There’s no doubt that European weapons are today being used to kill Libyans.
Journalists across Europe are now fleshing out the details, figuring out whodunnit and how. Here’s a summary of what they’ve found so far…
Start with the official figures: €343 million of weapons sold in 2009 alone. The EU Observer, Deutsche Welle and Der Spiegel summarize those numbers and examine what is behind them. They speculate, for example, that the €43m of German electrical exports includes jamming equipment used to block the mobile phone and GPS networks.
Italy is the biggest exporter: they officially sold Libya €111m of weapons, but are also responsible for €80m of firearms dubiously licensed through Malta. The Corriere della Sera has found a government report detailing the Italian companies involved, which Sky News summarizes in English:
Missile systems maker Mbda Italia signed a deal worth 2.5 million euros ($A3.42 million) in May 2009 to supply Libya with ‘material for bombs, torpedoes, rockets and missiles’, the interior ministry report was quoted as saying.
Helicopter maker Augusta Westland signed two contracts with Libya in October 2010 worth 70 million euros ($A95.88 million). Also last year, Selex Sistemi Integrati signed a 13 million euro ($A17.81 million) deal to provide Libya with gun targeting equipment.
This year, military shipmaker Intermarine Spa started negotiations with Libya for contracts worth a total of 600 million euros ($A821.86 million).
Selex Sistemi Integrati, Augusta-Westland and Oto Melara are also in talks with Libya for contracts totalling 150 million euros ($A205.47 million).
In Britain, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade reports that “the UK Government had approved the export of goods including tear gas and crowd control ammunition and sniper rifles to Bahrain and Libya“. The arms-promotion wing of the UK government counts Libya as a “priority market“, and says “high-level political interventions” have supported UK weapons sales there. Last November, over half of the exhibitors at the Libyan Defence & Security Exhibition (LibDex) were UK companies.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has provided another cause for controversy, bringing along eight arms firms on a trip to Egypt and Kuwait last week. Cameron openly defended arms sales, saying “he could not understand why anyone would oppose his attempts to boost British defence sales in such a volatile region”
Belgian sales to Libya consist mostly of small arms made by FH Herstal. Le Soir is doing a fantastic job of investigating this. Last Monday they were already reporting contracts for guns. By Thursday they’d identified spent ammunition from the libyan city of Al-Bayda as manufactured by FH Herstal.
In France, web outlet Rue89 interviews Jean Guisnel, whose recent book on the arms trade has a chapter devoted to Libya. He names French politicians involved in weapons deals with Libya: president Nicolas Sarkozy, minister of defence Michèle Alliot-Marie and her husband, and the Libyan middle-man Ziad Takieddine. As for companies:
Involved in recent contracts were MBDA, subsidiary of EADS, for the Milan anti-tank missiles, EADS Defence and Security for telecommunications networks, and the Dassault-Thales-Snecma Sofema consortium for renovation of the Mirage jet. In my opinion, these are the most important.
Then there are are ongoing negotiations not yet concluded: military and civilian Eurocopter helicopters, the renovation of Rattlesnake missiles sold by Thales, or renovation of Combattante boats.
A few journalists are starting to look beyond pure arms sales, examining training and other collaboration. I highlighted reports from 2008, claiming that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had brokered a deal for elite German commandos to train the Libyan security services:
The German officers would receive €15,000 each, paid by a private security firm which in turn got a €1.6m cheque from Libya. They would take time off from their elite anti-terrorist unit. Their superiors thought they were vacationing in Tunisia, though the German embassy in Libya knew their real purpose. The officers set up shop in a barracks in Tripoli, where for 6 months they taught their Libyan counterparts how to storm buildings, board ships and operate out of helicopters.
Finally, openDemocracy weighs in on a big story not yet getting enough attention: arms deals aren’t the only link between Europe and Gaddafi’s military. The tyrant has also been a conveniently ruthless border guard, keeping refugees away before they become Europe’s problem. The EU’s €50m funding for Libyan border controls is just part of the problem:
We, the citizens of the EU, should also be reminded that for over three years now, we have relied on Gaddafi and his state apparatus to keep asylum seekers and other migrants away from our doors.
The Gaddafi Government’s treatment of migrants has been known to undercut human rights for a long time. In the past week, matters have escalated further. Human rights groups have reported atrocious racist violence against Sub-Saharan Africans in Libya, including those removed there by Italy on the basis of bilateral agreements with Libya designed to combat illegal immigration to Europe. Eritrean, Somali, and Sudanese refugees, accused of being mercenaries on the payroll of the government are summarily executed with knives and machetes.
What have I missed? Please send me further links, by email (daniel at ohuiginn.net) or twitter (@danohu).