Campaigners at the US Embassy in London demanded that the US reveal where it fired an estimated 400 tonnes of depleted uranium (DU) weapons in Iraq after concerns over its humanitarian impact surfaced at the UN and UK and Scottish parliaments.
Concerns over DU have recently been focused on the Iraqi city of Fallujah – the location of intense battles in 2004.
Correspondents from UK media organisations such as Sky, the BBC, Guardian, Independent and The Telegraph have all reported on the apparent rise in birth defects in the city. However, the US continues to refuse to release data on its use of DU in Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq. Its failure to do so is making further research into a possible link between the weapons and the health problems impossible.
The protest outside the US Embassy in London comes a fortnight after 136 states voted in favour of a resolution calling for transparency over the use of DU weapons at the United Nations. Only the US, UK, France and Israel opposed the text. British and Iraqi demonstrators held up an enormous mirror symbolising the US’s ongoing failure to be open about its use of depleted uranium.
The UK MoD has released data on its use of DU in the 2003 conflict and it was hoped that the UK would support the UN resolution. But in a move that has been criticised in Westminster and Holyrood, the government voted against the text. EDM 825, which calls on the UK to support the resolution had attracted cross party support from 81 MPs by the 11th November; while S3M-7332 attracted the backing of 13 MSPs in the first two days after being submitted. The resolution on transparency will be voted on for a second time by the UN General Assembly at the end of November, giving the Government a second opportunity to abstain or vote in favour.
It has been shown that transparency is the single most important factor in reducing the risk from uranium weapons contamination and in facilitating monitoring and clearance. This was recognised by the UK Royal Society seven years ago when it urged the UK and US to release data swiftly after the 2003 conflict. Since then, the US has failed to release data to either the UN’s agencies or to the Iraqi government. Responding to the first round of voting at the UN, the US, France and UK claimed that they are under no legal obligation to release data on their use of the weapons and as such have argued that October’s UN resolution is ‘irrelevant’.
“That the UK and US have been reduced to trotting out such feeble and legally dubious arguments to support their position on this issue is testament to the weakness of their arguments,” said Uranium Weapons Network spokesperson Doug Weir. “There is simply no justification for the US’s ongoing refusal to release this information, information that is crucial in reducing civilians’ exposure to the residue from these toxic and radioactive weapons.”