Why are “depleted” uranium weapons illegal ?

There are at least (!) three relevant texts in international law :

  1. Article 35 of the Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which says that

    It is prohibited to employ weapons, projectiles and material and methods of warfare of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.

2. Articles 51 and 54 of the same Protocol, which outlaw indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations, and destruction of food, water, and other materials needed for survival. Indiscriminate attacks include directly attacking civilian (non-military) targets, but also using technology such as biological weapons, nuclear weapons and land mines, whose scope of destruction cannot be limited

3. The Convention on the prohibition of the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and on their destruction which clearly says that :

“Chemical Weapons” means the following, together or separately: (a) Toxic chemicals and their precursors, except where intended for purposes not prohibited under this Convention, as long as the types and quantities are consistent with such purposes;

The current view on “depleted” uranium weapons has been driven by the belief they include only U238, whose radioactivity is quite low. This has caused a lot of debate (people claimed such weapons were not very dangerous). The indiscriminate effects caused by its use should nevertheless be enough to convince them of the opposite, because of the use of nano-levels of nuclear fission, as explained thoroughly by Pyrophor. These indiscriminate effects have been proven regarding birth defects (see for instance Alaani et al 2012 JIMA and Alaani, Busby 2012 Conflict Health), cancer, but also trisomy, autism and other genetic diseases (schizophrenia, one type of myopathy at least) and we hope an academic publication soon on these issues (with Dr Samira Alaani).

Bonus : these weapons clearly contrevene to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty 😉

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