism to ensure that states adhere to their responsibilities regarding international humanitarian law (IHL). However, it does not impose a formal procedure for conducting reviews, nor does it specifically state that a country has to publicise their reviews.

The UK ratified Article 36 in 1998 and as the UK’s 120mm CHARM3 DU tank munition entered into service in 1999, it became subject to this provision. The MOD have sent the Uranium Weapons Network a copy of their procedures for conducting an Article 36 review. This states the full extent of their obligations, including how and by whom the review should take place. Whilst it is one of only a few states that have set out a formal procedure for Article 36 reviews, it is our firm belief that in order for Article 36 to reach its true potential, the evidence and analysis contained within the review should be part of a more transparent process. Indeed the UK should take this opportunity to set a standard which we hope will be copied by other states.

In his letter to the Uranium Weapons Network on the 9th January, Nick Harvey stated that:

‘…the overall security classification of the review, since it deals with details of military capability, may prevent me from publishing it in its entirety. I have asked for an unclassified and releasable conclusion to be part of the review findings.’

We do not believe that ‘a releasable conclusion’ is sufficient to provide transparency and accountability to this review. Nor do we believe that it will allow for suitable scrutiny of the review board’s analysis and decisions. This is even more important considering that the review board is not an independent or impartial body.

Whilst we have acknowledged that some areas of the review may need to be restricted as they deal with details of military capability, there are parts for which this consideration would not be compromised and have therefore asked for the release of:

• Table of contents
• A list of evidence assessed
• Bibliography

There are also sections of the review that are vital to understanding the application of international humanitarian law to CHARM3:

• The section which takes into account its effect to persons, property and secondary effect
• The section which takes into account its impact on public health and the environment
• All information pertaining to whether CHARM3 is capable of being used discriminately
• All information pertaining to future trends in IHL

Further to this, in a written answer Nick Harvey stated:

‘The review conclusion will be published. Legal weapons reviews are privileged legal advice, and may be exempt from publication, as they concern details of military capability. These factors may prevent the publication of the full report.’

Despite the fact that the legal review team is made up of lawyers and therefore any advice they give is privileged, as a client Nick Harvey has the right to waive this privilege and should do so. This is supported by the considerable public concern over DU weapons, recently noted by the MOD in correspondence with the UWN:

“We acknowledge some public anxiety. We are conscious many people are concerned there is a link between the use of DU ammunition and medical problems such as cancers and birth defects. This is an issue taken very seriously by the Government. The cases of illness reported in Iraq and elsewhere are extremely distressing especially when they affect children.”

Further to this, the procedural document states ‘the lawyer conducting the legal review may need to engage widely’. However it does not place an obligation on him to engage widely, thus meaning that a lot of research may be missed. The Campaign Against Depleted Uranium has submitted a list of reports which they believe the review team need to consider when deciding on the legality of CHARM3. They do not have to accept our submissions but the only way we can check if they have done so, and check on what other research they have conducted, is for us to see the parts of the report we have requested.

If you or your organisation would like to become a signatory to the letter please Email

All Party Parliamentary Group on Depleted Uranium officially registered

Uranium Weapons Network is pleased to announce that the All Party Parliamentary Group on Depleted Uranium has been officially registered on Parliament’s website here.

The group has now met twice – the first meeting to establish the group, and the second (see post below) heard a presentation on the legal position of DU.

Next APPG meeting – Is it legal? with Prof Manfred Mohr. 7th September, Westminster

Is it legal?

A presentation on the legal status of depleted uranium weaponry
as it relates to international humanitarian law.

Prof. Manfred Mohr

Prof Mohr is a specialist in International Criminal, Humanitarian and Disarmament Law and currently serves as the Officer for EU affairs with the German Red Cross. He has more than 30 year’s legal experience with The Hague Academy, OSCE and Council of Europe. Prof Mohr is the legal adviser to the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW).

7th September 2011
4:45pm – 5:45pm, Room S, Portcullis House, Parliament

The All Party Group on Depleted Uranium Weaponry has the following officers and members:

Katy Clark MP, Chair
Rt Rev Peter Price, Bishop of Bath and Wells, Vice-Chair

Sir Peter Bottomley MP
David Amess MP
Caroline Lucas MP
Stewart Hosie MP
Mark Durkan MP
Elfyn Llwyd MP
Tim Farron MP
Tom Brake MP
Mike Hancock MP
Julian Huppert MP
John Leech MP
Mark Williams MP
Tessa Munt MP (Sec)
Simon Wright MP
Michael Connarty MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Jim Dobbin MP
Mary Glindon MP
Fabian Hamilton MP
John McDonnell MP
Joan Ruddock MP
Paul Blomfield MP

The Uranium Weapons Network provides secretariat services.

DU campaigners sign open letter calling for Nuclear Arms convention

Four MPs and representatives from three NGOs have co-signed a letter printed in today’s Guardian calling for a Nuclear Arms convention “prohibiting use, development, production and stockpiling of nuclear weapons and providing a timetable for their elimination.”

These four MPs also signed EDM 825, calling for the government to support a UN resolution on Depleted Uranium weapons.

News release: Fears grow over possible depleted uranium use in Libya

Thursday, 31 March 2011
Issued jointly with CND

Campaigners from the UK Uranium Weapons Network and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today expressed their growing alarm at the possibility that highly toxic and radioactive depleted uranium (DU) weapons have been used in Libya. The inhalation of DU particles, spread when the weapons hit their target, is thought to be linked to the sharp increases in cancer rates and birth defects reported in affected areas.

On Monday (28th March) the US Admiral William Gortney told the press that: “We have employed A-10s and AC-130s over the weekend” [note 4]. It is believed that six A-10s from 81st Fighter Squadron, which are typically armed with DU rounds, have been deployed [note 5].

A-10 gunships are designed to attack tanks, armour and other ground targets with their primary weapon – a cannon capable of firing either DU or high explosive rounds at a rate of 3,900 a minute. As armoured vehicles are being targeted it seems likely the cannons are loaded with the PGU-14 30mm armour piercing incendiary round, which contains a 300 gram DU penetrator. Strafing runs from A-10s can typically see hundreds of rounds being used, resulting in many kilograms of DU being fired.

A-10s were used against armoured targets in the Balkan and Iraq conflicts in the 1990s and 2003 and were responsible for the majority of DU used in Iraq and all that fired in the Balkans. Other US warplanes may also have deployed DU rounds – see note 8 for details.

Previously Admiral Gortney had suggested that only precision guided ammunition (i.e. bombs, not cannon rounds) was being used and stated that “At this time, [he was] not aware of any use of depleted uranium” [see note 6]. However it is now known for certain that the A-10’s cannon was used against two small boats on the evening of 28th March in an encounter involving the Libyan Coast Guard vessel Vittoria [note 7]. This means the Pentagon’s earlier assurance on the type of weapons used no longer stands and thus their comments regarding DU use are in doubt.

After MPs raised concerns over the potential use of DU in Libya, David Cameron told the Commons that “we do not use those [depleted uranium] weapons and are not going to use those weapons.” [note 9] Whilst British DU weapon systems are land-based, campaigners are demanding the UK push all coalition countries to rule out the use of DU.

John McDonnell MP said: “Whilst I welcome the Prime Minister’s assurance that British forces will not use depleted uranium weapons in this conflict, I am concerned that our allies may still do so. These weapons have the potential to cause long term health risks to civilian populations recovering in post-conflict zones – we have seen cancer and birth defect epidemics in Iraqi cities where it is believed that these weapons have been used.

“I have written to the Prime Minister asking for his assurance that he will do all he can to persuade our allies to refrain from using this weapon in Libya, and assure us that the government will add depleted uranium weapons to the list of other weapon systems that have been banned on humanitarian grounds, such as cluster munitions and landmines.”

Kate Hudson, General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: “Depleted uranium weapons are weapons of indiscriminate effect – the cancers and birth defects they are thought to cause cannot be ‘targeted’ at troops. Using them in built up areas in effect targets civilians. This runs counter to everything the coalition has claimed about protecting civilians. This would mark the first DU use in conflict in more than eight years and would be an appalling step backwards. It is completely unacceptable – indeed illegal – to use weapons that cause long-term damage both to civilians and the wider environment for years after the conflict. Britain must demand clarity from the US and all coalition partners that DU is not, and will not be used in Libya.”

Lev Eakins, spokesperson for the UK Uranium Weapons Network, said: “The stated purpose of the military action is to protect Libyan civilians. This will not be achieved if depleted uranium weapons are used as they have the potential to harm civilians for decades to come. The coalition of states involved in this action should immediately give an assurance that depleted uranium will not be used and we call on the UK government to dissuade its allies from using them.”

– ends –

  1. For further information and interviews please contact either the UK Uranium Weapons Network (Dave Cullen) 0161 273 8293 or 07966 550674, or Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (Ben Soffa) 020 7700 2350 or 07968 42085
  2. For further details on the weapons and platforms involved, see
  3. The UK Uranium Weapons Network is a grouping of 15 organisations working to achieve a ban on the use of depleted uranium weapons in the UK The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe’s biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 35,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere.
  4. US Department of Defence News Briefing, 28th March, Vice Admiral Gortney
  5. A-10 reference site:
  6. US Department of Defence News Briefing, 25th March, Vice Admiral Gortney
  7. US Navy press report:〈=0
  8. Concern also remains that US AV-8B Harrier aircraft have also used DU. In the past the AV-8B has fired PGU-20/U Armour Piercing Incendiary DU rounds from their rotary cannon – see  A US Marines press release on the 20th March stated that AV-8B Harriers from the 26th Marine Expeditionary unit, based on USS Kearsarge attacked ground forces and air defences in Libya. While dropping aerial munitions is more likely to have taken place than the cannon being used in strafing runs, it remains possible that these aircraft have deployed, or will deploy, DU weapons. See〈=0
  9. David Cameron, House of Commons, 21st March  It should be noted that the only weapon platform that uses DU weapons in the British arsenal is the Challenger II tank, which is not deployed, or expected to be deployed in this conflict. It is therefore uncertain if the PM was referring to just this conflict, or any future conflict and urgent clarification is being sought.

Letter from John McDonnell MP to David Cameron over DU weapon use in Libya

From: John McDonnell
To: The Prime Minister
Re: Clarity sought over assurances given over depleted uranium weapons and allied use of depleted uranium weapons in Libya

Dear David Cameron,

In response to my intervention on the UN Security Council resolution 1973 debate, you assured me and the rest of the house that British forces “do not use those [depleted uranium] weapons and are not going to use those weapons.”

The reason I intervened, is that I understand it remains MoD policy* to use these weapons, and it was therefore surprising to see this policy change without any MoD announcement. Since the debate I have checked the MoD website several times, and it seems that the policy to use DU weapons remains.

Would you urgently clarify the government’s policy on the use of Depleted Uranium weapons, as I believe the spent ammunition near populated areas pose a significant health risk to civilians in post conflict zones, and would like to have an assurance that British forces will not use these weapons in any future conflict?

Secondly, I was alarmed to hear that six US A-10 aircraft have been in action over Libya at the weekend. These close air support aircraft are normally used against armoured targets, and are likely to be loaded with the PGU-14 30mm armour piercing incendiary round, which contains a depleted uranium penetrator.

Will you assure me that no depleted uranium ammunition was used by these aircraft and commit to urging all our military allies to refrain from using this radioactive and highly toxic weapon on humanitarian grounds?

The stated purpose of our actions in Libya is to protect civilians. This will not be accomplished if we, or our allies, use depleted uranium weapons.

Yours sincerely,

John McDonnell MP

*MoD DU policy “DU anti-armour munitions will remain part of our arsenal for the foreseeable future because we have a duty to provide our troops with the best available equipment with which to protect them and succeed in conflict.”