News Release

Is Use of Depleted Uranium a War Crime?


AP reports: “The U.S. has announced it’s sending depleted uranium anti-tank rounds to Ukraine, following Britain’s lead.”

LaForge is a co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

He recently wrote the piece “U.S. Depleted Uranium to Make Ukraine War Dirtier,” which states: “If the shells are used in the Ukraine war, the soil, water, crops, and livestock of the territory being contested will likely be contaminated with uranium and the other radioactive materials that are in the armor-piercing munitions. This is because when DU smashes through tank armor, it becomes an aerosol of dust or gas-like particles that can be inhaled and carried long distances on the wind.

“In 2003, experts at the Pentagon and the United Nations estimated that between 1,000 and 2,000 tonnes of DU were used by U.S.-led forces during their attack on Iraq in March and April that year. That same year, the British Royal Society, declared that hundreds of tons of DU used by Britain and the U.S. against Iraq should be removed to protect the civilian population, contradicting Pentagon claims it was not necessary. (“Scientists Urge Shell Clear-Up to Protect Civilians, Royal Society spells out dangers of depleted uranium,” Guardian, April 17, 2003)

“After NATO’s use of DU weapons in Kosovo in 1999, the Council of Europe called for a world-wide ban on the production, testing, use, and sale of DU weapons, asserting that DU pollution would have ‘long term effects on health and quality of life in South-East Europe, affecting future generations.’ The call went unheeded.”

Reuters reported in 2001 in “U.S. expert says use of DU munitions a ‘war crime’“: “The man who led the U.S. army’s depleted uranium (DU) assessment team in the 1991 Gulf War said yesterday that the continued use of such weapons was a ‘war crime’ which should be stopped immediately.

“Speaking at a news conference at Britain’s Parliament, Dr. Doug Rokke, a major in the U.S. army reserves, said he told his government as far back as 1991 of the health hazards of depleted uranium, but his warnings had been consistently ignored. … ‘When you deliberately and wilfully take radioactive waste … and throw it down in places in the world where children can pick it up and be exposed to it … that’s a crime against humanity and it is a war crime,’ he said.”