NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE
Yesterday was holocaust day. Originally the idea was to remember the holocaust waged against on the Jewish people and other minorities in World War 2 but the World has not learned so it was broadened to include more recent bloody conflicts in which genocide has been wrought.
You would think that a small community such as ours would be fortunate to be spared involvement in holocausts that we would simply be sympathetic observers of the wickedness perpetrated elsewhere.
However at a time when the Islands status as an offshore centre is very much in focus again it’s useful to remember that we did participate in holocaust by allowing companies based here to arrange shipments of arms to the Hutu rebels and fuel the conflict in Rwanda.
No one was ever held to account and no apology as far as I’m aware was ever offered by the Manx government.
We stoked conflict in Africa for years prior to Rwanda and indeed arms were still being shipped (to Darfur) using shell companies based here even after the Rwanda experience.
Fifteen years ago I wrote a summary on some of that trading (with reference points) and I produce it here again:
“(January 4th 2001 Celtic News: New allegations linking the son of the late French president to arms trading in Africa indicate that Manx registered companies may still be involved in this deplorable trade. This despite assurances that loopholes allowing Arms Traders to operate from the Isle of Man would be plugged.
Once again the links alleging trading by companies operating from the Isle of Man with the arms trade in Africa have been exposed. Jean-Christophe Mitterand son of the late French president is accused of illegal arms trafficking and is said to have used a string of companies in various tax havens including Switzerland and the Isle of Man. This is the latest in a string of connections stretching back decades which have seen Manx based companies involved in arms trading and breaches of UN sanctions on the continent.
Last year a United Kingdom newspaper (1) exposed the use by British companies of offshore centres like the Isle of Man in arming the Rwanda Hutu militia. These militias were involved in several horrendous incidents including an attack on a group of British and American tourists. Eight of the party, including four Britons, were butchered.
This was not the first Rwanda link. In November 1996 documents seized in Rwanda from retreating Hutu militia revealed a tangled web of arms trafficking linked to the Isle of Man and other off-shore centres(2).
The ‘Sandline’ episode also showed that arms traders were still using offshore jurisdictions in an effort to conceal their tracks.
What is perhaps disturbing about these Africa links is that they are not isolated incidents but stretch back over decades. There is indeed a culture of shadowy and sinister links which probably began at the time of Apartheid and the Rhodesia sanctions and have continued since.
In 1987 the United Kingdom Independent newspaper (3) revealed details of secret meetings between the Isle of Man government and Southern African business interests.
Also in 1987 first details of an aircraft leasing and transport operation similar to that cited in the recent news reports was revealed. The Observer newspaper (4) carried a report that a company with offices registered in the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Shannon freeport in the Irish Republic was engaged in leasing Hercules transport aircraft to a company called Southern Air Transport, based in Florida, which was at that time engaged in supplying arms to rebels fighting with UNITA against the Angolan government.
After the exposure of the Manx involvement in the Rwanda genocide the Celtic League called for law changes which would make it impossible for the arms dealers, who trade on the death and misery of hundreds of thousands of people, to operate here. The government responded with the Islands FSC announcing that loopholes would be closed (5). The loopholes however appear to still exist.
Have our calls and those of others (6) gone unheeded with more people dead? Why has no one been prosecuted for assisting in one of the worst genocides in the last decade (indeed century) the massacre of one million Tutsis. We should recognise also that, although the deaths of the European tourists last year were well publicised, the militias armed by these companies are still spreading a rain of murder, rape and destruction across the Central African region with weapons supplied at the time with the help of companies operating from the Isle of Man and other offshore centres. The Mitterand connection in just the latest in a serious of allegations some proven about links between tax havens and the International arms trade it is past time an extensive International investigation was mounted to root out the merchants of death once and for all
J B Moffatt Secretary General Celtic League
(1) UK Firms Armed Hutu Killers – Observer 7/3/99
(2) British Company Supplied Arms to Hutu Militia – Independent 18/11/96
(3) Island Accused in sanctions Scandal – Independent 22/1/97
(4) MP Linked to Firm in Pretoria Oil Deals May – Observer 1987?
(5) Rwanda FSC Acts Over Guns Supply – Isle of Man Courier 23/11/96
(6) Reform Needed to End Abuse – Editorial Manx Independent November 1996
This articleand others relating to arms trading can be found in the archive on the Celtic League main site. Paper records correspondence and cuttings compiled by the League are lodged with the MNH Library.
Photo: Rwandan government troops who ended the genocide.
Issued by: The Celtic News
THE CELTIC LEAGUE INFORMATION SERVICE.
The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues