Call for increased transparency in UK weapons reviews
By Richard Moyes
Article 36 has joined with other NGOs and Parliamentarians in signing a letter to the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Nick Harvey MP, calling for transparency in a forthcoming review of the legality of the UK’s CHARM3 ammunition.
These munitions are a particular focus of attention because they utilise depleted uranium (DU), which raises concerns regarding the longer-term health risks that they pose to populations amongst whom they may be used. However, beyond these specific weapons, the letter raises important questions about how the acceptability of weapons is assessed and the levels of public scrutiny possible over such a process.
Whilst Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions requires states to assess how new weapons, means or methods of warfare comply with international legal obligations, there is a wider moral requirement to understand the risks that weapons pose. Determinations about the acceptability of weapons should allow for some broader social oversight of how we deem it acceptable to kill and injure people in our name.
At a time when new weapon technologies and platforms, and new methods of attack through cyber warfare, are being developed faster than society can keep pace, the process of weapons reviews are all the more important. Increased transparency in this review process would be a very positive step towards a more rigorous framework for consideration of new weapons.