(ICBUW) – A parliamentary debate in Belgium appears to suggest that the US had not made its coalition partners aware that it had used DU in Syria last year. Responding to questions tabled by MPs Dirk Van der Maelen (Socialists) and Wouter De Vriendt (Greens) last Wednesday, government defence minister Steven Vandeput stated that Belgium had no knowledge of the use of DU ammunition during operation Inherent Resolve.
The question has particular resonance for Belgium because in 2007 it became the first country to ban the use of the weapons, a ban that entered into force in 2009. A fact acknowledged by the minister who described the country’s position as “pioneering”, and one that it would defend in international fora. However he also acknowledged that there is no international ban on the weapons. De Vriendt urged the minister to seek official clarification directly with the US and the minister gave his assurances that he would. He also asked whether the government could guarantee that Belgian F16s would not be used in coalition actions where DU might be used by the US.
The coalition assembled to tackle Islamic State in Iraq and Syria currently has 64 members. Among this number are several that have been affected by DU weapons, including Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Iraq and Serbia; a number of countries that have expressed concerns over the weapons domestically and at international fora such as Jordan, Norway, Panama, Finland and the Netherlands; and four – Iraq, Serbia, Oman and Qatar – that have publicly called for the weapons to be subject to an international ban.
“Governments that are members of the Inherent Resolve coalition and who object to the use of DU should raise their concerns with CENTCOM”, said ICBUW’s Doug Weir. “All coalition members share responsibility for the conduct of the operation and ultimately for any further use of these unacceptable weapons.”
News that the US may have used DU on two occasions in November 2015 wasbroken by IRIN in early October, just weeks before the UN General Assembly was due to vote on a 6th resolution on the weapons. US Central Command finally confirmed the news on October 21st. ICBUW and its members have called for the US to clarify the coalition’s policy on DU use in operation Inherent Resolve, and to urgently release detailed targeting data to ensure that remedial measures can take place to minimise the risk the weapons pose to civilians.