“Uranium 238 – Impact of the bombardment of Yugoslavia with depleted uranium in 1999”

2nd International Symposium at the University of Niš from 17. – 19.6.2019

by Dr Barbara Hug

The war against Yugoslavia ended 20 years ago. In the meantime NATO settled down on Serbia’s borders, confident of victory, and the German government is now once again providing advice and financial support for setting-up a second UK.1 Why the looking back into the past?
Because by now the ever-increasing incidence of cancer in Serbia and Kosovo has reached horrendous dimensions and the bellicosity of the NATO states has not diminished.
NATO applied its weaponry over Yugoslavia in 1999 to demonstrate to the world its “well” working machinery of war. Later, Iraq and Afghanistan were also subjected to the “blessing” of radioactive and chemical-toxic uranium ammunition.
As early as 2001, the Spiegel journalist Siegesmund von Ilsemann drew attention to the fact that American researchers knew about the DU risk posed by the dust swirled up from the soil. Lieutenant Colonel Ziehmn of the Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Centre warned in a 1991 letter: “There have been and continue to be concerns about the effects of depleted uranium on the environment. Therefore, there is a danger that DU ammunition may appear politically unacceptable.”
The War Alliance doesn’t like to admit that it left behind long lasting war damages stemming from the war in 1999. The issue of uranium ammunition remained taboo, the population of Serbia and Kosovo remained silent for a long time, but was confronted with the massive and rapidly occurring cases of malignant tumours and leukaemias in the families. Today it is no longer possible to ignore those. Whilst NATO and its think tanks are still trying to sweep the problem under the carpet, a Serbian lawyer from the south of Serbia, Srđjan Aleksić from Niš, started to establish a campaign aimed at obtaining financial compensation for the victims. He advocates for the sick plaintiffs from Vranje and Niš or their families. As already in 2018, he organised an international symposium on 17 – 19 June 2019 at the University of Niš. Legal, political, economic and ecological aspects, health and safety were the topics of the experts. The event was organized by the Srđjan Aleksić Law Office Niš, the Association for the Protection of Critical Infrastructure, Belgrade, and the Orthodox Academy of Science, Arts, Crafts and Innovation of Serbia.
The situation of the mountain area around Vranje, south of Niš, will continue to be a worrying topic. On a hill near the village of Plačkovica NATO bombed a broadcasting tower. The workers ordered to restore the tower all died of cancer after a few years. Today Plačkovica is a ghost village. The current radiation dosis greatly exceeds the threshold of tolerability by far. A citizens’ initiative led by Gradimir Jovanovic was formed in Vranje.
Legal, human rights and legal-ethical aspects, presented by the Greek speakers Janis Rahiotis and Nikolos Progulis, testified the urgent necessity of an internationally supported jurisdictional reappraisal of the war of 1999. There was no doubt that this war of aggression was contrary to international law, and the reinterpretations into a “humanitarian intervention” proved to be an untenable construction even 20 years later, considering the countless victims in the civilian population. Is it a humanitarian act to literally poison the population of a small country?
More than 300 participants – foreign guests and lecturers – from Greece, Norway, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Bulgaria, Northern Macedonia, Bosnia including the Republic of Srpska and Malta witnessed the high level of interest that exists at least in civil society in these countries. Serbia has a large diaspora worldwide, whose members are also affected.
The aim of this committed meeting was to raise public awareness of the link between rising cancer rates and the weapons used by NATO. The WHO has since long taken a clear position: DU is an alpha emitter, a genotoxic substance. If deposited inside the body, e.g. by inhaling dust, it is carcinogenic. DU is classified as group 1 of carcinogenic substances by the International Agency for research on cancer of the WHO. Cancer as occurring in Serbia and Kosovo is extremely aggressive, and humans become cancerous after about 5 years after exposure. To treat this type of cancer, precise chemical-radiological and medical analyses are required to determine the appropriate treatment. The poor population in the Balkans cannot afford such treatments and diagnostic clarifications. So who is responsible for this? If help can be provided at all, adequate compensation must be paid first. It also needs a deep and comprehensive decontamination of the bombed areas – so that at least the farmers can graze their livestock on their meadows again. The water must be continuously tested for uranium and other harmful substances.
As it seems now, the Western “community of values” will not care for such tasks for even a second. Up to now certain groups in Germany are looking at the Serbs despising – as if they had no right to life … Is history repeating again?    •

1     “The tasks of the German ‘Bundeswehr’ include […] in addition to ‘developing a stable, democratic, multi-ethnic and peaceful Kosovo’, also the support to establish the ‘Kosovo Security Force’ and other Kosovo security forces.” As written in Sputnik on 7 June 2019. Do we have to expect that the UK will continue wrapped up in fine words, with the help of the “Bundeswehr”?
The presentations will soon be available in English: Srđjan Aleksić Law Office, simpozijum@uranium238.org and advokati.aleksic@gmail.com.