Costa Rica came one step closer this week to becoming the second country to ban uranium weapons from entering national borders after a late evening vote Wednesday in the Legislative Assembly. Belgium was the first country to ban the lethal weapons.
The new bill prohibits the use, commerce, transit, production, distribution and storage of uranium weapons in Costa Rica’s territories.
The decision to ban uranium weapons, which are by no means considered a threat in an army-less nation, coincides with the celebration of the First Latin American Conference on Uranium Weapons, which was organized by the San José Quaker Peace Center (CAP), the International Depleted Uranium Study Team and the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons. The groups have been collectively lobbying for the ban in Costa Rica since 2009. To be ratified in Costa Rica, the bill must be signed by President Laura Chinchilla.
The bill was originally presented in 2009 by former congressman Alexander Mora, who was instrumental in encouraging the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino) to call for the prohibition of uranium weapons in September 2009. Parlatino has encouraged its board to carry out scientific studies on the use of depleted uranium in all regions in which Latin American military personnel have been deployed.
According to CAP, the use of uranium weapons is illegal under international humanitarian, human rights and environmental law. The United Nations Human Rights Sub-Committee has condemned them, similar to nuclear, chemical and cluster munitions, as weapons of indiscriminate destruction with long-term consequences for the environment, human health and life, which cause civilian suffering for years after the cessation of hostilities.
The new law is considered to be a monumental step in the worldwide banning of uranium weapons. Currently, New Zealand and Ireland are also discussing potential legislation for the prohibition of uranium weapons in their territories.
A documentary URANIO 238 produced by Director Pablo Ortega for the Quaker Peace Center is available for readers interested in helping the campaign to ban uranium weapons. The documentary will be shown at the First International Uranium Film Festival in Rio de Janeiro, São Paolo and other Brazilian towns beginning May 21.
For more on the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, see: www.bandepleteduranium.org.