An unsatisfactory answer to a comlex question – short parliamentary question by DIE LINKE on uranium ammunition BT-DS 19/16786

10. Juni 2020 Blog posts, ICBUW
References: Deutscher Bundestag / Achim Melde
Matthias Höhn, DIE LINKE, Member of the Bundestag, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and initiator of the small parliamentary question on uranium (DU) ammunition. Nutzungsbedingungen:

The inquiry occurred in an intensive exchange between the Left Party’s parliamentary group in the German Federal Parliament and ICBUW. Received at the end of January, it was answered by the Federal Government in mid-March this year. After many parliamentary inquiries on the subject[1] and its individual aspects (cases of application, voting behavior, protective measures, arms cooperation, etc.), this question is the most extensive one about uranium ammunition/uranium weapons ever submitted in the German Federal Parliament. The German government’s response to this question was particularly meagre. Only a few aspects will be discussed here:

The German government all together „overlooks“ the complexity of the inquiry, which focuses on the radioactivity and chemical toxicity of uranium ammunition and its potentially harmful short, medium and long-term effects. This is demonstrated by the succinct, radiologically focused answers to the relevant questions (no. 1 and no. 2; also no. 10, where reference is made to the UN Report on the effects of nuclear radiation). The German government simply replied that ’’according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), no significant radiation exposure of the population could be expected.“

This creates doubts on the (repeatedly made) assertion that the German government takes „the factual debate on the possible effects of the use of depleted uranium ammunition very seriously“ (Answer to No 10). It would have been revealing to receive an answer to question 3 about the reasons for the Federal Armed Forces to renounce on uranium ammunition (and to rely on the technical Wolfram/Tungsten alternative- which can also pose health risks).

Precisely because Germany is „clean“(in relation to uranium weapons), it could become engaged in the worldwide banning of uranium ammunition.The government’s answer to question 10 reverses this connection stating that „since the Bundeswehr (Federal Armed Forces) do not possess depleted uranium ammunition – no primary obligations could be derived for the Federal Republic of Germany in connection with the issue.’’

But it is not at all a question of „primary obligations“ (from a special ban treaty, or the like). What is asked for is a German commitment against uranium ammunition – a particularly environmentally destructive weapon whose use – at very least – violates the precautionary principle.

This applies to the areas of UN, NATO and EU as well as to armaments cooperation and humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance. All questions in these directions are either met with ignorance, or negation.  As on previous occasions, the government does not address the precautionary principle, which is explicitly mentioned (Questions 10 and 11) and which is the central legal approach to the subject of uranium ammunition – especially if there are still scientific uncertainties regarding the concrete consequences of its use.

Finally, it is typical to „dash off“ questions with reference to the alleged lack of information (questions nos. 5-7 on stock-piling and civil use of DU ammunition on the soil of the Federal Republic of Germany). This shows again that the German government continues to have no interest in dealing constructively and critically with the issue, which makes the informative work of ICBUW even more important.

(Manfred Mohr)

[1]  Selection of parliamentary questions:

  • “Moor fire in Meppen”, printed matter 19/5829, 19.11.2018.
  • “Question on German voting behavior on the UN Resolution: the effects of using uranium ammunition”, 22nd  question by Agnieszka Brugger (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), p. 17, printed matter 19/6212, 30.11.2018.
  •  “Use of uranium ammunition by the US Army in the Syrian war”, printed matter 18/10623, 13.12.2016
  •  “Toxic effects of armor-piercing ammunition of the German Armed Forces”, printed matter 18/6624, 10.11.2015.
  • “State of knowledge of the Federal Government on the use of and protection against DU ammunition”, printed matter 17/3777, 15. 11. 2010.
  • ‘’The Storage and use of uranium ammunition and the consequences for the population’’, printed matter 16/8992, 25. 04. 2008.
  • “A-10 „Thunderbolt 11″ warplane and radioactive ammunition“, printed matter 11/3972, 13.02.89.