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2006 -- Click here for HRE's brainstorming, on corporations' duties, ESCR, etc.

July 2006: Reports of abuse by Ugandan military lead UNDP to suspend its disarmament programs -- but it's asked at UN: what did UNDP know and when did it know it? - click here for Human Right Enforcement project report

Click here for HRE's State of the States map and text (USA HRE Project)    

Click here for HRE's criminal justice and local human rights project

2006 - HRE's Campaign against Riggs Bank’s cheap settlement for money laundering for human rights abusers, and the sale of Riggs to PNC - click here

  HRE has (for now) three other projects, involving consumer protection / fair access to finance as a human right; freedom of information and of the press, and, relatedly, reporting on overlooked human rights crises (for example, Gabon, Sudan's Darfur province and, still, Burundi and Rwanda - see below).

  Overview:  Picturing rights as abstract things to be defended grows from the model, or era, in which governments posed the major threat to humankind. In the 21st century, however, in this decade of the aughts, corporate power poses at least an equal threat. The focus must be on the proactive enforcement of rights, economic and social, and not only on defense. In any event, the best defense is often a good offense. The Human Rights Enforcement Project identifies, monitors and where possible and appropriate prosecutes abusers of rights, including financial institutions which enable other abusers, including dictators. The banks who assisted Abacha, for example [or Gabon's Omar Bongo, see Update of October 8, 2003, below), or, less prominent, those active without standards in Central Africa including Rwanda. That was our first project (see the bottom of this page); click here for summaries of other ongoing campaigns; click here for some media coverage of our work; click here to contact us.

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Rwanda Ten Years After: Follow the Money

An ongoing inquiry by the Fair Finance Watch /
Human Rights Enforcement Project

     The murder of 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994 has given rise to, among other things, a United Nations-sponsored International Criminal Tribunal, numerous non-fiction books, a few films, and a self-consciously quieter repetition of the 1940s phrase, "Never again." Before leaving office, Bill Clinton offered belated apologies, which many have since criticized as misleading (Gourevitch 1998; Power 2002). The roles of France, and of the United Nations, have been explored. Less work has been devoted to the related tensions and killings in neighboring Burundi; less work still has been done on questions of finance.

     How did the Hutu extremists (and the Tutsi-led RPF) arm themselves? Where did the money stolen, both from government coffers and from refugees of various ethnicities and motives, end up? Such matters were pursued, by NGOs and government agencies, for more than fifty years after the Nazis' genocide. So perhaps the inaction with respect to Rwanda can change -- that is the hope, and the purpose, of this inquiry by the Fair Finance Watch / Human Rights Enforcement Project, ten years after the Rwandan killing fields of 1994.

Arms Stock-Piling in the Run-Up to April 6, 1994

    In March 1992, the Rwandan regime of Juvénal Habyarimana bought $6 million of light weapons and small arms from Egypt: 2,000 rocket-propelled grenades, 450 Kalashnikov rifles, 16,000 mortar shells and over 3 million rounds of ammunition. (U.S. Congress 1998). Egypt asked for a guarantee of payment, which was provided by Crédit Lyonnais, now owned by Crédit Agricole. (Prunier 1995, pg. 148, n.36, citing La Lettre du Continent of May 25, 1992, and chiding Human Rights Watch for having "blanked out the mention of the bank" in HRW's 1994 report, Arming Rwanda). Payments were made, in one million dollar installments, into the account of the Egyptian military attaché's account at Crédit Lyonnais' Regent Street branch in London.

   Apartheid South Africa was a major arms-seller to the Habyarimana regime: the weapons sold included 20,000 R-4 rifles and 1.5 million rounds of ammunition, as well as 10,000 hand grenades. Payment were made into accounts at the Banque Nationale de Paris, Belgolaise, and the Volkskas Bank in Pretoria.

    In February 1994, the Habyarimana regime ordered $1 million of mortars and ammunition from Egypt. In the months that followed, $1.4 million was transferred from the National Bank of Rwanda, via the Rwandan embassy in Nairobi, to Cairo and into the Commercial International Bank of Egypt.

Arms Dealing During the Hundred Days

    From April 6, 1994, when the plane carrying Habyarimana, the President of Burundi and several of both presidents' staff members back from Dar Es Salaam was shot down, through July 17, 1994, when the RFP took control of Gisenyi, nearly one million Rwandans, almost entirely Tutsis, along with some moderate Hutus, were killed. At the beginning of this period, more than $100 million dollars were taken from the national coffers as the RPF moved south toward Kigali. A report compiled in 2000 recounts that "six days after the genocide began, Bagosora telephoned Gatsinzi... Bagosora wanted Gatsinzi to prepare armed guards to escort the government's hard currency from the vaults of the Central Bank in Kigali to the interim government at Gitarama. Gatsinzi refused. The money was moved anyway. Bagosora organized a detachment of soldiers. There is only a rough estimate of how much it was, but it filled several trucks. The year's taxes had just been collected and the amount was later estimated to be 24 billion Rwandese francs (US $170 million). The Rwandese currency stolen is estimated at twice that in circulation at the time. There was also hard currency and gold in the vaults." (Malvern 2000, also recounting, citing Galand 1996, that "[f]or the duration of the genocide and some weeks after it, Hutu Power kept operational the world-wide government backing network and a total of US $17.8 million was spirited away with US $6.4 million taken out in travelers' checks"). FFW background note: For his courage lack of cooperation, Marcel Gatsinzi was stripped of his position of chief of the army on April 17, 1994; he later was part of Rwanda's post-1994 government. Colonel Théoneste Bagosora retained power throughout the months of mass murder, and was among the first indicted by the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

    Throughout April and May, 1994, with the mass murder already underway, the interim government purchases at least $4 million in weapons from Mil-Tec, incorporated in Douglas, the Isle of Man. Mil-Tec acquired grenades and ammunition in Eastern Europe and Israel and transferred it to Rwanda. On April 14, 1994, Mil-Tec received $1,621,901 via Bank Belgolaise in Brussels. On April 19, 1994, through its Cairo Embassy, Bagosora's interim government paid Mil-Tec $667,120, through the National Westminster Bank, now owned by Royal Bank of Scotland. (Melvern 2000, p. 185, n.34, also reporting that "once the genocide was underway, $13 million [in] Rwandan government money passed through the Banque Nationale de Paris").

    HRW's 1999 report cites, for the Mil-Tec / NatWest connection, a November 11, 1994, letter from National Westminster Bank's Foreign Business Officer, Mr. M. Franklin, to Mil-Tec; it cites the U.N. report "The United Nations and Rwanda" for the propositions that "banks in Belgium (Banque Bruxelles Lambert), France (Banque Nationale de Paris), Switzerland (Union Bancaire Privée, Geneva), Italy (Banca Nazionale de Lavoro), and the U.S. (Federal Reserve Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank) also handled financial transactions involved in the purchase of weapons." The basis of the Federal Reserve's inclusion is sourced to a December 26, 1994, letter from Lt. Col. Cyprien Kayumba to Monsieur le Ministre de la Défense.

    In July 1994, the extremist Hutu interim government went into "exile" across from Gisenyi in Goma, where they purported to set up a branch of the National Bank of Rwanda, "which continued to place orders for arms and other supplies, and guarantee payments. A number of foreign banks accepted these orders made by the 'government in exile'... Pierre Galand of Belgium's council of development NGOs (CNCD) cites Citibank, Dresdner Bank (Germany) and Banque Nationale de Paris" (Le Soir 1997).

    Plus ca change: Citibank, now the largest bank in the world, helped launder money for Gabon's Omar Bongo, as detailed in a 1999 U.S. Senate staff report (and see above on this page); Citigroup shows up again in the Great Lakes Region, in the 2001 United Nations report on the traffic in conflict diamonds in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The 56 page report details how transport networks and financial institutions accommodate the exchange of mineral resources for arms, and cash for arms.
"In a letter signed by J.P. Moritz, general manager of Societe miniere de Bakwanga (MIBA), a diamond company, and Ngandu Kamenda, the general manager of MIBA ordered a payment of US $ 3.5 million to la Generale de commerce dimport/export du Congo (COMIEX), a company owned by late President Kabila and some of his close allies, such as Minister Victor Mpoyo, from an account in BCDI through a Citibank account. This amount of money was paid as a contribution from MIBA to the AFDL war effort."  Asked about the relationship between BCDI and Citibank in New York, Ba-N'Daw said that Citibank had been the correspondent bank of BCDI

     -- "Report Names Culprits in Central Africa's Dirty War," Environment News Service, April 19, 2001

     Diamonds, of course, are among the easiest ways to launder money -- click here for FFW's ongoing report on that topic...


Braeckman, Colette, "Le Rwanda doit-il payer une 'dette odieuse'?" Le Soir, 27 January 1997, pg. 6 [available at <>]

Galand, Pierre and Chossudovsky, Michel. "Le financement de l'ancien régime après Avril 1994," in L'Usage de la Dette Extérieure due Rwanda (1990 / 1994) La Responsabilité des Bailleurs de Fonds, Brussels and Ottawa, 1996.

Gourevitch, Philip. 1998. We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Melvern, Linda. A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda's Genocide, London: Zed Books, 2000.

Power, Samantha. 2002. A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. New York: Basic Books.

United States Congress, Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives. Rwanda: Genocide and the Continuing Cycle of Violence. Hearing before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, May 5, 1998. Addendum, The Nature of the Beast - Arms Trafficking to the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Kathi Austen.

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Regarding Gabon, the following has been submitted to the U.S. Department of Commence [the underlying trade mission was, we learned in response, cancelled]

Dear Mr. Dolan, Ms. Bell and Brickman

     On behalf of Inner City Press and the Human Rights Enforcement project (collectively, "ICP"), this is a request, including under the under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA;" 5 U.S.C. § 552) for all records in your agency's possession or control relating to (1) applications submitted to take part in your agency's Oil and Gas Business Development Mission to Nigeria, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe, November 15-22, 2003 (the "Mission"), or (2) any communications involving your agency, inter-agency, intra-agency or from an outside party, from January 1, 2002, forward, related to your agency's decision, published in the Federal Register of July 23, 2003, to include Gabon in the Mission.

    To help you identify the responsive records, we note 68 FR 43493, specifying that "[a]ll application must be received by September 15, 2003," to Mr. Aaron Brickman, Office of Energy, U.S. Department of Commerce. Request (1), supra, includes but is not limited to all applications submitted to the Department since July 23, 2003, and all communications related to such applications; request (2) includes but is not limited to all records, including communications to or by the agency, leading to and/or lobbying for or recommending (or opposing or recommending against) the inclusion of Gabon in the Mission, including in light of Gabonese human rights issues that are of public record. As simply one example, see Africa News of May 20, 2003, "Gabon: Government Shuts Down Two Magazines"

The government of Gabon has suspended the publication of two magazines... on 12 May the government's media watchdog, the National Communications Council, had ordered Misamu, which appears once every two months, to cease publication because of a dispute between the founder and current editor over who owned the magazine... [T]his decision followed the magazine's publication of an article about the mysterious death of an aide to Pascaline Bongo, the eldest daughter of President Omar Bongo, who is also the head of the president's office. Misamu accused a senior finance ministry official of murdering the deceased person... [T]hree days later the government had ordered the suspension for three months of the weekly newspaper Le Temps. The government accused the newspaper of 'besmirching the good name of the nation' by publishing an article which alleged that Bongo's government had 'wasted more than 500 billion CFA (US $87 million)in two nights' on lavish independence day celebrations... [T]wo other newspapers, Jeunnesse Action and L'Espoir, had received final warnings from the National Communications Council this month.

     See also, IRIN of July 29, 2003: "Gabon's parliament approved amendments to the constitution on Tuesday that would allow President Omar Bongo, in power for the past 36 years, to seek re-election indefinitely;" and see, U.S. Senate Staff Report of November 9, 1999, "Private Banking and Money Laundering: A Case Study of Opportunities and Vulnerabilities," including regarding Citibank and money laundering for Omar Bongo of Gabon.

    We also note that Panafrican News Agency's May 28, 2003, report on "Gabon's proposal for the 'joint exploitation'" -- with Equatorial Guinea, regarding which human rights issues also exist, to say the least -- "of oil resources believed to be on the Mbagnie Island." See, as simply one example, Africa News of September 18, 2003, "Equatorial Guinea: Oil And Gas Production Climbs, But Where Does the Money Go?"

    This FOIA request includes but is not limited to all records reflecting your agency's awareness of, and action on, the above-quoted reports, including but not limited to as this relates to your agency's decision to include Gabon in the Mission.

    We note the statement on your agency's Web site that "[t]he Department of Commerce has a decentralized FOIA function;" for that reason, we are e-mailing a copy of this request to Ms. Linda Bell of ITA (her fax number, on your Web site, is incomplete), and to Mr. Brickman (see supra). However, we would contend that the duty to respond (including on an expedited basis, see infra) to this FOIA request obtains to the agency as a whole. [Legal argumentation omitted in this format.]

    If you have any questions, please immediately telephone the undersigned, at (718) 716-3540.

Very Truly Yours,

Matthew Lee, Esq.
Executive Director

  Again, click here for summaries of other ongoing campaigns; click here for some media coverage of our work; click here to contact us.


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