The Illegality of DU Weaponry (Source

Keith Baverstock PhD, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Kuopio, KUOPIO, Finland.
Paper prepared for the International Uranium Weapons Conference, Hamburg, Germany, 16 - 19, 2003.

I found out about DU weaponry in 1996 and immediately began to condemn it at the United Nations human rights forums. I was convinced that such weaponry could not be used without violating humanitarian (armed conflict) law rules and was, accordingly banned by operation of existing law. As a consequence, their use would necessarily constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and other violations of humanitarian (armed conflict). The fact that the UN took up this issue as soon as it was presented it supports my opinion.

The presentations at the 1996 session of UN Commission on Human Rights (the Commission and at the August 1996 session of the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, now renamed the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (the Sub-Commission) focused on the use of DU weaponry in the first Gulf War. At that session, members of the Sub-Commission were both highly shocked and moved by the presentations on DU weaponry5 and as a result passed a resolution (Sub-Commission resolution 1996/16) sponsored by Claire Palley (UK) in which the Sub-Commission found DU weaponry “incompatible” with existing humanitarian and human rights law. The resolution also began a procedure to address DU weaponry (and other "bad" weapons) in light of these existing norms and asked the Secretary- General to submit a report to the Sub-Commission at its 1997 session on this topic. I prepared Memorandum on Weapons and the Laws and Customs of War (IED/HLP 1997)(in CADU report) to submit to the Secretary-General, who then incorporated much of my basic analysis in his report, issued as U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/1997/27 and Additions. The Secretary-General’s report also contains the views of States, other NGO’s and specialized agencies. In 1997 the Sub- Commission adopted another resolution (Sub-Commission resolution 1997/36) in which it repeated its finding that DU weaponry is “incompatible” with existing humanitarian and human rights law and asked its member Clemencia Forero Ucros to study further this issue.

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