The Netherlands delegation to the United Nations General Assembly has been instructed by parliament to change its position and give its support to demands for an international enquiry into the effects of depleted uranium. A motion presented by SP defence and disarmament spokeswoman Krista van Velzen in favour of such an enquiry won the backing of her parliamentary colleagues earlier this week, yet when the matter came before the UN the Dutch delegation voted — for the second time in a month – against. Declaring that she is not prepared to put up with such a blatant negation of a democratic decision, Van Velzen is demanding an explanation from the cabinet. At the same time, the SP will be joined by Labour colleagues in organising a hearing on the effects of depleted uranium on health.
The Netherlands delegation last month voted against a resolution in favour of an enquiry, on the grounds that a single word suggested a causal connection between depleted uranium and negative health effects. “There’s a great deal of uncertainty about the effects of the military use of depleted uranium,” Van Velzen said. “In Italy a parliamentary enquiry is currently being conducted and compensation has been paid out to soldiers who probably became ill as a result of contact with recycled nuclear waste. Families of such people have also received compensation payments. This is not a time to be burying our heads in the sand. We need to know precisely what we are dealing with and take appropriate measures.”
The SP motion adopted this week by parliament called on the government to change its position in a UN vote scheduled for the following day and support an enquiry, if necessary having the single offending word removed. Together with the PvdA (Labour Party) the SP has also taken the initiative to organise a hearing to look into the health effects of depleted uranium.
Despite parliament’s demand for change, the Netherlands delegation last night nevertheless once again voted against a resolution calling on the UN to establish an enquiry into the matter. “Unlike the Italians, who are paying compensation, the Dutch government is refusing to face the facts,” said Van Velzen. “They’re obviously better informed down there, which is why we need a parliamentary hearing, so that we can gather as much information as possible on the adverse health effects of depleted uranium.”