European arms sales to Libya, in figures


10:30 am - March 2nd 2011

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contribution by Dan O’Huiginn

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.

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).

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Reader comments


1. So Much For Subtlety

So just to clarify, there is no evidence that any weapon sold to Gaddafi by any Western arms maker has been used to kill anyone except perhaps those French Mirage jets and some rumour of spent Belgian shell casings?

And in fact in the vast majority of cases, weapons sold to Libya could not be used to kill people and often (as with the British sales) are not merely specifically designed not to kill, they are specifically intended to replace the need to kill?

So how does the author claim there is no doubt Libyans are being killed?

Really important article – thanks for the figures. We now need to get our western forces out of a land where the people simply do not want them.

3. So Much For Subtlety

2. Siraj – “Really important article – thanks for the figures. We now need to get our western forces out of a land where the people simply do not want them.”

What land would this be? Libya? Where people are begging for George W [*] to come and save them? That land?

“Rebels called on Thursday for a no-fly zone, echoing a demand by Libya’s deputy U.N. envoy, who now opposes Gaddafi.

“Bring Bush! Make a no fly zone, bomb the planes,” shouted soldier-turned-rebel Nasr Ali, referring to a no-fly zone imposed on Iraq in 1991 by then U.S. President George Bush.”

But it is Reuters. What do they know?

[*] OK so George Bush Senior imposed the no-fly zone. I still reckon the guy is referring to W.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    European arms sales to Libya, in figures http://bit.ly/hstPVE

  2. USoB

    RT @libcon: European arms sales to Libya, in figures http://bit.ly/hstPVE

  3. Wonko Grime

    RT @libcon: European arms sales to Libya, in figures http://bit.ly/hstPVE

  4. George Marsh

    RT @libcon: European arms sales to Libya, in figures http://bit.ly/hstPVE

  5. Little Metamorphic O

    RT @libcon: European arms sales to Libya, in figures http://bit.ly/hstPVE

  6. Heidi Joluni

    RT @libcon: European arms sales to Libya, in figures http://bit.ly/hstPVE

  7. John Kampfner

    Good info @libcon RT European arms sales to Libya, in figures http://bit.ly/hstPVE. see my original in Guardian http://bit.ly/h07w5q

  8. Huw Spanner

    RT @libcon: European arms sales to Libya, in figures http://bit.ly/hstPVE // This is deeply scandalous.

  9. danohu

    my summary of news about EU arms sales to Libya is now up at @libcon: http://j.mp/eycUQk [same content as my blogpost from the weekend]

  10. danohu

    @wwwcaatorguk my roundup of EU press on arms to libya, up at @libcon http://j.mp/eycUQk

  11. Tommy Miles

    RT @danohu: my summary of news about EU arms sales to Libya is now up at @libcon: http://j.mp/eycUQk [same content as my blogpost from t …

  12. CAAT

    RT @danohu @wwwcaatorguk my roundup of EU press on arms to libya, up at @libcon http://j.mp/eycUQk

  13. Carla

    RT @libcon: European arms sales to Libya, in figures http://bit.ly/hstPVE

  14. danohu

    @monaeltahawy my roundup of EU press on arms sales to libya, at @libcon http://j.mp/eycUQk

  15. professorpluggy

    European arms sales to Libya, in figures | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/65vKzA2 via @libcon

  16. sunny hundal

    RT @danohu: my summary of news about EU arms sales to Libya is now up at @libcon: http://j.mp/eycUQk [same content as my blogpost from t …

  17. Rooftop Jaxx

    RT @danohu: my summary of news about EU arms sales to Libya is now up at @libcon: http://j.mp/eycUQk [same content as my blogpost from t …

  18. Paul Wood

    RT @danohu: my summary of news about EU arms sales to Libya is now up at @libcon: http://j.mp/eycUQk [same content as my blogpost from t …

  19. Rachel Hubbard

    European arms sales to Libya, in figures | Liberal Conspiracy http://goo.gl/3n08f

  20. Libya uprising continues – live updates | Rubytall News

    […] Here’s a summary of European arms sales to Libya. […]

  21. Benzina da 1,546 a 1,552 euro al litro, ma nel Sud anche a 1,587. Gasolio: 1,436-1,444. Nei no-logo 6-7 cent in meno « The Spilimbergo POST

    […] European arms sales to Libya, in figures (liberalconspiracy.org) […]

  22. Murdoch moves in on Sky, falling living standards provide a headache for the coalition and Cameron flunks his first foreign policy test: political blog round up for 26 February – 4 March 2011 | British Politics and Policy at LSE

    […] heroism in the press and the political benefits of this, whereas Liberal Conspiracy closely examine British arms sales to Libya. This week has also seen the resignation of LSE Director Howard Davies over the institution’s […]

  23. Authority Smashers!

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/03/02/european-arms-sales-to-libya-in-figures/

  24. Sabina Becker

    European arms sales to Libya, in figures http://t.co/rcHUKzW via @libcon

  25. Michel Fafard

    RT @TheASHour: http://fb.me/xJSYiT6P

  26. James Doleman

    NATO armies, wondering what weapons #libya has? No need to ask the intelligence agencies, just check the invoices http://bit.ly/g74UTE

  27. alexdecampi

    So, if the US & Europe hadn't sold so many arms to Libya, would we need now to fire more at them? http://bit.ly/fKQRm9 http://bit.ly/ekcijL

  28. Stephen Harper’s Libyan offensive : Canada's online magazine: Politics, entertainment, technology, media, arts, books: backofthebook.ca

    […] Nicolas Sarkozy needs a war to bolster his own polls, and make people forget he has been arming the Libyans. In France, web outlet Rue89 interviews Jean Guisnel, whose recent book on the arms trade has a […]

  29. New York Times Carries Images That May Confirm Italian Defense Contractor Oto Melara’s “Palmaria” Artillery Systems (First Ordered by Qaddafi in 1982) Are Being Used Against the Rebels; NYT Photo Likely Shows “Palmaria” Destr

    […] Italian daily Corriere Della Sera, the EUObserver, the UK-blog “Liberal Conspiracy” and several other outletsm, including the prominent German magazine Der Spiegel, have recently made […]

  30. Italian Defense Contractor Oto Melara’s “Palmaria” Artillery Systems (First Ordered by Qaddafi in 1982) May Be Being Used Against Libyan Rebels by Libyan Army; New York Times Photo Likely Shows “Palmaria” Destroyed by UN Airs

    […] Italian daily Corriere Della Sera, the EUObserver, the UK-blog “Liberal Conspiracy” and several other outletsm, including the prominent German magazine Der Spiegel, have recently made […]

  31. Italian Defense Contractor Oto Melara’s “Palmaria” Artillery Systems (First Ordered by Qaddafi in 1982) May Be Being Used Against Libyan Rebels by Libyan Army; New York Times Photo Likely Shows “Palmaria” Destroyed by UN Airs

    […] Italian daily Corriere Della Sera, the EUObserver, the UK-blog “Liberal Conspiracy” and several other outletsm, including the prominent German magazine Der Spiegel, have recently made […]

  32. Italian Defense Contractor Oto Melara’s “Palmaria” Artillery Systems (First Ordered by Qaddafi in 1982) May Be Being Used Against Libyan Rebels by Libyan Army; New York Times Photo Likely Shows “Palmaria” Destroyed by UN Airs

    […] Italian daily Corriere Della Sera, the EUObserver, the UK-blog “Liberal Conspiracy” and several other outlets, including the prominent German magazine Der Spiegel, have recently made […]

  33. Italian Defense Contractor Oto Melara’s “Palmaria” Artillery Systems (First Ordered by Qaddafi in 1982) May Be Being Used Against Libyan Rebels by Libyan Army; New York Times Photo Likely Shows “Palmaria” Destroyed by UN Airs

    […] Italian daily Corriere Della Sera, the EUObserver, the UK-blog “Liberal Conspiracy” and several other outlets, including the prominent German magazine Der Spiegel, have recently made […]

  34. Italian Defense Contractor Oto Melara’s “Palmaria” Artillery Systems (First Ordered by Qaddafi in 1982) May Be Being Used Against Libyan Rebels by Libyan Army; New York Times Photo Likely Shows “Palmaria” Destroyed by UN Airs

    […] Italian daily Corriere Della Sera, the EUObserver, the UK-blog “Liberal Conspiracy” and several other outlets, including the prominent German magazine Der Spiegel, have recently made […]

  35. Italian Defense Contractor Oto Melara’s “Palmaria” Artillery Systems (First Ordered by Qaddafi in 1982) May Be Being Used Against Libyan Rebels by Libyan Army; New York Times Photo Likely Shows “Palmaria” Destroyed by UN Airs

    […] Italian daily Corriere Della Sera, the EUObserver, the UK-blog “Liberal Conspiracy” and several other outlets, including the prominent German magazine Der Spiegel, have recently made […]

  36. Italian Defense Contractor Oto Melara’s “Palmaria” Artillery Systems (First Ordered by Qaddafi in 1982) May Be Being Used Against Libyan Rebels by Libyan Army; New York Times Photo Likely Shows “Palmaria” Destroyed by UN Airs

    […] Italian daily Corriere Della Sera, the EUObserver, the UK-blog “Liberal Conspiracy” and several other outlets, including the prominent German magazine Der Spiegel, have recently made […]

  37. peter fainton

    @afneil http://t.co/QoOMHoC < arms deals in Libya

  38. andrew harris

    RT @libcon: European arms sales to Libya, in figures http://bit.ly/hstPVE @stwcoalition

  39. Yago

    @nolesfan2011 @intlrevolver @nittwit10 this is interesting http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/03/02/european-arms-sales-to-libya-in-figures/

  40. INTL.Revolver

    RT @libcon European arms sales to #Libya, in figures http://bit.ly/hstPVE
    #Immigration #Europe #Mercenaries

  41. INTL.Revolver

    RT @libcon European arms sales to Libya, in figures http://bit.ly/hstPVE
    via @Yago32

  42. Steen Kirby

    RT @Yago32: @nolesfan2011 @intlrevolver @nittwit10 this is interesting http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/03/02/european-arms-sales-to-l

  43. Noxi

    @poshbirdgabi ppl supply munitions 4 all sorts of grubby causes whilst still publically stating opposition http://ow.ly/5yLCh

  44. Saggydaddy

    European arms trade with #Libya in figures. http://t.co/f2VNsyd Another blow to the economy.

  45. C

    @Belgium_travels Who arms Libya? Belgium: http://t.co/OGvl8XR3 Italy: http://t.co/6HKAtbA3





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