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Given Bulgaria’s longstanding reputation as a ready source of weapons for all, no questions asked, it is not surprising that many of the arms deals linked to Bulgaria are particularly troubling from a human rights perspective. Bulgaria has played a role in arms sales to forces known to commit gross violations of human rights or international humanitarian law, including some of the world’s most egregious offenders. For example, Bulgaria was a source of weapons shipments to the forces that committed genocide in Rwanda in 1994 (see below). Such arms transfers not only permit known human rights abusers to continue their brutal behavior, causing further bloodshed and civilian casualties, but they also provide the recipients with a sense of invincibility and impunity for their actions. In some cases, Bulgaria has been a weapons source for both sides in a violent conflict.

As the following case studies demonstrate, Bulgaria’s involvement in weapons flows to several countries since the UDF government came to power in 1997, including through its role as a transshipment point and transport hub for arms flows to abusive forces, reveals that the pattern of Bulgaria’s past arms trade behavior has not been broken. In several instances, Bulgaria’s arms trade relationship with abusive armed forces, begun long before the new government was elected, has been sustained.

Tracing the origin of weapons flows to abusive armed forces is no easy task. With few exceptions, the international arms trade is a highly secretive business. Governments are asked to report imports and exports of certain categories of heavy military equipment to the United Nations on a yearly basis, but voluntary declarations—when they are submitted—are often incomplete. No such formal reporting mechanism exists for international arms deals involving small arms and light weapons. In addition, the involvement of intermediaries—including arms brokers and transport companies—together with the prevalence of deceptive practices such as the use of false documentation, the routing of shipments through third countries, and the diversion of weapons from authorized end-users to unauthorized ones, make it difficult to document the ultimate destination of individual arms deals.

In this context, confirming Bulgaria’s involvement in questionable arms deals is particularly challenging. The country’s secrecy laws are strict and government officials are reluctant to discuss specific allegations. The case studies below therefore bring together information from both primary and secondary sources. In particular, they draw on Human Rights Watch field investigations, official investigations, eyewitness accounts, documentary evidence, research by other nongovernmental organizations, and media reports. Taken together, they illustrate the nature of Bulgaria’s arms dealing with human rights abusers.

Bulgaria has been an important source of weapons for both sides in Angola’s long-running civil war. Its arms deliveries have fueled a war marked by gross and persistent human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. In addition, Bulgaria’s involvement in arms shipments since 1993 to the Angolan rebels, União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, UNITA), have breached a U.N. embargo. The acquisition of arms from Bulgaria and elsewhere by both sides also has violated the terms of a May 1991 Bicesse agreements, which collapsed in October 1992. After a subsequent cease-fire protocol was reached in November 1994, the U.N. Security Council called on both sides to cease importing weapons and war material.220

Bulgaria’s post-cold war arms trade with Angola’s warring parties began during the late 1992 to 1994 period known as Angola’s Third War, when it sold tanks and armored combat vehicles to the Angolan government (see Surplus Weapons, above). Bulgaria was also reportedly the point of origin for a 1994 shipment of missiles for the Angolan government that was held up in Cyprus until a dispute over freight charges could be resolved.221 In 1994 Human Rights Watch witnessed Bulgarian cargo planes being used to ferry weapons to the Angolan government;222 and Bulgaria is also believed to have been involved in weapons flows to UNITA from 1992 to 1994.223

Bulgaria has continued to be linked to arms flows to Angola. Bulgaria apparently renewed its arms trade ties with the Angolan government as fighting flared again in 1996. Human Rights Watch’s reports that year that Bulgaria appeared to be involved in renewed arms flows to the Angolan government were later confirmed.224 In February 1996 Angola’s acting defense minister visited Sofia—the first visit by an African defense minister in five years—and signed a bilateral military agreement that restored “military-economic relations.”225 As a result, Angola purchased light weapons and ammunition from Bulgaria, which were delivered aboard Air Sofia planes in a series of flights in April 1996 from Burgas and Sofia to Catumbela in Angola.226 Despite concerns that violations of the cease-fire and escalation of violence could plunge Angola back into full-scale hostilities, Human Rights Watch is aware that multiple arms flights were scheduled from Burgas to Luanda in 1998.227 (The war was reignited in January 1999.)

Several reports have linked Bulgaria to illicit arms supplies to UNITA. For example, the Washington Post reported that Zaire facilitated large-scale weapons supplies from Bulgaria to UNITA forces in 1996, with more than 450 tons of Bulgarian weapons smuggled to UNITA in October and November of that year through N’Djili airport in Kinshasa.228 Earlier that year N’Djili airport was the site of the crash of a plane believed to carry military equipment from Bulgaria for delivery to UNITA.229

Following the ouster of President Mobutu Sese Seko in May 1997, UNITA was no longer able to rely on Zaire, which became the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to facilitate its arms purchases. It increasingly has relied onalternative weapons routes but it has continued to purchase arms from Bulgaria.230 For example, a South African arms researcher said that in March 1997 he saw small arms and ammunition of Bulgarian origin being loaded at a Mozambican airfield in Nampula, near the northern port of Nacala, onto light aircraft similar to ones seen flying into UNITA-held areas in Angola.231 The same researcher stated that he believed private individuals and companies, mostly operating from South Africa, arranged the weapons shipments through Mozambique.232 The Mozambican government has denied charges that weapons for UNITA have been transshipped through its territory.233

The Angolan government has alleged that Bulgarian weapons have been delivered to UNITA via Uganda. Specifically, Angola has asserted that Ugandan military airfields have received arms shipments from Bulgaria for delivery to UNITA.234 This allegation was made after a major political realignment in mid-1998, when Angola began supporting the government of Laurent Kabila of the DRC against Ugandan-backed rebels. Uganda has denied that it has any links to UNITA.235

When the New York Times published an article in August 1998 naming Bulgaria as a source of weapons shipments to UNITA and other rebel forces,236 officials at the Bulgarian embassy in Luanda, Angola, reportedly acknowledged that UNITA might have acquired Bulgarian weapons.237 A few days later, the embassy released a statement categorically denying that Bulgaria had supplied arms to UNITA.238 It stated that the country “is not linked to armssmuggling dozens [sic] of kilometers from Bulgaria’s borders,” adding that “Bulgaria can not take responsibility for the actions of others.”239 Bulgaria’s trade minister also denied the charges: “We follow strictly all restrictions imposed by the U.N. Security Council, including the arms embargo on...Angola [sic]....”240

Subsequent revelations cast doubt on the truth of such blanket denials. In 1999 Bulgaria was again accused of supplying military equipment to UNITA when a captured Angolan rebel officer explained that his group had been able to conduct a rearmament drive beginning in 1996—despite being subject to a U.N. embargo imposed in 1993—in part because it could obtain Bulgarian weapons via an indirect route. Describing weapons cargoes flown into UNITA-held territory, he stated: “From what I managed to read, the boxes of munitions and arms indicated that they were from Bulgaria.”241 In addition, a South African newspaper cited claims in January 1999 that UNITA had traded directly with Bulgarian companies to purchase weapons in exchange for diamonds, and named Arsenal in connection with arms flows to rebel groups.242 Arsenal’s director denied that his company had supplied arms to UNITA rebels in Angola.243 Human Rights Watch is also aware that a small UNITA delegation traveled to Bulgaria in 1998 and again in January 1999, purportedly for “sightseeing” purposes,244 but in all probability to arrange arms deals. As noted, a shipment of surface-to-air missiles was halted by Bulgarian authorities in October 1998 on the suspicion that the weapons, purportedly destined for Zambia, might be diverted to a force under international embargo.245 It is possible that the weapons were intended for UNITA.246

Bulgaria also played a role in arming Burundian armed forces, which were subject to a regional arms embargo from August 1996 until January 1999.247 According to a U.N. official and a Belgium-based pilot interviewed by Human Rights Watch in 1996, weapons flights out of Burgas, flown by Belgium-based pilots, were then supplying the Burundian government as well as Hutu rebels via South Africa, Angola, and what was then Zaire.248

In a dramatic case in February 1998, a plane flying from Burgas to Bujumbura, Burundi, was grounded in Lagos, Nigeria, after weapons were discovered on board. The plane, a Boeing 707 operated by Trans Arabian Air Transport, left Burgas airport on or about February 18, 1998, and made a stopover in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where part of its cargo was unloaded, before stopping in Lagos to refuel on its way to Burundi. A close aide to the Burundian president, military chief of cabinet Alfred Nkurunziza, was aboard the plane. He was detained by Nigerian authorities and held for one week. Nkurunziza was later promoted by President Buyoya to the post of defense minister.249

As noted, Burundian Hutu rebels also have received weapons shipments from Bulgaria. Such shipments have been facilitated by a tactical alliance these rebels have maintained with rebel forces from Rwanda (the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in that country), allowing them to swap weapons, including those obtained from Bulgaria, depending on who can be reached at any given time by arm traffickers.250

Repeated reports suggest that Bulgaria has breached a U.N. arms embargo on Rwandan forces responsible for the 1994 genocide. Human Rights Watch has previously reported a specific allegation, made by multiple sources, that Bulgaria was a transshipment point for an illegal arms shipment in July 1995.251 Specifically, airport personnel in Nairobi and an arms trader who said he was involved in the deal indicated that an unspecified weapons cargo was loaded onto a plane in Sofia on or about July 7, 1995, and shipped to Kenya, from where it was transported to Goma for onward shipment to Rwandan rebel forces in eastern Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo or DRC).252

This flight may have been part of a larger pattern of arms shipments from Bulgaria to Rwandan Hutu forces. Amnesty International and Britain’s Carlton Television reported in June 1995 that numerous flights carrying arms for Rwandan Hutu forces were flown from Bulgaria to Goma, Zaire, in early 1995.253 They specified that the weapons flights originated in Plovdiv and Burgas in Bulgaria, and that one of the flights was received in Zaire by the ousted primeminister of Rwanda.254 The Bulgarian government flatly denied the charges. The cabinet released a statement declaring that “Bulgaria has not violated its commitments and has not supplied arms and ammunition either to the [Rwandan] government or to the rebels in Rwanda.”255

The role of Kintex in supplying weapons to Rwanda, in contravention of a U.N. arms embargo, became the subject of an investigation by the United Nations International Commission of Inquiry (Rwanda), known as UNICOI. It launched its investigation after a British television broadcast showed representatives of Kintex negotiating with a bogus British firm to arrange a weapons sale to Rwanda.0 Then Kintex director Anton Saldjiiski stated that “neither Kintex nor any other Bulgarian company has ever supplied arms to Rwanda,”1 and the government of Bulgaria responded to the charge by stating that its own investigation “proved that the allegations [were] unfounded.”2 It later clarified that the government had not authorized the deal recorded by Carlton Television and it was never completed. The official Bulgarian response to UNICOI characterized the videotaped discussions with Kintex officials as “a preliminary contact that did not result in further action,” leaving aside the question of whether and how Kintex may have intended to proceed with the sale had the “client” been genuine.3

UNICOI also investigated reports of weapons flights from Bulgaria to eastern Zaire, possibly destined for Rwandan Hutu forces based there, in June 1996. It asked Egypt to furnish information about two Ukrainian-registered planes, carrying thirty tons of arms each, that were alleged to have flown from Bulgaria to Kinshasa, with a stopover in Egypt. One of the planes crashed in Kinshasa on the night of June 5-6, 1996, reportedly after unloading its weapons cargo at the airport. The government of Egypt replied that “the incident referred to did not take place,” and that no registered flights from Bulgaria carrying weapons or ammunition en route to Zaire landed in Egypt during the period in question.4

Bulgaria has continued to be associated with illicit arms shipments to the forces responsible for Rwanda’s genocide. In September 1998 UNICOI raised concerns about allegations that two private Bulgarian airlines were involved in weapons deliveries to those forces.5 As of March 1999, Bulgaria had not replied to the U.N. about these charges.6 An official maintained that the matter was still under investigation, and indicated that a reply most likely would besent to the U.N. secretary-general.7 In addition, there has been speculation that an attempted shipment of surface-to-air missiles halted by Bulgarian authorities in October 1998 may have been bound for Rwanda.8

Sierra Leone
Bulgaria was the source of an arms shipment to Sierra Leone in February 1998. The arms shipment was arranged by a London-based private military corporation, Sandline International, on behalf of the exiled president of Sierra Leone, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. It arrived at Lungi airport near the Sierra Leonean capital of Freetown on February 23, 1998. The cargo, delivered by Sky Air Cargo Services, a British airline, included approximately thirty-five tons of assault rifles, ammunition, and other military equipment. This arms delivery apparently violated a comprehensive U.N. arms embargo, which was worded vaguely, as well as a United Kingdom law barring British citizens from supplying weapons to Sierra Leone.9

The arms shipment was received by the Nigerian-led peacekeeping force fighting to restore President Kabbah to power, the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), but there is some dispute as to whether the weapons might have been used by the Kamajors, a civilian militia that has fought alongside ECOMOG in support of President Kabbah.10 An independent British inquiry found that the ECOMOG commander distributed some of the weapons—250 rifles, ten machine guns, and 100,000 rounds of ammunition—to the Kamajors and ordered the rest placed in storage.11 A Sandline representative in Freetown contradicted this claim, stating in May 1998 that all the weapons remained stored under orders of President Kabbah.12 With the continuation of hostilities in Sierra Leone, it was unclear whether the stored arms were later released for use by either ECOMOG or the Kamajors.13

The possibility that Bulgarian weapons may have been distributed to the Kamajors, either at the time the shipment arrived or subsequently, raises serious concerns. The Kamajors have been responsible for indiscriminate killingsand torture since February 1998.14 In addition, the U.N. has accused ECOMOG forces of serious abuses, including summary executions of suspected rebels.15 Bulgaria therefore may be implicated not only in a breach of a U.N. embargo, but also in the provision of weapons to abusive armed forces.

The Bulgarian origin of the February 1998 arms shipment has been fairly well established. The head of Sandline acknowledged that his company procured the weapons, mostly AK-47 assault rifles, in Bulgaria.16 The owner of Sky Air, the airline contracted by Sandline, admitted that his company delivered the weapons.17 In addition, the British Sunday Times obtained documents that confirm details about the arms flight.18 These documents reportedly show that on February 22, 1998, a Sky Air plane was loaded with weapons at Burgas airport.19 The plane then departed for Kano, Nigeria, where it made a stopover before delivering its cargo to Sierra Leone.20 Bulgarian customs documents obtained by the Sunday Times allegedly name Arsenal as the company that supplied the arms.21

Contradicting such sources, Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov denied his country’s involvement in the affair: “Bulgaria has not exported military supplies to Sierra Leone; we find it implausible that a large shipment of arms can be loaded and exported behind the back of the customs authorities.” He added that the arms export licensing commission at the Trade Ministry had not received any applications for weapons exports to either Sierra Leone or Nigeria, and that a review of the commission’s records for the previous two years found that no Bulgarian arms firm had been involved in business deals with Sandline International.22 He qualified his denial by asserting that Bulgaria “bears no responsibility” if Bulgarian-made weapons exported to another African country turned up in Sierra Leone.23

Bulgarian officials questioned about the incident in early 1999 maintained that they had no information suggesting Bulgarian involvement and said that they had not been contacted by British authorities investigating the affair.24 British inquiries have focused on Sandline’s allegation that the British government approved the arms deal rather than the origin of the weapons.25

The Bulgarian defense ministry arranged in 1998 to sell cold war-era T-55 tanks to Uganda.26 A government spokesperson confirmed in December 1998 that Bulgaria’s export licensing body had authorized the sale of “rather old types of tanks” to Uganda, as well as to Ethiopia, but declined to discuss details of the deal, citing commercial and state secrecy laws.27 An estimated ninety tanks worth U.S.$35 million were delivered to the Tanzanian coast in late 1998 aboard a Bulgarian ship, the MV Lady Juliet, then forwarded by rail to Uganda.28 A private Israeli arms dealer was reported to have brokered that deal.29 The origin of those tanks has not been confirmed, but some sources indicate that Bulgaria was the source.30 Bulgaria was also reported to have sold tanks to Uganda in 1997.31

The tank sales, while legal, are inconsistent with Bulgaria’s repeated pledges to exercise restraint in its arms exports, as highlighted in a December 1998 New York Times article.32 The tanks may serve to exacerbate Uganda’s ongoing armed conflicts with several rebel groups, during which all the parties have committed serious human rights violations. Ugandan soldiers, for example, have been responsible for extrajudicial executions, rape, torture, and arbitrary arrests.33

Some sources, however, question whether Uganda bought the tanks for use within its own territory. Several reports have suggested that tanks purchased by Uganda in 1998 may have been intended for use in southern Sudan, where Uganda has assisted Sudanese rebels.34 Other reports suggest that the tanks may be destined for use in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where Ugandan forces support the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie, RCD).35 Responding to such concerns, President Laurent Kabila of the DRC unsuccessfully urged Tanzania to block the transshipment of tanks through its territory.36 Both the Sudanese rebels and the forces backing the RCD—which include troops from the Ugandan army—have committed gross violations of international humanitarian law.37 Uganda has rejected claims that it had diverted or planned to divert the tanks.38

In Bulgaria, Defense Minister Georgi Ananiev reacted to criticism of the deal by stating that no embargo is in place against the countries to which it sold the tanks, and that the sales were consistent with the country’s international commitments.39 During a visit to the United States, he stated: “Of course we would be very much worried if we learned that weapons [sold to Uganda] were diverted” in violation of end-use guarantees.40 Military officials interviewed by Human Rights Watch in February 1999 stated that they were unaware that Uganda had provided weapons to rebel forces, and asserted that they would no longer export to Uganda out of concern that Bulgarian weapons might be transferred to unauthorized parties.41

220 U.N. Security Council Resolution 976 was passed in February 1995. The 1994 Lusaka Protocol, which followed the 1991 Bicesse Accords, did not address the importation of weapons, but the resupplying of military forces with “any military equipment, lethal or otherwise,” was prohibited under the terms of the Bilateral Cease-fire Modalities Timetable which accompanies the Lusaka Protocol. See Human Rights Watch Arms Project and Human Rights Watch/Africa, “Angola: Between War and Peace— Arms Trade and Human Right Abuses since the Lusaka Protocol,” A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 8, no. 1 (A), February 1996, p. 13.

221 The shipment was said to be worth over U.S.$7 million. Human Rights Watch Arms Project and Human Rights Watch/Africa, Angola: Arms Trade and Violations of the Laws of War Since the 1992 Elections (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1994), p. 45. The account appeared in a report, “Missiles Bound for Angola Stranded in Cyprus,” Reuters, September 14, 1994. Reuters did not publish a follow-up story, and a Reuters correspondent in Nicosia was not able to determine whether the shipment was released. Human Rights Watch telephone conversation with Michele Kambas, Reuters correspondent in Nicosia, Cyprus, February 9, 1999.

222 During a field investigation in Angola in May and June 1994, a Human Rights Watch researcher witnessed large shipments of military equipment, including artillery pieces, being unloaded from cargo planes that were clearly marked as being from Bulgaria and other former Warsaw Pact countries. The origin of the arms themselves could not be confirmed. Human Rights Watch, Angola: Arms Trade and Violations of the Laws of War, p. 39.

223 Ibid, p. 57. See also, Human Rights Watch, World Report 1995 (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1994), p. 10.

224 Human Rights Watch, “Between War and Peace,” p. 13.

225 BTA News Agency (Sofia), February 21, 1996, in BBC Monitoring Service: Central Europe and Balkans, February 23, 1996.

226 Human Rights Watch interviews with government officials in Angola, November 1996.

227 Human Rights Watch interviews with an airline industry source, August and September 1998.

228 James Rupert, “Zaire Reportedly Selling Arms to Angolan Ex-Rebels,” Washington Post, March 21, 1997. The article stated that cargo flights from Bulgaria arrived at the N’Djili airport several times a week for several weeks in mid-to-late 1996, delivering weapons and ammunition. According to a diplomatic source, the arms shipments included AK-47s and 60mm and 120mm mortars, as well as rocket-propelled grenades and launchers. Another diplomatic source quoted in the report stated that the cargo was repackaged for onward shipment to UNITA-held areas of Angola.

229 A foreign pilot working for a Zaire-based company who witnessed the crash stated: “This particular load of arms came from Bulgaria. It was bound for Luzamba, in Angola, but weapons come in here all the time and they go everywhere.” John Fleming, “Zaire-Politics: No Shortage of Weapons,” Inter Press Service, August 12, 1996. See also, De Standaard (Brussels), August 26, 1996, in FBIS, Central Africa, August 29, 1996; and Human Rights Watch, World Report 1997 (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1996), p. 17.

230 In addition to the sources cited below, see Lesley Wroughton, “Angola: Angolan Peace at Peril in Zaire Domino Effect,” Reuters, June 13, 1997; and Ken Pottinger, “Angolan Rebels Raise Fear of New Civil War,” Daily Telegraph (London), August 19, 1997.

231 Jakkie Potgieter, senior researcher with the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, said that markings on the crates in which the weapons were packed, as well as on the wrapping surrounding the crates, indicated that they were from Bulgaria. He said that some of the crates—whose contents he saw—contained assault rifles and rocket launchers. He stated that the arms shipment he witnessed was headed to Cazombo in central-eastern Angola, but he was unable to confirm their arrival in UNITA-held areas. Human Rights Watch interview, Eskom Conference Center, Midrand, South Africa, July 3, 1997, supplemented by a follow-up interview by telephone on February 23, 1999. Potgieter described the planes, which he also saw bringing in weapons from other points of origin in November 1996, as Cessna 210s and DC-3 transporters. See Peta Thornycroft, “SA Arms Going to UNITA,” Electronic Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg), June 20, 1997, available via the Internet at:

232 Jakkie Potgieter, “Letters,” Weekly Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg), June 27, 1997, available via the Internet at:

233 The government rejected charges that weapons for UNITA have been transshipped through its territory but stated in June 1997 that it would investigate such claims. See “Mozambique Investigates Alleged Arms Smuggling to UNITA,” Agence France Press, June 26, 1997; and Radio Maputo, June 25, 1997, in BBC Monitoring Service: Africa, June 27, 1997. Mozambican army chief of staff Lieutenant-General Lagos Lidimo rejected as fabrications allegations that an arms network run by Portuguese businessmen through the Mozambican port of Nacala were linked to senior Mozambican officials. SouthScan, vol. 12, no. 25 (July 4, 1997). As of March 1999 the results of any such investigation by Mozambican authorities had not been made public.

234 Pavel Myltsev, “Uganda: Ugandan President Admits Backing to UNITA,” ITAR-TASS, September 9, 1998.

235 “Uganda Denies Involving [sic] in War in Angola,” Xinhua News Agency, December 21, 1998; and New Vision (Kampala), December 21, 1998, in BBC Monitoring Service: Africa, December 22, 1998. See also John Groblner, Tangeni Amupadhi, and Chris Gordon, “Jailed South Africans ‘Flew Trucks to UNITA,’” Weekly Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg), May 1, 1998, available via the Internet at:

236 Bonner, “Bulgaria Becomes.”

237 The Bulgarian ambassador was said to have admitted that UNITA might have obtained arms in Bulgaria from private sources. Jornal de Angola (Luanda), Reuters Press Digest, August 5, 1998. According to another account, the Bulgarian commercial attaché acknowledged that Bulgarian weapons, possibly supplied by Kintex and Arsenal, might be in use by UNITA rebels, Sam Mujuda, Brighton Phiri, and Goodson Machona, “Congo Conflict Worries Chiluba,” Post of Zambia, August 7, 1998, available via the Internet at:

238 “Bulgaria Denies,” Coméricio Actualidade (Luanda), August 15, 1998. See also, Televisâo Popular de Angola (Luanda), August 10, 1998, in BBC Monitoring Service: Africa, August 12, 1998.

239 Ibid.

240 BTA News Agency (Sofia), August 12, 1998, in BBC Monitoring Service: Central Europe and Balkans, August 14, 1998. See also, “Bulgarian Press Digest,” Reuters Business Briefing, August 13, 1998 citing 24 Chasa (Sofia); and Televisâo Popular de Angola (Luanda), August 10, 1998, in BBC Monitoring Service: Africa, August 12, 1998.

241 Jornal de Angola (Luanda), February 1, 1999, republished by Noticias de Angola web site, BBC Worldwide Monitoring Service: Africa, February 3, 1999. The commander was quoted elsewhere as stating“...[T]he weapons came from a European country and passed through an African country, but I don’t know which. Bulgaria was written on the boxes.” See Rosa Ingwane, “Angolan Rebel Tells of Weapons Buys,” Associated Press, January 29, 1999. See also, “Captured Rebel Says African States Helped UNITA Arm,” Reuters, January 28, 1999. The information provided by the officer must be treated with caution as he made his reported statement while in the custody of the Angolan government.

242 Based on statements by Paul Beaver, an arms trade expert for the Jane’s Information Group, the article stated that UNITA had bought weapons from eastern Europe and that Arsenal was known to have supplied rebels in South Yemen and the DRC. Chris Gordon, “Eastern Europe Aid Bolsters UNITA,” Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg), distributed by Africa News Online, January 15, 1999.

243 Demokratsiya (Sofia), January 18, 1999, in FBIS, East Europe, January 20, 1999.

244 The delegation traveled via Lusaka and London. Human Rights Watch interview, London, January 1999.

245 Human Rights Watch interviews with Col. Venelin Velikov, Deputy Director, National Service for Combating Organized Crime, Ministry of Interior, Sofia, February 8, 1999; and with Plamen Radonov, Deputy Defense Minister for Logistics and Acquisition, Ministry of Defense, and Col. Hristo Stanimirov, Chief of Staff, Defense Economy Department, Ministry of Defense, Sofia, February 9, 1999.

246 The government of Angola has repeatedly accused Zambia of serving as a country of transshipment to UNITA forces. See, for example, Times of Zambia, January 21, 1999, in Reuters Business Briefing, January 22, 1999, and Richard Waddington, “Angola Accuses Five African States of Aiding UNITA,” Reuters, January 23, 1999. In addition, a South African research institute reported in April 1998 that UNITA has received weapons via Zambia. Richard Cornwell and Jakkie Potgieter, “Angola—Endgame or Stalemate?” Institute for Security Studies Occasional Paper No. 3, April 1998, available via the Internet at: Zambia has denied official involvement in weapons flows to UNITA, but in early 1999 it undertook to investigate whether individuals in Zambia might have smuggled weapons illegally. Xinhua News Agency, Reuters Business Briefing, January 29, 1999.

247 On August 9, 1996, an ad hoc group of neighboring countries agreed to comprehensive sanctions on Burundi. Bulgaria itself was not subject to the embargo.

248 Human Rights Watch interviews with a U.N. official, Nairobi, August 18, 1996; and with a pilot, Brussels, August 2, 1996.

249 De Standaard (Brussels), March 13, 1998, in FBIS, West Europe, March 16, 1998. See also, “Burundi: In Brief—New Burundi Defense Minister,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, April 8, 1998.

250 “Interim Report of the International Commission of Inquiry (Rwanda),” contained in United Nations Secretary-General, “Letter Dated 18 August 1998 from the Secretary-General Addressed to the President of the Security Council” (New York: United Nations, 1998), S/1998/777 (August 19, 1998), paras. 46-58.

251 Human Rights Watch interview with Kenyan and expatriate airport personnel, Nairobi, February 27 and August 19, 1996; and interviews with an arms trader who said he was involved in the deal, Kampala, September 18 and 19, 1996, and by phone in Prague, December 1995-January 1996.

252 The deal reportedly was arranged by representatives of Viercom, a Ukrainian company based in Kiev. Ibid.

253 The series of arms flights reportedly began in 1994, involving cargo planes registered in Ghana, Nigeria, the Ukraine, and Russia. The weapons flights into Goma, which were said to land on Tuesday nights, continued until at least mid-May 1995. These reports expanded on allegations first made in April 1995 by Robin Cook, then the United Kingdom’s shadow foreign affairs minister. See Amnesty International, “Rwanda: Arming the Perpetrators of the Genocide” (London: Amnesty International, June 1995), p. 3; “Merchants of Death: The Cook Report,” Carlton Television, United Kingdom, June 13, 1995; and Robin Cook, “The Danger of Another Rwanda,” Independent (London), April 9, 1995. Note: Amnesty International’s report describes allegations by Robin Cook and Carlton Television, as well as its own findings.

254 Amnesty International, “Rwanda: Arming,” p. 4.

255 “Bulgaria Denies Amnesty Report on Arms to Rwanda,” Reuters, June 13, 1995.

0 The “British firm” was actually an undercover reporter for Carlton Television.

1 Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, “Kintex Never Supplied Arms to Rwanda,” Bulletin of News from Bulgaria, June 16, 1995, available via the Internet at:

2 Response as quoted in “Second Report of the International Commission of Inquiry (Rwanda),” contained in United Nations Secretary-General, “Letter Dated 14 March 1996 from the Secretary-General Addressed to the President of the Security Council” (New York: United Nations, 1996), S/1996/195. As of November 1998, when UNICOI submitted its final report, it had not received a response to its request for further information about Bulgaria’s investigation. The request was made on August 6, 1996, as noted in “Third Report of the International Commission of Inquiry (Rwanda),” contained in United Nations Secretary-General, “Letter Dated 24 December 1997 from the Secretary-General Addressed to the President of the Security Council” (New York: United Nations, 1997), S/1997/1010. Human Rights Watch confirmed by telephone that UNICOI had not received a reply as of March 1999. Telephone conversation with a U.N. source close to the commission, March 9, 1999.

3 Response as quoted in “Third Report of the International Commission of Inquiry (Rwanda).” See also “Bulgaria’s Authorities Have Not Licensed Arms Sales to Rwanda,” Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, March 29, 1996, available via the Internet at:

4 Response as quoted in “Addendum to the Third Report of the International Commission of Inquiry (Rwanda),” contained in United Nations Secretary-General, “Letter Dated 26 January 1998 from the Secretary-General Addressed to the President of the Security Council” (New York: United Nations, 1998), S/1998/63.

5 “Final Report of the International Commission of Inquiry (Rwanda),” contained in United Nations Secretary-General, “Letter Dated 18 November 1998 from the Secretary-General Addressed to the President of the Security Council” (New York: United Nations, 1998), S/1998/1096, para. 72.

6 Human Rights Watch telephone conversation with a U.N. source close to the U.N. commission, March 9, 1999.

7 Human Rights Watch interview with Dimiter Zhalev, Department of NATO, WEU and Security Issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sofia, February 8, 1999.

8 24 Chasa (Sofia), December 23, 1998, included in a translation the same day of a report by Demokratsiya (Sofia) in BBC Monitoring Service: Central Europe and Balkans, December 24, 1998. Information received by Human Rights Watch suggests that the shipment may have been destined for Angola (see above).

9 A U.N. security council resolution imposing an arms embargo on all parties in Sierra Leone was proposed by the U.K. on October 8, 1997 and adopted as Resolution 1132 the same day. A subsequent U.K. Order in Council implemented the international embargo by banning British citizens from supplying arms to anyone “in or connected with” Sierra Leone without a license issued by the government. An independent inquiry launched in Britain to examine Sandline’s claim that it acted with the approval of the British government established in July 1998 that the arms shipment violated the U.N. and British embargoes. A subsequent parliamentary investigation, completed in February 1999, reached the same conclusion regarding the illegality of the shipment. However, U.N. lawyers reportedly have offered a different interpretation suggesting that the Sandline shipment, if it were destined to a regional peacekeeping force (ECOMOG), would not have been illegal. As noted, Sandline was contracted by President Kabbah. For more information on the government inquiries, see Sir Thomas Legg and Sir Robin Ibbs, “Report of the Sierra Leone Arms Investigation,” July 27, 1998, available via the Internet at: (hereafter, the “Legg Report”); and “Sierra Leone: Second Report,” House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (London: The Stationery Office, February 3, 1999), hereafter, “House of Commons Report. For information on the U.N. ruling on the legality of the shipment, see Laura Silber and David Wighton, “UN Lawyers Rule on Sierra Leone Arms,” Financial Times, May 23, 1998; and James Bone, “Sandline is Given Support by UN,” Times (London), May 25, 1998.

10 “Legg Report,” pp. 29, 72. President Kabbah organized the civilian militias supporting him into Civilian Defense Forces (CDF). The Kamajors constitute the largest and most powerful of the CDFs.

11 Ibid.

12 Sam Kiley, “Sierra Leone: Fred the Fijian’s Unkillables Put Junta on the Run,” Times (London), May 15, 1998, p. 16.

13 One report, published in May 1998, stated that the weapons had been used by ECOMOG forces beginning in March 1998. Sam Kiley, “Sandline Weapons Still Being Used to Crush Rebel Force,” Times (London), May 11, 1998, p. 11.

14 The vast majority of abuses committed in Sierra Leone were perpetrated by members of two rebel groups, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The Kamajors have also been responsible for serious abuses. Human Rights Watch, “Sowing Terror: Atrocities against Civilians in Sierra Leone,” A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 10, no. 3 (A), July 1998, pp. 4-5, 23-25.

15 Judith Miller, “U.N. Monitors Accuse Sierra Leone Peacekeepers of Killings,” New York Times, February 12, 1999. A U.N. official stated that ECOMOG commanders had confirmed to him that troops under their command had been responsible for “excesses” and assured him that they had made one hundred arrests in connection with the charges, but ECOMOG later was reported to have denied that account. Xinhua News Agency, Reuters Business Briefing, February 19, 1999.

16 Michael Evans, “Sandline Chief Insists He Had Official Approval,” Times (London), May 20, 1998. It is interesting to note that Sandline had chartered planes operated by Air Sofia in connection with its planned operations in Papua New Guinea, where it was contracted to help quash an insurgency in 1997. One Air Sofia plane, a small Antonov 12 aircraft, reportedly delivered crates of sophisticated weapons to an airport near where a strike against rebels was to have been launched. “PNG Hires Mercenaries to Blast Rebels,” Australian (Sydney), Reuters Business Briefing, February 22, 1997; “Downer’s Tripwire Act,” Australian (Sydney), Reuters Business Briefing, February 22, 1997; and Radio Australia (Melbourne), February 24, 1997, in BBC Monitoring Service: Asia-Pacific, February 25, 1997. Arms loaded onto a second Air Sofia plane, a larger Antonov 124 aircraft, were impounded in Australia, and the planned attack was canceled under public pressure. Alex Vines, “Mercenaries and the Privatization of Security in Africa in the 1990s,” in Greg Mills (ed.), The Privatization of Security in Africa (Johannesburg: South African Institute of International Affairs, 1999).

17 Patrick Wintour, David Connett, Michael Gillard, Jay Rayner, Shyam Bhatia, and Peter Beaumont, “Doing the Right Thing...the Wrong Way,” Observer (London), May 10, 1998.

18 Michael Jones, “Can Cook Beat Mercenaries?,” Sunday Times (London), May 17, 1998.

19 In Bulgaria Human Rights Watch obtained copies of air cargo documents showing that a Sky Air Boeing 707 plane was loaded with cargo at Burgas airport on February 22, 1998, before departing at 1:40 p.m. for Kano, Nigeria, as had been reported by the Sunday Times.

20 Jones, “Can Cook Beat Mercenaries?” The Sunday Times article is the most detailed, but several other newspapers also reported that the arms were delivered from Bulgaria to Sierra Leone via Nigeria. See Nicholas Rufford, “Diamond Dogs of War,” Times (London), May 10, 1998; Wintour et al., “Doing the Right Thing...the Wrong Way;” and “Private Armies, Public Relations,” Africa Confidential (London), vol. 39, no. 11 (May 29, 1998).

21 Jones, “Can Cook Beat Mercenaries?”

22 BTA News Agency (Sofia), May 12, 1998, in BBC Monitoring Service: Central Europe and the Balkans, May 18, 1998.

23 “Bulgarian Premier Denies Breaking Arms Embargo,” RFE/RL Newsline, May 18, 1998.

24 Human Rights Watch interviews with Stoyan Nikolov, Chief Expert, Department of Military Economic Cooperation, and Secretary, Commission for Control of Foreign Trade in Arms and Dual-Use Technologies, Ministry of Trade, and Christo Atanasov, Chief Expert, Dual-Use Goods and Export Control Division, Ministry of Trade, Sofia, February 8, 1999; and with Dimiter Zhalev, Department of NATO, WEU and Security Issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sofia, February 8, 1999.

25 See “Legg Report” and “House of Commons Report.”

26 The deal first became known when a defense ministry official announced on November 26, 1998 that the ministry had sold tanks to unspecified African countries. Raymond Bonner, “New Weapons Sales to Africa Trouble Arms-Control Experts,” New York Times, December 6, 1998, citing a report in Trud (Sofia) ten days earlier. On the basis of a written response from the Bulgarian Council of Ministers, Bonner confirmed that the tanks were sold to Uganda and Ethiopia, as first reported by Trud. See also Kontinent (Sofia), November 27, 1998, in FBIS, East Europe, November 30, 1998; and BTA News Agency, Reuters Business Briefing, December 8, 1998.

27 The spokesperson wrote: “As far as the question of profit and how many items are sold for each country, we are not allowed to submit this information because it is considered a state and commercial secrecy by Bulgarian laws.” Letter from Sylvia Beamish, International Media Relations, Government Information Office, Council of Ministers, to Raymond Bonner, New York Times, December 3, 1998, unpublished.

28 See, for example, Paul Harris, “Uganda Receives New Armor,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, January 1, 1999; “In Brief: Uganda Receives MBTs from Ukraine,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, December 23, 1998; New Vision (Kampala), December 17, 1998, in Reuters Business Briefing, December 18, 1998; Xinhua News Agency, Reuters Business Briefing, November 28, 1999; and “Tanks Bound for Uganda Seen Unloaded in Tanzania,” Reuters, November 25, 1998. Some reports indicate that, as of early 1999, some sixty tanks had been delivered of a total consignment of ninety tanks. See, for example, New Vision (Kampala), BBC Monitoring Africa-Political, January 2, 1999.

29 “Uganda Receives MBTs,” Jane’s Defence Weekly; New Vision (Kampala), December 17, 1998, in Reuters Business Briefing, December 18, 1998; New Vision, December 20, 1998, in Reuters Business Briefing, December 22, 1998; and Nikolai Chavdarov, “Bulgaria Involved in Arms Scandal,” Sega Daily (Sofia), December 21, 1998.

30 Human Rights Watch submitted written requests for confirmation to Blagoy Guenov, Secretary to the Bulgaria’s Interministerial Council on Defense Industry and Logistics at the Council of Ministers on February 12, 1999, and to Amama Mbabazi, the Ugandan State Minister of Regional Cooperation, on February 18, 1999, but had not received a response from either official as of mid-March 1999. For press accounts naming Bulgaria as the likely source of the delivered tanks, see, for example, Chavdarov, “Bulgaria Involved in Arms Scandal;” and Nikolai Chavdarov, “The African Scandal in Which Bulgaria Was Involved Still Rumbles On,” Sega Daily (Sofia), January 5, 1999. Several other reports published in late 1998 and early 1999 stated that the tanks originated in Ukraine, but a Ukrainian export control official denied that Ukraine had exported any tanks to Uganda in 1998, suggesting instead that a third party may have sold Ukrainian tanks. Kiyevskiye Vedomosti (Kiev), December 3, 1998, in FBIS, Central Eurasia, December 11, 1998. A journalist who has followed Uganda’s military purchases for a leading defense trade publication believes that Bulgaria, working with the Israeli broker, arranged to sell tanks that originated in Ukraine, Bulgaria, and possibly Romania. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Paul Harris, correspondent for Jane’s Intelligence Review, March 4, 1999. See also, “Uganda Bought Soviet Tanks,” Associated Press, December 17, 1999.

31 According to a press account, an official audit of Uganda’s 1997 military procurement reported that ten T-54 tanks purchased in Bulgaria were defective. “Audit of Military Expenses,” Indian Ocean Newsletter (Paris), June 13, 1998. Bulgariadid not report tank exports to Uganda in 1997 to the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms.

32 Bonner, “New Weapons Sales.”

33 At least four rebel groups were active in 1998. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was the largest of three rebel groups based in Sudan. In addition, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) operated from western Uganda and eastern DRC. For a review of their human rights record, see Human Rights Watch, World Report 1999, pp. 81-82, available via the Internet at:

34 Bonner, “New Weapons Sales,” and “Uganda, Asking the People,” Africa Confidential (London), vol. 39, no. 24 (December 4, 1998). The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), an alliance of rebel groups in southern Sudan, has used tanks in operations against the Sudanese government. Uganda has strongly supported the SPLA and helped it acquire weapons. See Human Rights Watch, “Global Trade, Local Impact,” pp. 17, 46-48.

35 According to U.S. officials interviewed by the New York Times, Uganda has no need for used tanks. Bonner, “New Weapons Sales.” See also, NTV (Moscow), November 28, 1998, in FBIS, Central Eurasia, December 2, 1998; Chavdarov, “Bulgaria Involved in Arms Scandal;” New Vision (Kampala), Reuters Business Briefing, January 2, 1999; and Chavdarov, “The African Scandal.”

36 Daily Mail (Dar es Salaam), BBC Monitoring Service: Africa, December 3, 1998.

37 See Human Rights Watch, “Global Trade, Local Impact,” and Human Rights Watch, “Casualties of War.”

38 New Vision (Kampala), Africa News Service, Reuters Business Briefing, November 28, 1998; and Xinhua News Agency, Reuters Business Briefing, January 2, 1999.

39 BTA News Agency, Reuters Business Briefing, December 8, 1998; Pari Daily (Sofia), Reuters Business Briefing, December 8, 1998; Xinhua News Agency, Reuters Business Briefing, December 8, 1998; “Bulgarian Defense Minister Rejects Allegations of Embargo-Busting,” RFE/RL Newsline, December 9, 1998.

40 Georgi Ananiev, Defense Minister, Press Conference at the Bulgarian Embassy, Washington, D.C., March 3, 1999.

41 Human Rights Watch interview with Col. Hristo Stanimirov, Chief of Staff, Defense Economy Department, Ministry of Defense, and Col. Todor Malchev, Head of Section, Procurement and Trade Department, Ministry of Defense, Sofia, February 5, 1999.

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