The International Coalition for a Ban on Uranium Weapons (www.icbuw.eu) has been monitoring the use of depleted uranium weapons since 2003 and is campaigning to ban these weapons. Although depleted uranium weapons are classified as conventional weapons and not as nuclear weapons, they are radioactive and chemically toxic. There is no safe dose of radioactivity, even if it concerns depleted uranium.
When bullets/projectiles made of depleted uranium impact a surface, they form very fine dust (nano size) that is both radioactive and chemically toxic. Through wounds, ingestion of contaminated food and inhalation of contaminated air, these particles are absorbed into the body and can lead to harmful long-term effects such as cancers, reduced fertility, birth defects, kidney failure. Projectiles that miss their target end up in the soil where they slowly corrode, contaminating the soil and the drinking water.
ICBUW was therefore shocked by the news that the UK and US are supplying depleted uranium weapons to Ukraine, where they will be used on the battle field.
No lessons have been learned from the Balkan War and the Iraq War, nor from the many studies and reports that demonstrate the harmfulness of these weapons; see https://www.icbuw.eu/en/the-problem/scientific-data/
Even without a specific treaty, there is an international legal ban on the use of DU weapons. Rules and standards can be derived from International Humanitarian Law (no distinction between military and civilian targets), from Human Rights Law (right to a healthy environment) and from Environmental L (use of toxic substances). The precautionary principle has been mentioned in several UN General Assembly resolutions on the use of uranium weapons, along with the principles of transparency and assistance to victims.
ICBUW will continue to work hard to prevent the use of these radioactive and chemically toxic weapons on the battlefield in Ukraine. Because they will cause casualties for generations.
In 2007, Belgium was the first country in the world to unanimously pass a law banning depleted uranium weapons on Belgian soil. Financing the production was also prohibited by law and old stock would be destroyed.
Several peace movements and coalitions expected that Belgium would take a clear position on the deliveries of DU weapons to Ukraine.
On September 26, 2023, Els Van Hoof, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, asked an oral question to Hadja Lahbib, Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Els Van Hoof emphasized that Belgium continues to provide support to Ukraine, but that it cannot be the intention that the health of residents of the conflict areas is mortgaged for a long time.
She asked Minister Lahbib about the role of Belgium and the steps already taken during international political activities/initiatives and meetings, both at bilateral and multilateral level (also within NATO) in connection with the supply of uranium weapons to Ukraine.
Minister Lahbib referred to the Belgian law of 2007 and expressed a lasting commitment to the fight against these weapons. However, she regrets the decision of UK and US and confirmed that she will not cooperate in the deliveries of these weapons. But she sees no legal obstacles to stop deliveries to Ukraine.
Neither the UK nor the US have a legal ban on depleted uranium weapons and there is no international treaty banning these weapons, she points out.
However, Belgium will continue to draw the attention of the international community and advocate further research into the consequences of the use of depleted uranium weapons.
Minister Lahbib assured that she will continue to support new UN resolutions as she did in the past. In addition, Belgium is also willing to provide information on Belgian legislation to states that wish to adopt a similar law.
There are no international regulations on the ban on DU weapons, although there are several UN resolutions that clearly state against their use.
Els Van Hoof speaks clear language. Belgium must make its voice heard about the use of these radioactive and chemically toxic weapons.
Despite the fact that Belgium will continue to support Ukraine, according to Els Van Hoof, there are limits in terms of arms deliveries.
Belgian and International Coalition for a ban on uranium weapons