14 July 2003

Original: ENGLISH
English only

Sub-Commission on the Promotion
and Protection of Human Rights
Fifty-fifth session
Item 6 of the provisional agenda


Written statement* submitted by International Educational Development, Inc,
a non-governmental organization on the Roster

The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.

[4 July 2003]

1. International Educational Development/Humanitarian Law Project (IED/HLP) has raised the issue of weaponry containing depleted uranium at first the Commission on Human Rights and then the Sub-Commission on Human Rights since 1996. We have been pleased that the Sub-Commission immediately took up this issue and has kept it on the agenda ever since. We, of course, agree with the Sub-Commission that the use of weaponry containing depleted uranium in armed conflict is incompatible with existing human rights and humanitarian law. We have also welcomed the working papers submitted by Y.K.J. Yeung Sik Yuen on not only weaponry containing depleted uranium but on a number of other weapons whose use in armed conflict is also incompatible with existing norms. E/CN.4/Sub.2/2002/38 and E/CN.4/Sub.2/2003/35.

2. In our numerous oral and written statements on the issue of this weaponry we have set out four tests that all weapons must pass in order to be used in armed conflict: the weapons and their effect must be contained to the legal field of battle (the "geographical" test); the weapons and their effect must cease to function when the armed conflict is over (the "temporal" test); the weapons and their effect must not be unduly inhumane or cause undue suffering (the "humaneness" test); and the weapons can not unduly harm the environment (the "environment" test).

3. Mr. Yeung Sik Yuen's assessment of when weapons are to be considered banned by operation of law is stated somewhat differently but is essentially compatible with ours. However, he adds an essential element that we had not included -- the requirement that all weapons use must be in proportion to the legitimate military objectives. Thus even "legal" weapons might be used illegally -- as when using a large bomb against a small, lightly defended military outpost and causing injury and damage in excess of the actual military gain. This is an important addition, as several weapons systems are now being proposed that would severely tax this rule. One of these, being developed in the United States, would allow the United States to engage in an armed conflict anywhere in the world from its own territory. Code-named FALCON (for Force Application and Launch from the Continental United States), weapons delivery systems are being planned that would carry 12,000 pound bombs anywhere in the world in less than two hours from a US launch. As the United States would not have any military personnel on site, it would be impossible to assess proportionality. And the "enemy" would have no way at all to defend itself as the "enemy" would not have the same weapons capability. The United States is also planning smaller bombs that can be launched into space, and when guided over its target, dropped to earth. These would be able to penetrate 70 feet of solid rock. They are defended by United States officials because it "would free the US military from reliance on forward basing to enable it to react promptly and decisively to destabilising or threatening actions by hostile countries or terrorist organizations." From the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) invitation for bids, posted on its website, reported by Julian Borger, The Guardian, 1 July 2003. We call wars to be waged this way "arm chair" wars. The United State military will not have to leave home, but can effectively destroy a country from their homes. The United States "combatants" never have to see combat, nor the destruction they cause with the bombs they send from home.

4. Weaponry containing depleted uranium has been increasing in the news and subject of widespread international condemnation, especially as it was so widely used in the new war against Iraq. One study of children born of United States veterans of the first Gulf War shows a more than 60% incidence of disability, deformity and other serious medical problems. Another study shows that United States Gulf War veteran' children have a much higher likelihood of having three specific birth defects: two types heart valve abnormality to children of male veterans, and genito-urinary defects to children born of female veterans. "Gulf WarBirth Defects" in the Lexington-Herald Leader, 4 June 2003. A study of British veterans of the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo reveals that they have 10 - 14 times the level of chromosomal abnormalities than usual. H. Schrader, A. Heimers, R. Frentzel-Beyme, A. Schott & W. Hoffmann, "Chromosome aberration analysis in perifiral lymphocytes of Gulf war and Balkan war veterans," in Radiation Protection Dosimetry, vol.103 no.3, pp. 211-220.

5. There is increasing evidence that troubling weaponry was also used in Afghanistan, as a Canadian medical research facility found that the urine of Afghani people near where the United States carried out military operations contained radioactive isotopes 100 to 400 times higher than Gulf War veterans from the United Kingdom tested in 1999. The report is posted at www.umrc.net. The maximum permissible level for members of the public in the United States is considered to be 12 nanograms per year. The Canadian team recorded an average 315.5 nanograms in people in Jalalabad, Tora Bora and Mazar-e-Sharif. A 12-year-old boy near Kabul tested at 2,031 nanograms. After a second trip to Afghanistan, the Canadian team documented comparable results in a much broader area and larger population group. A prominent Afghani physician reports that there is a dramatic increase in birth defects in Afghanistan and people are experiencing catastrophic health consequences.

6. Regarding the use of weapons used against Iraq this spring, it is clear that much weaponry containing depleted uranium was used. For example Abrams tanks only use DU ordnance. The bombs fired on Baghdad and other cities as part of "shock and awe" are alleged to have had DU nosecones. Cluster bombs were admittedly used in urban areas in an attempt to protect British troops. Paul Waugh, "Allied use of cluster bombs illegal, minister admits," The Independent, 30 May 2003. While the amount of DU dispersed over Iraq for the second time in less than 15 years is unclear, it is clear that the United States does not intend to clean up the DU nor even fully disclose where it was used and in what amounts.

7. Our organization considers the Iraq situation an atrocity followed by a catastrophe. The international community simply must respond or risk being overtaken in every way by a power that did not and does not intend to abide by the principles of humanitarian law carefully carved out since the first Geneva Convention of 1864 and The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. The weapons already in use are terrifying enough, without contemplating those planned in the future.

8. We urge the Sub-Commission to request Mr. Yeung Sik Yuen to continue his work on all these weapons. In the course of his work on this topic he has become one of the few experts in this field and the Sub-Commission is well advised to request him to prepare an additional follow up paper. Indeed, it would take years for another to catch up to his expertise. The importance of this endeavor cannot possibly be overestimated. The fate of the whole world lies in being able to carry out true disarmament. The smaller, poorer countries cannot possible keep up with "arm-chair" wars or they will bankrupt themselves. Even the other developed countries are far, far behind this technological madness. If the United States is allowed to use and develop these weapons, all other countries are reduced to peonage at the mercy of the United States. Therefore, it is essential that the international community find a way to truly rid the world of illegal weapons.


*This written statement is issued, unedited, in the language(s) received from the submitting non-governmental organization(s).


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