Yesterday, we published a picture on this website, along with a simple question: What do you see?
What the picture of yesterday showed, and what the picture, above this post, shows as well, is a member of the al-Quds brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad — a terrorist organisation according to several countries — with a FN F2000.
The FN F2000 is a Belgian-made assault rifle that was exported as from 2001 and that equips some special operations forces around the world. The Walloon Region (the authority responsible for Walloon arms exports) and FN Herstal (whose sole shareholder is the Walloon Region), said they never exported any F2000 to the Palestinian territories. So how did those weapons arrive there?
One hypothesis is that they were diverted from Libya. But, as it is impossible to spot any serial numbers on the pictures posted on the official website of the al-Quds brigades, it is impossible to trace down those weapons.
After the Libyan example — where Belgian weapons have been used for purposes they were not sold to fulfill, and with the current Syrian one — where Belgian weapons have been seen where they should not have been, the Walloon arms exports are, yet again, cast in the light.
Here are the questions the VLD will ask the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, soon in the parliament (in Dutch. Google Translate can give you a good idea of what is going on, though).
The pictures are from the official website of the al-Quds brigades.
The GRIP, on its website, was the first to talk about the questions those pictures are raising.
Thanks to Nic Jenzen-Jones for his assistance.
Edit October 20, 2012: Mr. Jenzen-Jones wrote a piece about the issue that adds some depth to it. Read it here.
Will the Walloon Region keep on selling weapons to Qatar and Saudi Arabia?
The Walloon Region did not want to disclose what its policy would be regarding those two countries. The Demotte cabinet referred to another organ of the Walloon administration. The latest did not know anything about the policy and said that they were not entitled to speak about it, referring back to the Demotte cabinet.The decision, though, was made around April 26. Two months later, on June 26 exactly, we can finally know that the Walloon Region does not consider that Saudi Arabia and Qatar present a risk of arms re-exportation to the Syrian rebels.
Eventually, in order to know what the decision of the Walloon Region was, a parliamentary question had to be asked. The answer came a few days ago.
Update, Saturday June 30: it seems that the article in French might be published on Monday too.
My last piece, in French and in Dutch, on Apache. The two biggest regional authorities of Belgium just voted a new law on their arms exportations. The article tries to see what are the differences between the two regions and how these new laws address the issues created by the arms trade.
photo: (c) Gideon Tsang
After the publication of my pieces in The New York Times (1 and 2), Le Soir and Apache about the fact that the Walloon Government would have to take a decision regarding arms export licenses to Qatar and Saudi Arabia after those countries publicly claimed they wanted to arm the Syrian rebels, a question was asked in the Walloon Parliament (see the video, in French). Here is the transcription (starts page 10, in French).
Rudy Demotte, minister-president of the Walloon Region, the authority delivering arms export licenses and the only shareholder of the weapons fabric FN Herstal, recognized that Qatar and Saudi Arabia pose a risk of re-export of arms (as stated by the criterion 7 of the European Common Position).
By allowing new licenses, the Walloon Region breaches this point of the European reglement. By suspending new licenses, the Walloon Region threatened its arms industry.
Mister Demotte said that he was waiting for a COARM advice, to see what the other EU member states would do, before taking a decision. According to the Walloon Region, this advice had come, and will be followed, but has to remain confidential. According to other sources, the COARM didn’t discuss the matter, and their has been no advice whatsoever. More to come this month!
Louis-Pierre Dillais (ex-DGSE), executive in FN Herstal USA
The Belgian Dutch-speaking newspaper De Morgen says, in its edition of January 4, 2012, that Louis-Pierre Dillais is the director of FN Herstal USA. Dillais, formerly working for the French secret services, played a major role in the attack of the Greenpeace’s ship “Rainbow Warrior” in 1985.
Robert Sauvage, FN Herstal’s spokesperson, refuses to comment, as usual. He says, though, that Dillais is “sympathetic” and that the Belgian company “didn’t know anything about his previous job for the French secret services.” As the one and only shareholder of the FN Herstal is the Belgian Walloon Government, one could think that the latter would have more influence on such decision. One may be surprised, consequently, to read in De Morgen that the Walloon minister Jean-Claude Marcourt reacts by saying that “he has never met Dillais, it is an FN internal decision” and that the Rainbow Warrior case is “a French internal affair”.
The “Morgen” article comes with a good timing as it could accelerate the pace of the arms export legislation change in which the Walloon government seems to be engaged. It could also contribute to another debate: the one of the federalization of the matter (it is a regional competence since 2003).
If one would like to know more about this case, and the link between Dillais and FNH USA, this Guardian article published in May 2007 is worth reading: “Rainbow Warrior ringleader heads firm selling arms to US government”.