Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2017, 12:01 GMT

Bulgaria: Money Talks - Arms Dealing with Human Rights Abusers

Publisher Human Rights Watch
Publication Date 1 April 1999
Citation / Document Symbol D1104
Cite as Human Rights Watch, Bulgaria: Money Talks - Arms Dealing with Human Rights Abusers, 1 April 1999, D1104, available at: [accessed 23 November 2017]
Comments Bulgaria has earned a reputation as an anything-goes weapons bazaar where Kalashnikov assault rifles, mortars, antitank mines, ammunition,explosives and other items are available for a price, no matter who the buyers are or how they might use the deadly wares. In the 1990s Bulgaria has been a weapons source for armed forces in Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, Angola, and Rwanda, among other countries.
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Bulgaria has earned a reputation as an anything-goes weapons bazaar where Kalashnikov assault rifles, mortars, antitank mines, ammunition, explosives and other items are available for a price-no matter who the buyers are or how they might use the deadly wares. In the 1990s Bulgaria has been a weapons source for armed forces in Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, Angola, and Rwanda, among other countries. It has been implicated repeatedly in weapons sales to regions of armed conflict, countries under international or regional arms embargoes, and armed forces known to commit gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Bulgaria is an important source of small arms and light weapons, but it has also sold a considerable amount of surplus heavy weapons from its arsenal.

A new government elected in April 1997, eager to polish Bulgaria's poor image as an arms bazaar in the hopes of joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (E.U.), pledged to adhere to international arms trade control standards and improve regulatory controls. Bulgaria, however, has a legacy of arms dealing that is not easily shaken. During the cold war, Bulgaria supplied weapons to communist-backed governments and rebel groups on several continents. The end of the cold war hit Bulgaria's economy-including its state-owned arms industry-hard, and Bulgaria aggressively promoted arms exports in response. Income from arms deals-when it was not lining the pockets of corrupt government officials or arms industry representatives-helped keep the economy afloat by bringing in hard currency. It also provided jobs to tens of thousands of workers and kept alive an industry that was viewed as vital to national security. Arms were sold not only to legitimate buyers, but to practically any buyers, including countries under international embargoes. In the early 1990s, the state arms trading company, Kintex, arranged to sell weapons to Iraq, and reportedly to Libya and the former Yugoslavia, in violation of U.N.-imposed arms embargoes. Building on its cold war arms dealing contacts, Kintex circumvented the arms trade controls instituted by a short-lived reform-minded government that served from 1991 to 1992.

Later governments, which after 1994 were formed by the successor to the communist party, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, also failed to restrict the arms trade. The mid-to-late 1990s saw a flurry of arms sales, predominantly to areas of armed conflict in Africa, where the weapons were used by abusive forces. Some arms deals were not in violation of international arms embargoes or domestic Bulgarian law, and were therefore legal, but nevertheless represented irresponsible sales to governments known to violate international humanitarian law, while other deals violated international arms embargoes. For example, both sides in Angola's long-running civil war have obtained weapons from Bulgaria, at least since 1993, when the rebels were made subject to a U.N. embargo. Sales to abusive government forces were not covered by the embargo. The forces responsible for Rwanda's genocide-who have been under an international embargo since 1994-have since their flight to the Democratic Republic of Congo (the former Zaire) maintained a longstanding arms trade relationship with Bulgaria, including a deal Kintex arranged in 1995.

Bulgaria's current government, formed by a coalition led by the right-of-center Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) party, was elected after an economic crisis forced the prior government to step down in February 1997. The newly-elected government announced its intention to reform the economy, clean up rampant corruption, and integrate Bulgaria into western European institutions such as NATO and the E.U. As part of this broad agenda-and under considerable pressure from Western governments-the UDF government voiced its firm intention to implement a responsible arms trade policy. It clearly recognized that Bulgaria's longstanding reputation as an indiscriminate supplier of weapons could stand between it and membership in NATO and the E.U.

The government has responded to international scrutiny by stating that it would carefully review proposed arms transactions, following procedures outlined in existing legislation, and that it would strictly observe international arms embargoes. It announced in late 1998 that it would seek to tighten arms trade controls through draft legislation proposed by its cabinet, the Council of Ministers. Bulgaria also has made some important international commitments related to the arms trade, including a promise to adhere to the principles outlined in the nonbinding 1998 E.U. Code of Conduct on Arms Exports.

Despite the government's pledges to clean up the arms trade, the country has continued to be linked to deeply troubling weapons deals involving abusive armed forces. A February 1998 arms shipment from Bulgaria to Sierra Leone, arranged by the British Sandline company, apparently breached a U.N. embargo. In addition, both sides in Burundi's bloody civil war have obtained arms via Bulgaria, as reportedly have rebels in Congo. Bulgaria has also continued to be an arms source to Angolan rebels, and a U.N. commission investigating arms flows to Rwanda's génocidaires since 1995 noted in its final report in November 1998 that it had received credible reports of illegal arms flights to those forces by Bulgarian airlines. Arms sales to Ethiopia and Uganda and arms flights to Eritrea have raised concerns that such weapons may fuel regional armed conflicts. (Ethiopia and Eritrea fought briefly in June 1998, and again in early 1999. Uganda sent its forces into the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998, and has supported rebel forces in Sudan and Angola.)

If Bulgaria's UDF government has a strong interest in changing the country's image as an irresponsible arms supplier, how does one explain the continuing flow of weapons from Bulgaria into the hands of abusive forces? In part, the explanation lies in arms trade policies. By law the country's arms trade is subject to official controls, which include licensing requirements for arms trading firms and for individual arms transactions. Bulgarian law sets out guidelines for the review of arms license applications, but these guidelines do not incorporate Bulgaria's international commitments. For example, some of Bulgaria's arms deals directly contravene provisions of the E.U. Code of Conduct on Arms Exports, to which it subscribed as a non-E.U. member. The code limits weapons sales to regions of armed conflict and to governments or armed groups engaged in gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, but those restrictions are not binding. Bulgarian authorities have therefore approved arms deals that, while not forbidden by international embargoes or domestic law, are nevertheless irresponsible and contrary to Bulgaria's international commitment to exercise restraint in its arms exports. Absent domestic legislation implementing into law the international arms trade control commitments it has declared, Bulgaria is all but free to supply arms that embolden and enable abusive actors, and thereby encourage and facilitate grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Bulgaria's continued involvement in questionable arms deals, some of which have violated binding U.N. embargoes, also is rooted in poor regulatory enforcement. Arms brokers-some operating outside Bulgaria-have employed sophisticated methods to circumvent legal restrictions on the arms trade, such as the falsification of documents and transshipment of weapons through third countries. As in other arms exporting countries, such techniques repeatedly have been employed in Bulgaria to provide a cover of legitimacy for illegal weapons transfers to abusive armed forces, including by Bulgarian transport firms. Bulgarian authorities have failed to ensure that the arms approved for export or transport out of Bulgaria are not diverted to unauthorized end users. While it can be challenging for a relatively small country such as Bulgaria with few resources dedicated to arms trade enforcement to monitor arms deals, there also appears to be little will to track where weapons go after they leave Bulgaria. Top officials have repeatedly denied that the government is responsible for what happens to weapons once they leave Bulgarian soil. Officials stated that Bulgaria has not prosecuted anyone for violating arms trade laws, and that they had never denied an arms trading license to a petitioning company, but they pointed to a successful effort to stop a suspicious arms transaction in 1998.

Arms dealing in Bulgaria is reinforced by at least five key factors that drive the impulse to sell. First, the country's struggling state-owned arms manufacturing and trading firms have an overriding commercial interest in promoting sales, as do the few private firms that have been authorized to trade in arms. Similarly, the country's struggling military stands to earn much-needed funds through the sale of surplus weapons from its stocks. Third, many of the individuals involved in the arms trade have a personal financial stake in arms exports, as they stand to benefit from commissions, bribes, and kickbacks in exchange for facilitating arms deals. Fourth, some arms industry insiders and their supporters are additionally motivated to aggressively promote exports as a means to sustain the domestic arms industry and thereby protect Bulgaria from perceived national security threats. Finally, there is considerable domestic political pressure in Bulgaria-a country recovering from an acute economic crisis-to increase revenue and protect jobs in the arms industry, including through increased arms exports. The government is sensitive to criticism that its moves to enhance arms trade controls, as well as its announced plan to privatize the country's state-owned arms industry, will result in devastating losses of hard currency and jobs and may lead to civil discontent.

Meaningful arms trade reform will require overcoming difficult challenges: Bulgaria's arms trade practices are entrenched, incentives to export are strong, regulatory control is weak, enforcement is poor, and corruption is widespread. In this context, two new developments may only make matters worse. First, the planned privatization of the arms industry-if not closely monitored-could further weaken regulatory control and reduce government accountability. In addition, Bulgaria's aspirations to join NATO may spur new weapons purchases and increase the temptation to export surplus older weapons and those that are not NATO-compatible in exchange for badly needed hard currency, providing a potential source of weapons to abusive armed forces.

This report provides an analysis of the Bulgarian arms industry and presents examples that highlight the pattern of Bulgaria's exports to conflict-ridden regions and abusive armed forces, including rebel groups. It draws from the findings of Human Rights Watch field investigations in a number of countries, as well as publications by other nongovernmental organizations and accounts published by the international media. The report has benefited from interviews with Bulgarian government officials in Washington, D.C. and Sofia, as well as with diplomats, journalists, academic experts, and others familiar with Bulgaria's arms trade.

Human Rights Watch does not take a position against the production of arms, nor does it object in principle to the export, transport, or transshipment of weapons intended to meet legitimate defense needs. Rather, it holds that governments must ensure that they engage in the international arms trade responsibly and that they not provide military support to armed forces that commit serious violations of international human rights or humanitarian law, irrespective of whether these forces represent governments or rebel groups. It is morally unconscionable for states to continue to arm forces that have a record of abuse. Moreover, a continuous flow of weapons and other forms of military support encourages further abuses, as it provides the recipients not only with military materiel with which to wage war but also, importantly, a sense that the international community condones their activities, and thus a sense of impunity.

Human Rights Watch urges all countries engaged in the international arms trade-not only Bulgaria-to take firm action to ensure that their weapons are not made available to abusive armed forces. Human Rights Watch also believes that members of the international community must seek to enhance international arms trade controls. In this regard, multilateral institutions such as NATO and the European Union have a responsibility to define adequate arms trade norms for members. They also should view the membership bids of prospective new members, including Bulgaria, as an important opportunity to help those countries define and meet minimum arms trade control standards. If they fail to do so, these institutions risk being associated with future arms flows to forces that have a record of committing gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.


Bulgaria has begun to take important steps to improve its arms trade controls, but the improvements it has announced fall well short of what is needed. If Bulgaria is to take responsibility for the enforcement of its arms trade policy and overcome the stigma of being known as an weapons supplier to some of the world's most abusive armed forces, it must make significant change on four fronts.

First, it must improve its arms control policy to take into account the human rights and humanitarian impact of Bulgaria's arms trade. Second, it must address the weaknesses in its regulatory system, including corruption and a low capacity for monitoring, that permit shady arms deals to receive authorization and to bypass controls. Third, it must undertake to hold responsible those who engage in arms trade activities that violate Bulgarian law or Bulgaria's international commitments. Finally, it must improve transparency with regard to the arms trade in order to enhance oversight. The following recommendations are designed to help Bulgaria fully address the problems with its arms export control regime.

To the Government of Bulgaria

Introduce human rights considerations into arms trade law

•           Enactlegislation to bar arms transactions destined to armed forces that have arecord of committing gross violations of human rights and internationalhumanitarian law, as well as those destined to countries that are suspected ofreexporting weapons in violation of end-user agreements.

•Explicitlyincorporate international arms control commitments into national law, includingthe otherwise nonbinding provisions of the E.U. Code of Conduct.

Improve regulatory controls

•Create anindependent government agency with oversight responsibility for the arms trade,and permit it access to all relevant information.

•Bargovernment officials with responsibility over arms trade controls from servingon the boards of directors or supervisory boards of arms trading companies.

•Introducestandards by which arms trade officials are prohibited from assuming positionsin the arms industry for a period of at least three years after ending theirregulatory responsibilities.

•Supplementcase-by-case reviews of arms trade permit applications by: preparing andupdating at regular intervals a list of companies, individual brokers, and/orcountries with which Bulgarian firms are barred from engaging in armstransactions; disseminating it to all licensed arms trading companies and allgovernment bodies with oversight responsibility for arms transactions; andpublishing the list in the state gazette.

•Clarify linesof authority and improve coordination among government bodies responsible forimplementing arms trade licensing and enforcement procedures.

•Build thecapacity of arms licensing bodies to conduct thorough investigations beforeissuing arms trading licenses or individual arms transaction permits, includingby providing technical resources and training.

•Increasetraining and technical support for customs officials, border police, and otherauthorities responsible for controlling arms transactions, including throughexchanges, information-sharing, and training with foreign governments.

•Address therelated problems of corruption, organized crime, and judicial reform,particularly as these relate to the arms trade.

•Improvesafeguards on weapons stocks by requiring arms manufacturing companies and theBulgarian armed forces to maintain inventory lists and submit these toauthorities at regular intervals.

•RequireBulgarian arms transport firms to submit to arms trade control authoritiesflight plans and other documentation related to all arms deliveries, not merelythose that pass through Bulgarian territory.

Improve legal accountability

•Declare armstransactions that violate international arms embargoes illegal, as proposed inthe draft amendments passed by the Council of Ministers.

•Define armsbrokering activities in law, as proposed by the Council of Ministers, andexplicitly apply the arms trade laws, including penalties for violations, toindividuals and entities that engage in arms brokering activities in Bulgaria.

•ExtendBulgaria's arms trade laws extraterritorially to control the activities ofBulgarian arms brokers, be they individuals or entities, operating outside Bulgaria.

•Define thewitting use of falsified documents, including the use of false end-usercertificates, shipping documents, cargo manifests, and flight plans, as a crimeof conspiracy to violate arms trade controls, and make it subject to stiffpenalty.

•Rigorouslyinvestigate and prosecute violations of arms trade controls, including thosethat involve diversion of authorized arms shipments.

Increase transparency

•Repeal lawsthat define information about arms negotiations and completed deals as commercialand state secrets.

•Create a rolefor parliament to consider pending applications for arms transaction permits,in particular by: formally notifying it in advance of such applications,allowing for information exchanges about proposed arms transactions, andcreating a mechanism by which parliament may veto pending applications.

•Prepare anannual report on all authorized arms exports and arms transport deals,including pending transactions, to parliament.

•Make public adescriptive annual summary of completed arms sales, including sales of weaponssystems, artillery, and ammunition not included in the United Nations Registerof Conventional Arms.

•Publish thelist of authorized arms trading companies.

•Continue toreport regularly to the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms.

•Make publicthe results of all investigations into abuses of arms trade controls, includingpast investigations.

Dispose of surplus stocks in a responsible fashion

•Agree to sellsurplus stocks of arms only once strict export controls have been put in place.

•Convertsurplus stocks of arms to nonmilitary use whenever possible.

•Destroystocks of arms that cannot be responsibly sold or converted.

The Bulgarian government retains primary responsibility forits own trade in arms, but problems with its arms trade are linked tointernational conditions, including the challenges of verifying armsdestinations, the lack of harmonization of arms trade controls, and the absenceof effective implementation of international arms embargoes. The internationalcommunity has a responsibility to act to improve international arms tradestandards and to enhance controls over the range of actors involved in the flowof weapons to abusive armed forces.

To the United Nations Security Council

•Ensure thatthe scope of international arms embargoes imposed by the U.N. Security Councilis clearly defined and, furthermore, that member states enforce the embargoes.

To the United Nations Secretary-General

•Instruct theU.N. Department of Disarmament Affairs to create and maintain an internationalregistry of officials authorized by each government to sign end-usercertificates, and make this registry available to all member states.

•Instruct theU.N. Department of Disarmament Affairs to develop a uniform end-usercertificate, ensuring that it will be difficult to forge.

•Ask that allmember states adopt the uniform end-user certificate as a requirement for armstrade transactions.

•Encouragemember states to negotiate and ratify a convention on arms trafficking.

•Ask theDepartment of Disarmament Affairs to compile and publish information regardingviolations of end-user certificate provisions, including the names ofcompanies, countries, and individuals involved in the unauthorized retransferof weapons to third parties.

To the members of NATO

•Review thearms trade control record of Bulgaria and other prospective new members,consider arms trade controls as an express criterion for membership, andidentify clear minimum standards expected of new members.

•Provideincentives for aspirant members to dispose responsibly of surplus weapons,including those expected to be generated by military modernization and newprocurement.

•Provide fundsfor the conversion or destruction of those stocks that cannot be soldresponsibly.

•Work towardharmonization of arms trade control standards within the alliance, as well aswith NATO's partners in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, particularlywith those who participate in NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) program.

•Providetraining as well as customs, intelligence, and law enforcement cooperation toimprove the arms trade controls of Bulgaria and other PfP countries that havebeen involved in questionable arms exports, or through which arms destined toabusive forces or diverted to unauthorized recipients have passed in transit.

•Increaseinformation-sharing regarding unauthorized retransfers of weapons sold by NATOmember states, and encourage NATO aspirants to take part in suchinformation-sharing activities.

•Institute arequirement by which weapons transferred by NATO members to partners of thealliance be matched by the destruction of an equal number of surplus weaponsfrom the stocks of the recipient country.

To the members of the European Union

•Review thearms trade control record of Bulgaria and other prospective new members,consider arms trade controls as an express criterion for membership, andidentify clear minimum standards expected of new members.

•Make clear tothose non-E.U. members who have agreed in principle to adopt the E.U. Code ofConduct that they are expected to fully implement its criteria, and monitortheir compliance.

•Raiseconcerns about weapons flows that contravene the E.U. Code of Conduct atperiodic meetings with associated countries,as has been agreed.

•Encourageassociated countries that have agreed to adopt the principles of the E.U. Codeof Conduct to abide fully by its operative provisions, including therequirements to submit annual reports, issue notifications of arms licensedenials based on the criteria of the code, and consult with any E.U. partnersthat have issued such denials before taking part in an arms transaction thatthey have rejected.

•Improveinformation-sharing regarding unauthorized retransfers of weapons sold by E.U.member states, and encourage E.U. aspirants to take part in suchinformation-sharing activities.

•Make publicany denials of arms export applications based on the criteria defined by theE.U. Code of Conduct.

•Publicizeinformation about arms brokers involved in illegal activities.

To the members of the Organization for Security andCooperation in Europe

•Make publicthe results of the OSCE survey on arms trade controls, including the names ofmember countries that have not replied.

•Encourage theharmonization of arms trade controls among member countries.

To the members of the Wassenaar Arrangement

•Make publicthe list of countries to which arms exports are prohibited under theArrangement.

•Improveinformation-sharing mechanisms, particularly with regard to suspected or knownviolations of end-use agreements.

To Interpol

•Improveinformation-sharing mechanisms, particularly with regard to suspected or knownviolations of end-use agreements.


The 1970s and 1980s: Cold War Arms Sales

During the cold war, Bulgaria's arms industry was thecornerstone of the national economy. According to one report, it employed over100,000 persons in 1989 and earned nearly 20 percent profits on sales of overU.S.$1 billion.[1]At its peak the industry's annual production capacity was estimated to be ashigh as U.S.$5 billion.[2]Theindustry produced military equipment for the Bulgarian army, but most of itsproduction was destined for export.[3]

Kintex, a state-owned trading firm, was Bulgaria's onlyauthorized weapons export company during the communist period. It suppliedBulgarian-made weapons to the countries of the Warsaw Pact and Communist-backedgovernments and rebel groups on several continents. Although official figuresare not available, it is believed that at its peak in the 1980s Bulgaria's armsindustry brought in U.S.$1 billion or more in earnings annually.[4]At that time, arms sales may have accounted for as much as 9 percent of thecountry's export earnings, more than any other industry.[5]

Much of Bulgaria's cold war arms trade alarmed Westerngovernments, who maintained that the country was covertly supplying so-calledterrorist groups. Kintex was closely tied to the Bulgarian secret service,thereby contributing to suspicions about its arms dealing.[6]Kintex's first post-communist director offered to trace whether arms it hadsold to Libya, Syria, and Iraq were diverted to groups considered terrorists.He stated, "It is possible that these arms have reached such groups viagovernments we have supplied legally. If they are selling the weapons after weship them, it is their responsibility."[7]Bulgaria's Interior Ministry said in a 1992 statement that during the communistperiod "arms and other military gear were given to assist totalitarian regimesand [the] development of international terrorism."[8]Thestatement said there had been Bulgarian involvement in the training of"terrorists" based in Angola, Cuba, Nicaragua, Yemen, and Tanzania.[9]

The Early 1990s: Arms Industry Crisis and Illicit Exports

The end of the cold war dramatically changed the landscapefor Bulgaria's lead industry: once lucrative markets dried up, productioncapacity went unused, unsold inventory accumulated, and debts mounted. Thecollapse of communist governments and the loss of state subsidies closed manyformer markets and, in several cases, Bulgaria's former arms clients failed topay for past arms purchases. Together with the expense of keeping its factoriesopen, these circumstances saddled Bulgaria's arms industry with a heavy debtburden.[10]

Simultaneously Bulgaria undertook to convert its militaryindustry to civilian production. Little financial support was available tofacilitate conversion, and the country continued to view arms production as avital industry. Consequently, conversion was half-hearted and incomplete, withmany factories engaged simultaneously in military and civilian production.[11]

The industry incurred further heavy losses when newlynegotiated sales could not be executed. For example, planned sales to Georgia,Estonia, and other former Soviet republics were halted under pressure fromRussia, which reportedly feared the destabilizing impact of Bulgarian weapons,and orders from Iraq and Libya could not be legally fulfilled due to U.N.embargoes. The loss of these markets contributed to accumulating inventories ofunsold weapons. In 1992, for example, the arms industry held arms stockpilesestimated to be worth more than U.S.$800 million, and the price of Bulgarianweapons fell.[12]

For an industry that was and has continued to be highlyexport oriented, the loss of markets represented a serious blow. A number ofarms factories suspended production, and others closed their doors, leading toworker protests in several Bulgarian cities in late 1992. Bulgaria was notalone it its predicament, as several of its former Warsaw Pact allies facedsimilar conditions and likewise struggled to sustain domestic arms industriesthat had once thrived. In a shift from the days when arms production by itsallies was viewed as complementary, Bulgaria found itself competing with themfor clients.[13]

The external constraints on arms exports-including the lossof markets, the imposition of international and regional arms embargoes, andthe stiff competition for arms sales-combined with strong demand by rebelgroups and embargoed governments to drive much of Bulgaria's arms tradeunderground in the early 1990s. Arms dealers often turned to Bulgaria to obtainarms for a variety of clients. They negotiated with state-owned firms topurchase Bulgarian weapons and, by providing fake or misleading documents, wereable to bypass Bulgaria's poorly implemented arms export controls. Bulgarianauthorities did not monitor exports to prevent unapproved retransfers, so itsweapons could be diverted to rebel groups or countries under internationalembargo. In the arms market that emerged after the collapse of communism,Bulgaria had a reputation as a country where few questions would be asked. Onearms dealer said, "They don't give a shit about embargoes and will sellanywhere."[14]

The Bulgarian government-through its government-appointedarms industry officials-engaged in embargo-busting activity in the early 1990s.In 1992, the government was forced to admit that Kintex had illegally sold morethan U.S.$15 million in weapons to Iraq on the basis of false end-usercertificates and that the state-owned company was involved in other illicitarms deals.[15]Forbesmagazine estimated thatcombined illicit arms deals arranged by Kintex that year with the embargoedcountries of Iraq, Libya and the then Yugoslavia were worth U.S.$100 million.[16]In September 1992, for example, Bulgarian authorities stopped an illegalshipment of weapons.[17][17]Forbesmagazine reported that theshipment was destined to Croatia and was halted on the basis of a tip from U.S.sources, but that other illegal arms deliveries had already been completed.[18]

The Croatia case highlights the ease with which arms exportcontrols could be circumvented. Bulgarian authorities permitted Kintex toexport weapons despite the fact that the documents submitted to them containedseemingly obvious errors. The documents, ostensibly from Bolivia, included anumber of spelling and punctuation errors and were signed with the name of anonexistent Bolivian general. In addition, the orders were for Soviet-standardequipment, but the Bolivian armed forces utilize NATO-standard weaponry.Falsification did not end there: the contents of ships loaded with weapons weredeceptively labeled as "technical equipment," presumably to bypass customscontrols.[19]

Kintex's then director responded to allegations about theillicit arms shipments to Croatia by stating that he had "no idea where theweapons went, and anyway it's not my problem."[20]Theuse of falsified documents prepared by others permitted him to assert that hiscompany had not knowingly engaged in illegal arms exports. Likewise, theregulatory authorities responsible for overseeing arms exports were able toinsist that they had been misled. In this way, fake documents provided both theregulators and the regulated with "plausible deniability" with which to avoidresponsibility for embargo-busting arms deals.

1991-1992: Failed Arms Trade Reform Effort

The illicit arms deals to Croatia and elsewhere occurredduring the government of Prime Minister Philip Dimitrov. The government, formedin 1991 by a coalition of parties known as the Union of Democratic Forces(UDF), had declared a strong commitment to arms export control and announcednew efforts to clean up Bulgaria's arms trade. Prime Minister Dimitrov, on avisit to the United States, stated that the country would halt arms sales tothe Middle East and other regions where Bulgarian weapons might have adestabilizing effect. The government also tightened licensing procedures forarms sales, reportedly halting several suspicious arms deals. Among otherchanges, the prime minister personally took over the chairmanship of agovernment arms control commission after its former head, Defense Minister DimitarLudzhev, resigned.[21]

In addition, the Dimitrov government created a supervisoryboard to oversee Kintex. An official who served on the board for several monthsexplained that the creation of the board was "a first step that didn't get far"because arms industry representatives resisted government control. He said thatKintex kept information hidden from it in order to protect its involvement inillicit deals. The former board member, currently a diplomat stationed in theUnited States, also stated that the arms industry had very strong ties to theformer communist party and thus considered itself at odds with the Dimitrovgovernment.[22]

Not only did the government's efforts to control the armstrade fail to do so, they also rankled arms industry insiders, oppositionpoliticians, trade union representatives, and others, who charged thatDimitrov's government would drive Bulgaria's once-great arms industry into theground.[23]Ultimately, dissatisfaction over how he handled arms export policy togetherwith an arms export scandal helped bring down the Dimitrov government.[24]In October 1992, the government lost a no-confidence vote in parliament overallegations of an attempted arms sale to the Former Yugoslav Republic ofMacedonia, which was subject to a U.N. embargo on the former Yugoslavia.[25]The government that followed dismissed the Kintex board and reportedly loosenedrestrictions on Bulgaria's arms trade.[26]According to one source, it approved arms deals without inspecting documents.[27]

Mid-to-Late 1990s: Undiscriminating Arms Exports

After the demise of Filip Dimitrov's proclaimed policy ofarms export restraint, subsequent governments-which after 1994 were formed bythe Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP)-undertook to boost arms sales byaggressively promoting the country's weapons. For example, Bulgaria sponsoredits first ever arms fair in 1994, at which national arms manufacturersdisplayed their wares to potential clients. Such efforts began to pay off inthat same year: according to a government official, Bulgaria's arms exports in1994 more than tripled the level of the previous year.[28]

In part, the government was politically motivated to assistthe arms industry. Several observers have stated that the BSP was closely tiedto the arms industry.[29]Although diminished, the industry represented an important source of hardcurrency earnings and jobs, and was considered vital to the country's nationalsecurity (see Arms Production and Incentives for Export, below).

In its zeal to make the sale, successive Bulgarian governmentsappeared to display little concern about the humanitarian or human rightsimpact of the weapons it exported. The government in 1995 stated that it wantedto clean up the country's image,[30]butthroughout the mid-to-late 1990s Bulgaria was involved in a number of deals toforces engaged in armed conflicts and/or serious human rights abuses. Dealsacknowledged by the government included the sale of surplus tanks to Angola in1993 and to separatist forces in southern Yemen in 1994 (see Surplus Weapons,below). Its supplies to war-torn countries also included weapons flows to Peruin 1995 and 1996 as it was rearming itself during peace talks to end a borderwar with Ecuador.[31]Bulgarian-made ammunition and weapons of possible Bulgarian origin were found amongthe stockpiles that Sudanese rebels claimed they had captured from Sudanesegovernment forces in April 1997.[32]Theprevious year, a Bulgarian official stated that the planned sale to Sudan ofBulgarian weapons had been halted under U.S. pressure.[33]TheWashington Timesalleged thatBulgarian arms dealers working secretly with Czech military officials wereattempting to supply Iraq with sophisticated radar equipment,[34]to which Bulgaria's trade minister responded by stating that the reported dealinvolved private Bulgarian arms dealers, not the Bulgarian government.[35]

Bulgarian authorities openly acknowledged that Bulgarianweapons could be diverted to unauthorized end users.[36]False documents, including incorrect or misleading flight documents, were usedin a number of instances to facilitate the flow of Bulgarian weapons to rebelgroups and other non-state actors. For example, a British arms broker admittedtransporting quantities of small arms from Bulgaria to separatist forces insouthern Yemen during a brief 1994 civil war,[37]andin 1995 seventy-seven cases of weapons obtained in Bulgaria, purportedly forthe Bangladeshi defense ministry, were airdropped over West Bengal, India nearthe headquarters of a group allegedly linked to terrorist attacks.[38]Bulgarian weapons were supplied via the former Zaire to the forces responsiblefor Rwanda's genocide (see Rwanda, below). In 1996 and 1997 Lithuanian armsbrokers negotiated to illegally supply Bulgarian-made surface-to-air missiles(SAMs) to a Colombian drug cartel operating in the United States.[39]

Such examples raise questions about the extent to whichBulgarian officials and arms trading company representatives may have turned ablind eye to arms transactions based on deception. In the U.S. case, brokersoperating from the United States arranged to purchase the SAMs from a stateBulgarian company, Armimex, on the basis of documents stating they were for useby the Lithuanian defense ministry. Armimex was able to secure an export permitfrom Bulgarian authorities on the basis of an end-user certificate purportedlysigned by Lithuania's defense minister, despite the fact that the arms brokerswere not licensed to import military weapons to the United States. (Instead,one of them was affiliated with a U.S. front company that could only legallyimport handguns and hunting rifles.) In addition, a man who identified himselfas a broker for Armimex was closely involved in the illicit deal. He reportedlyarranged to have a Cypriot shipping company send a vessel to pick up the cargoand deliver it to Puerto Rico. The owner of the shipping company, who hadworked for Armimex before, was planning to use false documents stating that thecargo was bound for Lithuania. Court documents, including transcripts of tapedconversations with the two Lithuanian brokers, indicate that the brokers'contacts in Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Russia were aware that the shipment was tobe diverted. For example, the arms dealers repeatedly stated that theircounterparts were only interested in their cut from the sale-not the ultimatedestination-but that the Bulgarians insisted that all documents be in order sothat they would not be exposed to charges of illicit arms trafficking.[40]

During the mid-to-late 1990s, corrupt government officialswere suspected of facilitating arms sales. For example, Sri Lankan rebelsallegedly procured weapons from Bulgaria with help from government officials inexchange for bribes.[41]Agovernment "white paper" on Bulgarian security issues referred to "uncontrolledcorruption at different levels of the Ministry of Defense, a number of knownand unknown affairs and arms deals, and a lack of serious control over themilitary-industrial and industrial complexes."[42]

Late 1990s: Continued Arms Deals, Uncertain Future

Buoyed by exports to areas of violent conflict in themid-to-late 1990s, Bulgaria's arms industry avoided collapse, but such salesdid not erase industry-wide debts to national banks, nor ensure thesustainability of the industry. With the imposition of an InternationalMonetary Fund-approved economic reform program in 1997 under the new UDFgovernment, state subsidies to the arms industry were withdrawn and workers hadto be laid off.[43]Arms exports to areas of violent conflict continued to be viewed as part of thesolution to the arms industry's deteriorating position. Bulgaria exported,transported, or transshipped arms to conflict areas, particularly in Africa,and its weapons continued to make their way to abusive military forces,including government forces and rebel groups. For example, a British newspaperreported that in mid-1998, as war broke out in the Democratic Republic ofCongo, a flight from Bulgaria delivered approximately thirty-eight tons ofweapons to Congolese rebels.[44]Additional cases involving weapons flows to Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, SierraLeone, and Uganda are described below (see Arms Exports to Human Rights Abusersbelow).

Despite such sales, the future of Bulgaria's arms industryremains uncertain. Privatization of the industry, announced in 1997, hasheightened the concerns of some observers, leading them to assert that the oncevital industry will be liquidated within a few years' time.[45]They were skeptical of the government's claim that privatization, foreigndirect investment, and the switch to NATO-standard production would help thecountry's arms industry remain viable in the long term. The UDF government issensitive to criticism-which it considers as politically-motivated-that itsmoves to enhance arms trade controls, as well as its plans to privatize thecountry's arms industry, will result in devastating losses of hard currencyincome and jobs.


Arms Production and Incentives for Export

Bulgaria produces a range of weapons, munitions, and relatedmilitary equipment, and most of its arms products are considered by militaryexperts to be reliable and relatively inexpensive. The country is known formanufacturing handguns, assault rifles (including several models of theKalashnikov, such as the AK-47 and AK-74), mortars, antitank mines, ammunition,and explosives. Its staple export items are small arms and ammunition, whichuse relatively simple technology and are correspondingly cheap. In addition,Bulgaria also produces more sophisticated optical, radar, and communicationequipment, as well as surface-to-air missiles and armored personnel carriers.Most of Bulgaria's production is Soviet-standard equipment initially producedunder Soviet license and now manufactured under Russian license, but in the1990s Bulgaria began moving toward producing NATO-standard equipment. It wasexpected to continue to emphasize the production of small arms and lightweapons.[46]

Aggressive efforts to boost Bulgaria's arms sales, includingthrough sales to areas of violent conflict and participation in questionabledeals over the course of the decade of the 1990s, reflect the complex web offactors driving the country's arms exports. In part, commercial interests havemotivated the country's arms sales. As experience in the 1980s demonstrated, theglobal trade in weapons can be a highly lucrative venture. Although marketconditions were less favorable in the 1990s, the country's arms manufacturersand exporters still had a direct stake in working to make the arms businessthrive: aggressive promotion of arms sales offered arms company executives away to keep their companies afloat during lean times. In fact, financialpressures on the industry may have increased the already considerablecommercial incentives to accommodate suspicious arms deals.

The military has likewise been motivated to sell surplusweapons from its arsenal. Such weapons, aging stock left over from the nationalarmed forces, are commonly resold by arms producing countries to clientsseeking to purchase weapons cheaply. For Bulgaria, like other arms producers,selling surplus weapons is cheaper than storing or destroying the excess stock.For example, in November 1998 a defense official reportedly stated thatdestroying tanks and selling them for scrap cost U.S.$4,000 per tank and earneda profit of only U.S.$2,000, while exported tanks can fetch U.S.$30,000 eachwithout spare parts.[47]Theprofits from such sales are kept by the defense ministry and can offsetshrinking budgets and help finance planned purchases of new equipment.[48](See The Prospect of Joining NATO, below.)

Personal economic gain also has been a common factor. Theliberal payment of commissions, bribes, and kick-backs to individuals whofacilitate arms deals-ranging from the top executives who negotiate sales tothe customs officers who let them pass out of the country-are a common featureof the global arms trade.[49]Bulgaria, with its widespread corruption, hardly has been immune from suchpractices. In fact, one defense analyst was quoted in 1995 as saying that it iseasy to pay a customs official a year's salary to facilitate an illicit armstransaction.[50]In 1994 a scandal broke out over large commissions and bribes allegedly paid tomilitary officers for a sale of surplus weapons to southern Yemeni forces.[51]In 1998 a military official was alleged to have illegally accepted U.S.$50,000from arms manufacturing companies,[52]andthe head of a state-owned arms trading company reportedly was underinvestigation for misappropriation of funds.[53]

Historically some players in Bulgaria's arms trade haveviewed the promotion of arms exports as vital to the national interests of thecountry. Faced with the industry crisis in the early 1990s, for example, manyarms industry representatives and military officials advanced the argument thata domestic arms industry is essential to making the country strong and enablingit to counter threats. Arms exports, by this view, keep production lines openand thereby provide the means to keep alive an industry essential to thecountry's defense-despite the hidden costs.[54]Inthe late 1990s this view continued to be associated with some individuals inthe military and the arms industry, as well as with members of oppositionpolitical parties, particularly the Bulgarian Socialist Party.[55]

The impulses described above, particularly those of thecountry's arms manufacturers and exporters, can overlap with the interests ofthe government. Because Bulgaria's arms manufacturing firms are state-owned, asare its major arms trading companies, their commercial success affects thegovernment's coffers, as well as the overall state of the economy. In 1992,when arms exports were in sharp decline, the Kintex trading firm reportedlycontinued to be Bulgaria's largest single source of hard currency earnings.[56]Bulgaria, like many post-communist countries, needs foreign exchange earningsto service its large foreign debt.

The effect of arms sales on employment is illustrative. The1990-92 period saw the loss of 50,000 arms industry jobs.[57]In response to fears about job security and wages, arms factory workers heldstrikes in late 1992 and called for government action to boost arms exports.[58]In 1995, after a year of expanded arms exports, the industry supported anestimated 500,000 jobs at a time of 12 percent unemployment.[59]

In 1998 Bulgaria had some twenty arms manufacturingcompanies that employed approximately 42,000 people at over one hundredfactories. These companies were engaged in civilian as well as militaryproduction, and eight of them did not produce arms for export. All of thecompanies were state-owned.[60]Inaddition, the Defense Ministry directly owned repair facilities that were alsoengaged in a combination of military and civilian production.[61]

Five major companies dominated Bulgaria's arms productionand together accounted for approximately eighty percent of the country's armsexports.[62]One company, Arsenal, was especially prominent, producing small arms, includingthe Kalashnikov assault rifle, almost entirely for export, mostly to Africa.[63]Reportedly only 2 to 3 percent of its sales in 1997 were for the Bulgarianarmy,[64]and in 1998 Arsenal did not sell any weapons domestically.[65]This is not unusual; of Bulgaria's total arms production, it has been estimatedthat only about 4 percent is needed by the Bulgarian army.[66]

The arms sector continues to be a large employer, but thejobs it offers are not secure. In October 1998, for example, the governmentannounced that 4,000 jobs in the arms industry would have to be eliminated.[67]Trade unions expressing concerns about unpaid wages and the possibility of morelay-offs threatened strikes in early 1999.[68]Inthis context, it would not be surprising if the government-appointed directorsof Bulgaria's arms firms-as well as elected government officials-feltconsiderable pressure to generate income through arms exports in order tosustain the industry and the jobs it provides.[69]

According to Bulgarian officials and foreign diplomats, thegovernment faces significant political pressure with respect to the nationalarms industry. They stated that opposition parties, particularly the BSP,criticized the government for not supporting the arms industry. In a climate inwhich the military is also undergoing painful changes and strong dissentagainst reforms has been voiced from some quarters, they fear that suchcriticisms have the potential to sow social unrest.[70]

The Trade in Surplus Weapons

Most of Bulgaria's post-cold war exports of large militaryequipment, such as tanks and armored combat vehicles, have involved surplusweapons no longer required by the Bulgarian army. Although it often has todestroy what it cannot sell, Bulgaria has chosen to export its surplus weaponswhenever possible.[71]Suchsales have been prominent throughout the decade: of five confirmed sales byBulgaria of tanks or armored combat vehicles from 1990 to 1997, four havecomprised items from surplus Bulgarian stocks.[72]In1993, for example, Bulgaria sold Angola twenty-four surplus T-62 tanks andtwenty-nine surplus BMP-1 armored combat vehicles from its arsenal, and it alsodelivered twenty-one surplus BMP-1s originating in Belarus.[73]The arms exports were officially acknowledged by the Bulgarian government,which reported them to the United Nations the following year.

In 1994 the Defense Ministry sold more than sixty tanks aswell as used mine-throwers from its surplus stocks to separatist forces insouthern Yemen that fought a brief and unsuccessful civil war that year.[74]This was a highly lucrative deal that reportedly earned some military officialslarge commissions.[75]Thedeputy defense minister stated that-had they not been exported-the ministrywould have had to destroy the tanks and sell them for scrap to meet itsobligations under the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty.[76]

The CFE Treaty established upper limits on the holdings ofheavy military equipment of signatory countries. It required those countries,members of NATO and the former Warsaw Pact, to reduce inventories of severalcategories of weapons to prescribed levels by November 1995 and to maintainholdings at or below that level thereafter. At the time the treaty went intoforce in 1992, signatory countries were able to set aside any equipment thatthey declared as awaiting export and these were not counted toward theirinitial reduction requirements, but other heavy equipment in excess of treatylimits had to be destroyed.[77]After treaty reduction requirements were met for the 1995 deadline,[78]individual signatory countries were able to elect how to dispose of anysubsequently created excess weapons stocks.[79]

Bulgaria has exported excess heavy weapons since late 1995,often citing its ongoing treaty obligations as a rationale for exporting suchweapons.[80]According to a 1997 U.S. government report, Bulgaria declared that it had aconsiderable amount of surplus equipment awaiting export that year.[81]In April 1998 the Bulgarian Ministry of Defense reportedly announced that itwas offering 200 old T-55 tanks for sale.[82]Bythe end of the year the government had sold 140 surplus T-55 tanks to Ethiopiaand Uganda, at a profit of U.S.$4.4 million, and had a deal pending for thesale of eighty more tanks.[83]InFebruary 1999 Bulgaria announced that it would donate 150 tanks and 150artillery pieces from its arsenal to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.[84]

Such sales and transfers are likely to continue into thefuture. The country's military modernization plan, which is linked to itsdesire to join NATO, is expected to generate additional surplus stocks (see TheProspect of Joining NATO, below). In addition, discussions are underway tomodify the CFE Treaty, in part by setting lower national ceilings for at leastsome countries.[85]If the new ceilings require Bulgaria to further reduce its national inventoryof heavy equipment, treaty modification may enhance the country's incentives toexport surplus items. Regardless, Bulgaria has announced its intention toexport what it can from its surplus stocks: the defense minister was quoted inlate 1998 as saying, "We are selling and will be selling these [surplus]weapons."[86]

Arms Trading Companies

Three major state-owned trading firms dominate the country'sarms trade. Kintex is the country's oldest and most important arms exporter.Since its founding in 1966 as Texim, the company has been responsible for thebulk of Bulgaria's arms exports, and it is the primary distributor for most ofthe country's small arms and light weapons. Kintex also ranks as one of themost notorious arms trading firms in the world,[87]withinvolvement in questionable arms deals-including illicit transactions-spanningseveral decades.[88]

Armimex, the second key arms trading company, was formed in1992 as the successor to the Main Engineering Directorate of the BulgarianDefense Ministry. It primarily exports small arms, but it holds a full armstrading license that permits it to trade in any category of weapon.[89]

The third major arms trading company is Teraton, whichspecializes in sales of more sophisticated optical and radar equipment. Itmarkets itself as a broad-based arms trading firm offering arms and ammunitionof Bulgarian or Russian manufacture.[90]Teraton and Kintex are directly state-owned: in both cases the board ofdirectors is appointed by the government, and ownership is exercised by thetrade ministry.[91]Armimex, while also state-owned, is constituted as a joint-stock company ownedby a consortium of state arms manufacturers. It has both a board of directorsappointed by the shareholder companies and a supervisory council appointeddirectly by the government.[92]

Beyond these three major trading firms, other companies arealso involved in Bulgaria's arms trade. These include smaller state-owned armstrading companies, such as Elmet Engineering, and a department of the defenseministry that is authorized to export excess equipment from Bulgaria's militaryarsenal.[93]They also include all of Bulgaria's arms manufacturing companies, which aregovernment-owned.[94]Thecountry's arms producers have been eligible for arms export licenses since1994,[95]and have been active in the arms trade. For example, Arsenal-the renownedproducer of the Bulgarian version of the Kalashnikov assault rifle and one ofthe country's largest weapons manufacturers-reportedly sells more than half itsproduction independently.[96]Finally, private Bulgarian companies also are eligible for arms exportlicenses.[97]A total of approximately thirty companies-all but a few of themstate-owned-held arms trade licenses as of February 1999.[98]The state-owned arms trading firms-particularly Kintex and Armimex-dominate thefield, but it cannot be assumed that any of Bulgaria's arms transfersnecessarily involve one of those firms.

Transport Companies and Transshipment

Bulgaria's involvement in the international arms trade goesbeyond the actions of Bulgarian trading companies to negotiate exports ofBulgarian arms. Bulgaria is also implicated in the shipment of weapons toregions of armed conflict and to abusive forces. Many times the weapons beingshipped originate in Bulgaria, and the shipments therefore constitute directBulgarian exports, but this is not always the case. Weapons originatingelsewhere also pass through Bulgarian territory on their way to their ultimatedestination.

Bulgaria has repeatedly served as a country oftransshipment. A number of cargo companies that until January 1998 were basedat Ostend airport in Belgium used to go Bulgaria to pick up weapons.[99]In particular, Burgas airport in Bulgaria's free-trade area on the Black Seahas been an important hub for the collection of weapons for onward flight toAfrica and elsewhere.[100]Similarly, a Ukrainian company reportedly arranged in 1995 for weapons to betransported to Sofia, from where they were said to have been flown to Kenya andZaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) for use by Rwandan Hutu rebels(see Rwanda, below).

Bulgaria has also been implicated in arms deliveries throughthe actions of private Bulgarian transport companies. In 1994, for example,Bulgarian cargo planeswere used toferry weapons to the Angolangovernment(see Angola, below). Although other companies have been involved in armsdeliveries, one private Bulgarian charter airline-Air Sofia-is known to be amajor weapons carrier.

Air Sofia has been chartered to deliver weapons to a rangeof destinations, from Africa to South America. In one prominent example, it wasinvolved in repeated arms shipments to Eritrea in mid-1998.[101]In July 1998, one month after an armed border dispute broke out between Eritreaand Ethiopia, it shipped at least nine cargo loads of weapons from Bulgaria toEritrea in a one-week period. TheNewYork Times, which reported the arms flights later that month, stated thatthe airline ferried Bulgarian-made Kalashnikov assault rifles, ammunition, andgrenades aboard Ukrainian cargo planes, and that it had ten more flightsscheduled from Burgas to the Eritrean capital of Asmara in the following days.[102]One Air Sofia flight crashed near Asmara in the early hours of July 17, 1998,and it is believed that the plane carried weapons on board.[103]

The arms Air Sofia has ferried are not always manufacturedin Bulgaria, nor flown through Bulgarian territory. On April 9, 1995, forexample, an Air Sofia plane was detained in Cape Verde after one hundred tonsof weapons were discovered on board during a stopover.[104]The flight was en route to Ecuador, where a border war with Peru had broken outa few weeks earlier.[105]Theplane did not carry Bulgarian weapons, nor did it transit through Bulgaria;instead, it was said to have originated in Belarus.[106]

Arms Brokers

Bulgaria is also involved in the arms trade through theactions of private actors who facilitate arms deals by acting as intermediariesbetween the exporter and the ultimate importer. Such arms brokers includeprivate Bulgarian firms that hold arms trading licenses.[107]Individuals with military backgrounds or with past experience in the Bulgarianarms industry reportedly have established private companies to broker armsdeals on the basis of past contacts.[108]

Although one would hope that most brokered arms deals areentirely legitimate, that is not always the case. For example, as noted above,two Lithuanian nationals operating from the United States brokered a deal toillegally supply Bulgarian surface-to-air missiles to a Colombian drug cartelin Miami, with help from a broker in Bulgaria who arranged transport for theplanned shipment to Puerto Rico (see Undiscriminating Arms Exports, above.)

The government has stated that in some cases private brokersacting outside government control-and sometimes outside Bulgaria's borders-haveinvolved Bulgaria in arms supplies that are not sanctioned by the government.For example, the Bulgarian Embassy in the United States responded to evidenceof Bulgarian weapons found in Sudan in 1997 by stating that such weapons mayhave been provided via private traders. More broadly, officials and othersinterviewed in Bulgaria said that they believe unscrupulous individuals, someof them associated with past governments-particularly the intelligenceservices-and the arms industry, have taken part in illicit or questionable armsdeals. They stated that, while some foreigners were believed to be involved,most of these brokers were Bulgarian nationals. They did not specify whetherthese individuals were licensed to trade in weapons.[109]

Illegally Obtained Weapons

Bulgarian press accounts describe illegal arms factoriesengaged in small-scale production, and other cases in which arms are stolenfrom factory or military stockpiles. Such illegally acquired weapons aregenerally used in cross-border arms trafficking.[110]Inseveral cases, police sources have attributed cross-border arms smuggling tocriminal networks.[111]InApril 1997 Bulgaria's new interior minister stated that many top police andenforcement officials were linked to organized criminal groups suspected ofengaging in cross-border arms smuggling and other illegal activities.[112]

Military equipment is occasionally stolen from militarystorage sites in Bulgaria. To the extent that weapons are illegally acquiredfrom military stocks, such thefts may involve military personnel. An officialaudit commission uncovered large-scale military corruption and theft in aNovember 1997 report.[113]According to defense officials, however, such incidents are uncommon andinvolve small quantities of equipment that are usually destined to criminal groupsin nearby countries rather than abusive military forces.[114]A diplomat who agreed that the problem was limited said that thefts of armyweapons arose from the difficult circumstances of the military, which includelack of sufficient food for troops.[115]


National Arms Trade Controls

Bulgaria's arms trade-in theory at least-is governed by astrict set of legal regulations. Since November 1995 the country's arms tradecontrol law has outlined a dual licensing procedure for international armstransactions.[116]First, Bulgarian law requires firms to gain authorization to participate in thearms trade.[117]Licenses to trade in arms are issued by the Interministerial Council on DefenseIndustry and Logistics at the Council of Ministers, a cabinet-level body thatis broadly responsible for developing Bulgaria's national arms trade policy. (Asecond body, described below, issues permits for individual arms transactions.)

The deputy prime minister, who is also the industryminister, chairs the Interministerial Council. The permanent members of councilinclude the deputy ministers of trade, industry, defense, foreign affairs,finance, interior, transport, development, and education and science, as wellas the deputy head of the general staff of the Bulgarian army and the directorof Bulgaria's intelligence service. The prime minister appoints a secretary tothe Interministerial Council. In addition, three advisors serve the committee,but do not vote.[118]

The council meets on a monthly basis to review licenseapplications or undertake other matters of concern. It considers applicationson a case-by-case basis and makes decisions based on the vote of the majority.The chair does not exercise veto power. Arms trading licenses are granted forperiods not longer than one year, and are then subject to renewal.[119]Several officials responsible for arms export controls stated that they hadnever revoked the arms trading license of a company, although it they may havepostponed decision on an application or allowed licenses to expire in somecases.[120]The council secretary explained that licenses would be denied if the interiorministry, army security services, or the national intelligence services voicedobjections to a company's application, if there was evidence that a company hadbeen involved in misconduct, or if the company was suspected of involvement indubious transactions.[121]

Authorized arms trading firms must also obtain a permit foreach individual arms export transaction,[122]asis also the case for the Ministry of Defense when it arranges to directly sellsurplus military equipment.[123]Theapplication process is the same for commercial and government-to-governmentsales: export permits are issued by a commission under the Trade Ministry,known as the Commission for Control of Foreign Trade Transactions with Arms andDual-Use Goods and Technologies. This commission is chaired by the trademinister and includes, in addition, one representative each from the ministriesof trade, foreign affairs, industry, interior, and defense, as well twosecretaries, one of whom specializes in arms export controls. (The othersecretary is responsible for the activities of the commission with respect tothe export of dual-use goods.) Three persons-the deputy ministers of trade,foreign affairs, and interior-serve on both the Interministerial Council andthe trade ministry's Commission for Control.[124]

Applications for individual arms export permits presented tothe trade ministry must include documentation about the proposed sale. As inmany countries, firms must provide their arms trading licenses and an end-usercertificate identifying the ultimate purchaser, as well as documentationshowing that the purchaser is authorized to import arms.[125]The trade ministry commission is responsible for reviewing each application anddeciding whether to authorize the deal. When it chooses to authorize an armsexport deal, the commission notifies the Interministerial Council, the GeneralCustoms Directorate, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of its decision. Ifit cannot reach consensus on an application, it refers the case to theInterministerial Council for decision.[126]

Under the arms trade law, the commission may deny or revokearms export permits, which are valid for not longer than 180 days, under certaincircumstances, including if the export violates Bulgarian law, harms stateinterests, contravenes international commitments or legal requirements, isbased on a false or incomplete application, or deviates significantly from theterms of transfer under which it was approved. According to members of theTrade Ministry commission, applications for exports to certain countries-thosesubject to U.N. or E.U. embargoes-are automatically denied, as are applicationsabout which they have strong suspicions that an illegal diversion of weaponsmay be planned.[127]Inaddition, a government official indicated that permits are denied when theend-user certificate is not issued by a government body.[128]Denials of export permits may be appealed to the Interministerial Council.[129]

The same dual-licensing procedure governs the actualshipment of weapons. Transport companies, including airlines such as Air Sofia,must first apply to the Interministerial Council for a license to transportweapons. For each individual arms transport transaction, they must obtain atransport permit from the Trade Ministry commission.[130]The Trade Ministry commission grants these permits on the basis of anapplication and related documentation, including the end-user certificate andthe arms trading license of the petitioning company. As with an approved dealfor the export of arms, the Trade Ministry informs the InterministerialCouncil, customs authorities, and the Interior Ministry that a permit has beengranted. For arms transport transactions, the Interior Ministry issues a policepermit for the transit of weapons from the point of storage to the designatedpoint of export. Arms deals must also conform to customs regulations. Forexample, shipments of weapons must be declared as such on cargo manifests.

Violations of arms trade control laws are subject topenalties. Under the arms trade law enacted in 1995, license applicants-bothtrading and transport companies-and authorized end-users are subject to finesor property sanctions for failure to observe the terms under which the licensewas issued. The law calls for a maximum prison sentence of eight years and amaximum fine of U.S.$600 for unauthorized arms trade activity, with lowerpenalties available for less serious violations.[131]

The Bulgarian government has responded to internationalconcern over the country's continued involvement in questionable arms exportsby seeking to adjust its arms trade laws.[132]Forexample, it modified the national list of arms and dual-use items subject toregulatory control to conform to international standards.[133]More importantly, the cabinet approved in December 1998 a set of draftamendments to tighten the arms trade control law, and in January 1999 Bulgarianauthorities began consultations with foreign officials regarding the proposedchange. As of March 1999, the parliament had not considered the draftlegislation.

If passed by parliament, the draft amendments would modifythe existing arms trade control legislation and amend arms trade regulations,as well as introduce changes to the criminal code.[134]In particular, the proposed changes would strengthen criminal penalties forviolations of export controls, raising prison sentences as well as fines.[135]The draft changes would also more closely control arms brokering activities byrequiring each arms trading company seeking an arms export permit to identifythe names of intermediaries authorized to represent the parties involved in theproposed transaction and by explicitly defining arms brokering activities.[136]In addition, the amendments also would permit foreign-owned companiesregistered in Bulgaria to participate in arms trading activities, and wouldincrease the minimum capital requirement for trading and transport companiesengaged in arms transactions. The proposals would also align Bulgaria's legalframework more closely with its international arms trade obligations (seebelow).

International Arms Trade Controls

Beyond its national legal arms trade regulations, Bulgariais party to several international commitments that limit its arms dealing. Likeall governments, Bulgaria is legally bound to respect United Nations SecurityCouncil resolutions, including those imposing arms embargoes. The arms tradelaw enacted in 1995 does not explicitly bar arms transactions that violate U.N.arms embargoes, but successive governments have asserted that they adhere toU.N. embargoes as a matter of policy. Bulgaria reportedly has enacted decreeson an ad hoc basis to implement U.N. arms embargoes,[137]but it does not have a practice of formally notifying arms trading companies ofthe countries subject to U.N. embargoes.[138]

Bulgaria is a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA),which regulates the export of conventional weapons and dual-use goods tocountries where such sales could prove destabilizing and provides mechanismsfor countries to share information about arms deals.[139]The WA operates by consensus, and members have agreed not to sell weapons toIran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea. Since joining the WA in July 1996 Bulgariahas made regular declarations to the Wassenaar Secretariat, but it does notautomatically share information about rejected arms deals.[140]

Bulgaria also formally subscribes to the 1993 criteria onarms exports of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE),which call for transparency and restraint in arms transfers.[141]As an OSCE member, it is further expected to respect OSCE arms embargoes.[142]

In August 1998 Bulgaria declared its commitment to theprinciples outlined in the nonbinding European Union's Code of Conduct on ArmsExports.[143]The E.U. code, adopted in June 1998, outlines a set of principles and calls onstates to limit weapons exports under a variety of circumstances, includingsales to armed forces that abuse human rights, to regions embroiled in violentconflict, or to countries suspected of reexporting the weapons.[144]The code also calls on each E.U. member government to report annually on armsexports and implementation of the code, to inform other participants of dealsthat it rejects, and to consult with other E.U. member governments beforetaking part in arms deals that they have rejected.[145]

The legislative changes proposed by the Council of Ministersin late 1998 would formalize Bulgaria's obligations to adhere to certaininternational arms trade restrictions. In particular, they make observance ofU.N. Security Council decisions mandatory, and they introduce into law aprovision stating that restrictions derived from international agreements andfrom Bulgaria's membership in international organizations, including itsparticipation in international arms export control regimes, are binding, as arerestrictions arising from Bulgaria's pledges to join the decisions ofinternational organizations of which it is not a full member. In addition, thedraft legislation would introduce a provision giving the government the optionto ban arms deals when the weapons are destined to "a state on whose territorythere are military operations or which takes part in armed conflicts."

Policy Gaps

Although national arms export regulations are in place andBulgaria has repeatedly affirmed its commitment to abide by international armstrade standards, in three key areas Bulgaria's arms trade control policy failsto address fully the existing problems in the arms trade. These oversights helpaccount for Bulgaria's continued involvement in questionable arms transactions.

Lack of Attention to Human Rights and HumanitarianConsiderations

Bulgarian's arms trade control laws ignore the human rightsand humanitarian impact of the use of the weapons the country licenses forexport or transport. Armed forces that have been responsible for gross humanrights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law can legallypurchase weapons from Bulgaria. No provision exists restricting arms deal onthe basis of human rights concerns, even if it is likely that the weapons willbe used to commit atrocities, nor does the law allow Bulgarian officials theoption to deny an application on human rights grounds alone. The draftamendments proposed by cabinet, described above, improve upon existing law to avery limited degree by permitting the government to introduce on an ad hocbasis restrictions on arms transactions with countries engaged in armedconflict. This provision, as proposed, does not address arms deals withcountries that are preparing for war or are committed to a formal peaceprocess. In addition, the new restriction does not address the human rightsrecord of the armed force in question, only whether it is engaged in armed hostilitiesat the time the arms trade application is submitted.

This absence of explicit human rights and humanitarianconsiderations suggests that the draft arms trade control laws are part of apolitically-driven strategy to show that Bulgaria adheres to Western standards,rather than a reflection of concern for the victims of abuses or an awarenessthat the country bears a measure of responsibility for the uses to which theweapons it sells are put. Indeed, none of the government officials with whomHuman Rights Watch met expressed concern about abuses committed withBulgarian-supplied arms.

Poor Adherence to International Commitments

Bulgaria has not incorporated its international arms tradecommitments into domestic legislation. Its commitments-including its bindingobligation to observe U.N. arms embargoes-are incorporated into law only byvirtue of a provision that gives the government the option to introducerestrictions on arms sales to comply with international obligations. Inaddition, Bulgaria has thus far adopted a minimalist interpretation of itscommitments under the nonbinding E.U. Code of Conduct. According to officials,no export permits have been denied since it joined the code.[146]To the contrary, arms deals to areas of violent conflict, such as the Horn ofAfrica, and to countries believed to reexport weapons, such as Uganda, havebeen approved since mid-1998, in contravention of provisions of the code.

Similarly, Bulgaria has done little to adhere to the spiritof the Wassenaar Arrangement. Bulgaria continues to sell weapons toconflict-plagued areas in Africa. These sales are not explicitly barred underthe agreement, but contravene requests that members show "maximum restraint" intheir arms transfers.[147]

Proposed legislative changes will address this problem, butonly incompletely. The draft legislation provides a framework within whichBulgaria must abide by its international obligations, but it does not specifywhich restrictions are adopted, nor does it explicitly incorporate into nationallegislation the international commitments that Bulgaria has declared. Forexample, it is not apparent if-under the proposed changes-Bulgaria would adhereformally to all the provisions of the E.U. Code of Conduct, which includeadherence to OSCE and E.U. arms embargoes, and the OSCE arms transfer criteria.In fact, the only clear ban imposed under the draft legislation that is derivedfrom international commitments is the restriction on arms transactions thatviolate decisions of the U.N. Security Council.

Narrow Focus Ignores Unauthorized Retransfers

Bulgaria also views its responsibilities narrowly withregard to the retransfer of weapons it authorizes for export or transport. Forexample, Bulgaria's trade minister asserted confidently in 1998 that "it is impossiblefor illegal arms exports to occur in Bulgaria" given official licensingrequirements.[148]This statement ignores the prominence of deals in which authorized arms exportsare diverted to unauthorized end users. Reflecting a similar attitude, a TradeMinistry spokesperson responded to charges of Bulgarian involvement in illicitweapons deals by stating that Bulgaria "cannot be held responsible" when armslegally sold to other countries are then resold,"[149]adding that "[i]f indeed there are cases of reexport of Bulgarian arms, theresponsibility rests entirely with the country named as consignee" in theapplication.[150]Bulgaria's defense minister declared, moreover, in March 1999 that Bulgarianlaws require an end-user certificate before an arms export is approved, butthat once a shipment leaves Bulgaria, "we don't know what happens afterwards."[151]

By this explanation, Bulgaria today is posing as the dupe ofothers, including arms brokers who negotiate deals for unauthorized clientsthrough third-country intermediaries, or client governments that resellBulgarian arms in violation of an end-user certificate. Such a defense ofBulgaria's role in questionable arms exports implies several dubiousassertions. First, it falsely suggests that Bulgarian arms exports based onfalsified documents, misrepresentation, or illegal intentions constituteentirely legal transactions. In fact, arms deals that are licensed but are thendiverted to unauthorized clients must be considered "gray market" arms deals.Second, it implies that Bulgaria in all cases makes a good-faith and vigorouseffort to enforce its regulations by carefully reviewing deals before approvingthem-including the scrutiny of the retransfer record of the purchaseridentified by documents-and by monitoring arms deliveries and verifyingcompliance after arms have been exported. While Bulgaria has worked to improveenforcement under the current government, control continues to be incomplete(see Problems of Enforcement, below). Third, it suggests that the Bulgariangovernment bears no responsibility when arms industry and regulatoryofficials-whether through complicity, corruption, incompetence, or lack ofresources-actively facilitate or passively permit arms transactions destined tounauthorized clients. A journalist who has interviewed Bulgarian arms tradersnoted that arms transactions intended for unauthorized clients are oftenarranged in compliance with the letter of the law, but that the traders wereoften aware that the weapons were to be rerouted or reexported. He said thatBulgarian arms dealers had explained that such deals were arranged on the basisof personal contacts and understandings, and that deals to clients consideredparticularly unsavory earned much higher commissions. He further noted that falsedocuments provided the Bulgarian intermediaries with legal protection, as theycould deny foreknowledge of the illicit retransfer of arms shipments theyhelped broker.[152]

Denials of Bulgarian involvement in any gray market armsdeals and the notion that Bulgaria is not responsible for weapons once theyleave its borders serve both to reinforce the practices that allow for illegaldiversions and to reduce accountability. The absence of concern reflected insuch denials informs regulatory practices that do not adequately monitor thedeliveries of authorized exports, and helps shape legislation that does notaddress Bulgarian involvement in gray market arms transactions.

Problems of Enforcement

Effective regulation of Bulgaria's arms trade depends uponrigorous enforcement of Bulgarian law and stated policy. Officials of the UDFgovernment have publicly asserted that previous governments exercised poorcontrol over arms transfers,[153]butwhen describing controls under their own government, officials argue that theyare doing all that they can under difficult circumstances to regulate armstransfers.

The government has four primary means with which to exerciseauthority. In particular, it is responsible for overseeing the predominantlystate-owned arms industry (including some private trading firms but notmanufacturers), licensing companies and transactions, monitoring exports, andpunishing violations. In each of these areas, Bulgaria's controls areinadequate. In addition, effective controls are constrained by broaderproblems, which include confused lines of authority, corruption, and lack oftransparency. Despite these serious constraints, there have been some successesthat demonstrate that improvements can be achieved.


The government appoints the directors of state-owned armstrading or manufacturing companies, and, according to officials, it uses suchappointments to enhance control over the arms trade. In a practice that iscommon after changes in government, the UDF government replaced the directorsof several major arms producing companies shortly after taking office.[154]It also later replaced the leaders of the country's leading arms tradecompanies in a move that was publicly linked to concerns about arms deals.Specifically, Bulgaria's ambassador to the United States stated in a letter totheNew York Timesin mid-1998 thattwo fired arms trading executives-from Kintex and Teraton-were linked to theformer secret police, adding that their removal would help resolve problemswith arms export violations.[155]InMarch 1999 that same official declared, referring to these two companies, that"It was the strong determination of the government to turn them from notoriouscompanies to decent ones. We effected changes of directors and management.People had been there for a very long period and some of them were probablyconnected to the old regime."[156]Thechief of the third major arms trading company, Armimex, was also replaced in1998.[157]

The government also appoints members of boards of directorsor supervisory boards of arms industry companies. The UDF government replacedmany of these board members.[158]Ina pattern that bespeaks the institutional nature of Bulgaria's arms exportcontrol problems, a number of officials responsible for reviewing exportapplications submitted by arms trading companies simultaneously serve on theboards of those same companies. For example, the secretary of theInterministerial Council heads the supervisory board of Armimex, the senioradvisor to the council is chairman of the board of Teraton, and another of thecouncil's advisors sits on the board of Kintex. For their services to thecompanies, these officials receive a modest monthly salary (approximatelyU.S.$40 per month) and stand to receive bonuses if the companies perform well.The officials' dual responsibilities present a direct conflict of interest, yetone of these officials maintained that serving on arms industry boards helpsauthorities monitor the activities of the companies they regulate. Likewise, heargued that the appointment of former licensing officials to head arms industrycompanies-including the naming of the former secretary of the Trade Ministry'sarms export licensing body to serve as the director of Teraton-ensures thatcompanies will strictly adhere to regulations. Highlighting the tension betweenthe goals of the arms trade control bodies and the arms industry, the officialstated that he personally felt that the arms industry must strictly abide byits legal obligations but that he recognized that "this has a negative effecton the military industry."[159]


As noted above, the Interministerial Council issues armstrading licenses, including to transport companies, and a commission of theTrade Ministry authorizes individual arms transactions. This dual licensingprocedure provides an important mechanism by which government authoritiescontrol the arms trade. The first stage of the process offers the opportunityto deny authorization to trade in weaponsto dubious companies, but suchdeterminations require a thorough investigation. According to one source, thegovernment conducts probes into all companies that petition for an arms tradinglicense using information submitted in the application.[160]Officials from the Interministerial Council, however, suggested that suchinvestigations were launched only where there were suspicions about a company.[161]Regardless, it is not clear what investigative resources are available for suchinquiries, nor what standard of evidence is required to reject an application.Thus far, according to officials, no petitioning company has been denied anarms trading license.[162]

Some of the most important regulatory weaknesses becomeapparent at the second stage of the licensing process, the Trade Ministry'sreview of individual arms trade applications. One problem is that the reviewprocess, while multilayered, is not clearly defined. The secretary to thecommission with responsibility for arms deals examines the application,including the documentation, and the commission then considers the application.The members of the commission have access to the documents and also may requestthat experts within their respective government ministries review thedocuments. The intelligence services also apparently are active in this review.[163]

The most important of these documents is the so-calledend-user certificate (EUC) which identifies the purchaser and contains aprovision guaranteeing that the arms it has ordered will not be retransferredto a third party without prior notification and approval from the exporter, inthis case Bulgaria. Several officials interviewed by Human Rights Watchdescribed the difficulty of authenticating documents submitted withapplications for arms exports, particularly the EUC. One official noted thatarms dealers are increasingly sophisticated, and that EUCs are not alwaysaccurate, making it difficult for authorities to differentiate between illicitand legal sales.[164]Another official admitted that he was aware that corrupt military officials inother countries would sign end-user certificates for purchases destined toother clients.[165]Officials said that, when possible, they verify the EUC by contacting thegovernment that issued the document through its diplomatic mission to Bulgaria,which is sometimes located in a neighboring country,[166]but they acknowledged that they were not able to verify all end-usercertificates prior to issuing an arms trade permit.[167]

Other officials noted that they are more likely toscrutinize applications if they learn that the country identified as thepurchaser has a record of reexporting weapons in violation of end-useagreements.[168]According to the same officials, however, the Trade Ministry commission doesnot maintain a list of countries believed to have been involved in illegalretransfers. According to another official, the Trade Ministry commission willautomatically deny an application on the basis of confirmed information that aproposed arms deal will be illegally retransferred, but reasonable suspicionsbased on a country's past reexport record are considered insufficient groundsfor a denial.[169]Highlighting the lack of attention to the retransfer record of potentialBulgarian arms clients, two members of the Interministerial Council wereunaware of what would happen if it was discovered that a country had provided afalse end-user certificate.[170]

One official lamented more broadly that the Trade Ministrycommission was unable to conduct effective investigations into pending armsdeals. He said that this was primarily due to a lack of information andresources, but he also stated that a pending application could not be rejectedon the basis of unconfirmed suspicions because the government might then bevulnerable to legal action by the parties to the transaction.[171]Such explanations suggest that Bulgaria does not comply with the principles ofthe E.U. Code of Conduct, which clearly bar arms deals to countries suspectedof retransferring weapons (see International Arms Trade Controls, above).


Once an arms export permit has been granted, authorities aretasked with supervising the completion of the transaction. Intelligence andcustoms officials monitor the movement of weapons across Bulgarian territory,as does the border police. For example, customs regulations stipulate that customsofficers must confirm that the goods declared on the application and on thecargo manifest match.

Once a shipment leaves Bulgaria, however, little is done toverify its actual route. The government states that, using one or more ofseveral indirect methods, it attempts to verify that the weapons consignmenthas been delivered to the authorized location. For example, authorities mayinquire with the Ministry of Defense of the purchasing country to confirmreceipt of the arms shipment for which it provided an end-user certificate.[172]Bulgarian authorities argue that they lack resources to monitor end-useviolations and can do little once a shipment has left Bulgaria.[173]Direct physical inspection is prohibitively expensive, particularly as Bulgariahas few overseas embassies or trade missions, and is therefore rarelyperformed.[174]This is particularly true in Africa, which is the destination for a substantialportion of Bulgaria's arms exports.

These limitations point to the possibility, readilyacknowledged by Bulgarian officials, that arms authorized for export may beretransferred to unauthorized end users once they leave Bulgarian soil. Arepresentative from the Foreign Ministry stated that his agency is responsiblefor tracking the reexport of Bulgarian arms, but that it lacks information andresources with which to carry out its responsibilities. Most of the informationit has received about suspected illicit arms trade activities, includingsuspected retransfers, has been provided by foreign governments, but theofficial claimed that this information had often proved unreliable. He, likeothers who admitted that Bulgaria has a low capacity for tracking armstransfers, expressed the need for additional training and technical assistancefrom other governments. Reflecting an attitude which pervades the Bulgariangovernment, one official argued that end-use monitoring was "an internationalproblem," rather than Bulgaria's responsibility.[175]

Accountability for Violations

Despite Bulgaria's long history of involvement in suspiciousor troubling arms transfers, none of the officials interviewed in Bulgaria wasable to identify any cases in which violations had been prosecuted. The lack ofenforcement of legal sanctions deprives the government of an important means bywhich to constrain arms trade activities.[176]

Again, officials and observers stated that institutionalweaknesses were to blame. In this case, they said that the judiciary, which hasresponsibility for criminal prosecutions, lacks training and resources with whichto perform its function. They noted that there is no effective cooperationbetween the judiciary and executive branch agencies. In part, this is becausethe judicial system is poorly regarded, even by others within government.According to a Bulgarian minister, the "widespread belief" is that thejudiciary "remains clumsy, ineffective, and corrupt."[177]It is therefore not surprising that it is unable to enforce arms trade laws.

A second consideration is that legal sanctions are onlyenvisioned for unauthorized arms transactions. Bulgarian law does not clearlyaddress cases of gray market arms transactions, those that are licensed but arethen diverted to unauthorized clients. Arms trading and transport companies andauthorized end users are subject to fines or property sanctions for failure toobserve the terms under which the license was issued, but it is not clear howthis provision is implemented in cases involving diversion or reexport ofauthorized arms shipments. In an August 1998 interview, the Bulgarian trademinister answered a question about penalties for companies that circumventexport regulations by stating that "such a company would lose its license, itsdirector would be dismissed, and, in the case of more serious violations, mayface court proceedings."[178]Agovernment official told Human Rights Watch in early 1999 that there had beenno cases of Bulgarian involvement in illicit arms deals, and that diversionsalways took place outside Bulgaria's borders and without the foreknowledge ofBulgarian arms trading companies.[179]

A third, and related, point is that Bulgaria's arms tradecontrols do not apply to illicit arms transactions outside the country'sborders, even if these are arranged with the participation of Bulgariannationals or Bulgarian companies. No changes are envisioned in the draft armstrade control amendments to criminalize the knowing use of falsified documents,or, more broadly, the conspiracy to divert weapons to unauthorized end users.Instead, the proposed changes would define arms brokering activities andrequire that the names of authorized intermediaries be declared in armslicensing applications, but without clarifying if such brokers would be heldlegally accountable for involvement in arms deals whose illegality is masked bydeception.

Confusion over Responsibilities

Some observers state that the lines of authority are unclearamong the multiple agencies responsible for monitoring arms transactions. Forexample, each of the ministries represented on the Trade Ministry's commissionfor arms trade controls has staff designated to review applications, which isalso the responsibility of the secretary to the commission. Approvedapplications are monitored by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Trade Ministry, andInterior Ministry, as well as customs officials, border police, and thenational intelligence services. While each of these bodies has a role to play,effective arms trade controls require coordinated efforts. Coordination in someareas reportedly has been improved (see Steps Toward Reform, below), but thereremains significant room for improvement. Absent clear responsibilities andeffective coordination, lower-ranking officials responsible for implementingvarious aspects of Bulgaria's arms trade controls may find it easy to overlooktheir responsibilities, even if top officials are genuinely committed toimproving those controls.


Widespread corruption presents a serious problem for armstrade controls in Bulgaria. Corrupt practices permeate many governmentactivities, but they have been especially apparent with regard to bordercontrols. In a 1998 opinion poll, for example, 74 percent of respondents saidthat customs officers accept bribes.[180]Oneborder official, responsible for a key checkpoint on the Black Sea coast throughwhich weapons shipments pass, was reportedly arrested in early 1999 forcorruption.[181]Several observers have attributed corruption to low living standards, includingamong government officials, noting that senior officials earn the equivalent ofU.S.$310 per month.[182]Anofficial Bulgarian government statement, however, identifies the problem asrooted in institutional weaknesses-including poorly defined administrativestandards and overlapping institutional responsibilities-as well as in a poorlegal system.[183]


Another key constraint on the effective implementation ofarms trade controls is that access to information about arms deals is extremelylimited, even within the government. The Trade Ministry arms trade licensingcommission reports periodically on its activities to the InterministerialCouncil, but parliament is not made aware of pending arms export permits, noris it informed of approved arms deals. Members of parliament can request suchinformation on an informal, ad hoc basis only.[184]

More broadly, arms trade information is rarely made public.Bulgaria's arms trade is subject to secrecy laws, inherited from the communistera, that treat such information as a state secret. They permit each armstrading company to determine whether information about a particular arms dealcan be made public. In almost all cases, particularly those involvingcommercial deals, the arms trading company elects to have the informationtreated as confidential. Arms deals are rarely announced, even after a deal iscompleted. A government official claimed that the presence of a free press inBulgaria helps guarantee transparency with regard to arms deals,[185]but this statement was contradicted by journalists and foreign diplomats, whosaid that the media is not able to investigate arms deals because of arms tradesecrecy laws and libel considerations, and because investigative journalistsare subject to intimidation.[186]Anofficial stated that the government is considering developing new laws thatwould not treat commercial arms transactions, including ones arranged byprivate companies, as state secrets.[187]


Steps Toward Reform

The government that took power in 1997 has undertaken anumber of steps that may help improve the country's arms trade controls. Someof these steps seek to address problems identified above. For example, theremoval of executives and managers that may have been associated with past armsdealing practices offers the opportunity for improved oversight of the armsindustry, although the appointment of regulatory officials to the boards ofarms trading companies constitutes a serious conflict of interest.

In addition, Bulgaria launched an ambitious anti-crimecampaign that focused on organized crime and government corruption, as well asa judicial reform effort.[188]Tothe extent that they are successful, such efforts may serve to reduce armssmuggling, enhance regulatory control over the arms trade, and help ensureaccountability for violations of arms trade controls. In December 1998, theprime minister announced that his anti-crime initiative had sharply reduced thepower of the country's organized criminal networks.[189]

As noted above, the government has undertaken to tighten itsarms trade regulations. It also has worked to improve its regulatory capacity.It has been especially active in the area of customs controls, engaging inseveral joint border-control programs with its neighbors and entering intocustoms cooperation agreements with the United Kingdom, France, and the UnitedStates.[190]

In early 1999 Bulgaria accepted assistance from the UnitedStates aimed directly at improving arms trade controls, including customsenforcement training and software designed to help different ministriesmaintain and share arms licensing information. Previously the United States hadprovided a customs advisor who worked with Bulgarian officials over five monthsin 1998 in the area of nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Thatlong-term cooperation and training program, U.S. officials maintain,strengthened regulatory practices more broadly.[191]

Bulgaria also has benefited from the arms trade informationit obtains through contacts with other countries. Bulgaria has activeintelligence cooperation agreements with Russian and the United States.[192]Its also engages in regular information-sharing regarding arms deals throughthe Wassenaar Arrangement.[193]

Bulgaria has also worked to improve cooperation betweengovernment bodies. Planned changes in the country's customs administrationreportedly will facilitate coordination between different customs bureaus,[194][195]and an official claimed in early 1999 that-by working together moreeffectively-the border police, the national security service, and the customsservice had dramatically reduced the number of illegal arms transfers out ofBulgaria.[195]

A few examples suggest that Bulgaria's efforts to improveits regulatory practices have met with some success. In one case, thegovernment halted a suspicious arms transaction in October 1998 before it wascompleted. The deal, which involved a shipment of surface-to-air missiles(SAMs) which they presumed was destined for an embargoed party in Africa, wasfirst described in the local press after an official reported it at a pressconference.[196]Several officials told Human Rights Watch that the deal was brokered by aU.S.-Ukrainian company registered in the United States, Miltex, which presentedan end-user certificate showing Zambia as the final destination.[197]An investigation showed that Zambia's Ministry of Defense was not aware of thedocument, so authorities inferred that the SAMs might be diverted and thereforestopped the transaction before it could be completed.[198]Miltex's owner categorically denied his company's involvement in the deal,denied ever providing a false end-user certificate in other deals, and assertedthat Miltex's deals were made on the basis of valid arms licenses.[199]

In a second case, authorities said they postponedconsideration of an arms export application for a sale to an unidentifiedcountry in Africa in early 1999 after a review of the documents revealed thattwo official stamps did not correspond to each other.[200]Neither case led to a Bulgarian criminal investigation or prosecution inconnection with the submission of false documents.[201]A final example offered by authorities was a shipment of military equipment forU.S. troops in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that was held up inmid-1998 because documents were not in order.[202]


In 1997 the government presented plans to restructure itsdefense-related firms, mostly through the privatization of arms productioncompanies. A moratorium on the privatization of such firms had been in placesince 1993 but was lifted by parliament in 1996. The new government hoped thatthe injection of private investment would bring in revenue and help modernizethe arms industry. The declared motive behind the privatization initiative wasto help the arms industry recover from its heavy debt and permit it to becomemore competitive in the export market. Importantly, the government also viewedprivatization as an element in its strategy for joining NATO.[203]

Under the government plan, some twenty-one armsmanufacturing companies are scheduled to be privatized by January 2000 in aprocess overseen by the privatization agency.[204]Thegovernment has stated it plans to retain controlling interest (34 percentownership) in five of the biggest arms producers, including Arsenal.[205]As part of the restructuring of the defense ministry, twelve military repairplants also will be privatized.[206]Sale of the major arms trading companies is not envisioned in the government'sprivatization plan.[207]

Privatization of the arms industry has proceeded slowly.[208]The process has been hampered by several constraints, including-mostprominently-the need to modify the ownership structure of the armsmanufacturing companies.[209]Inaddition, the government must negotiate payment for Russian arms productionlicenses, adopt legislation enabling foreign companies to purchase armscompanies, and address the problems posed by current secrecy laws, which treatcommercial arms trade information as a state secret.[210]It seems unlikely that the January 2000 deadline will be met, and expectationshave been scaled back. The government, however, has affirmed its intention toprivatize the industry as part of its overall economic reform plan.[211]

Contrary to claims by Bulgaria's ambassador to the UnitedStates,[212]privatization by itself is unlikely to improve implementation of arms tradecontrols. In fact, there are reasons to be concerned that privatization couldweaken controls. Direct government oversight presumably would weaken, as thegovernment would no longer name industry executives or board members forprivately held firms. In addition, privatization may make it more difficult forregulatory authorities to adequately investigate companies that request armstrading licenses and to monitor their activities once licenses are issued.

Some observers also fear that companies linked to organizedcriminal networks, as well as past and current arms industry managers linked toarms trade abuses, could take ownership of arms manufacturing companies.[213]It is not known what steps, if any, the government has in mind to prevent sucha possibility.

The Prospect of Joining NATO

Bulgaria's arms industry has also been affected by amilitary modernization program undertaken in the hope of improving itsprospects of being invited to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization(NATO). Bulgaria's defense minister declared in March 1999 that: "We generallythink the requirements [to join NATO] will be met by 2001 or 2002."[214]To meet that goal, Bulgaria is making changes to rationalize its forcestructure, obtain modern Western military equipment, and adapt its arsenal toconform to NATO standards.[215]Bulgarian defense officials anticipate that these changes will generate a stockof Warsaw Pact-standard weapons that the country's armed forces no longerrequire.[216]

For example, Bulgaria announced in 1997 that it was planningto reduce the size of the armed forces by one-third.[217]This force reduction is likely to generate increased stocks of surplusweaponry. In addition, the planned procurement of Western military equipmentwill relegate some of Bulgaria's outdated Soviet-era equipment to the surpluspile. The switch to NATO-standard calibers in its production lines, a processthat is already underway, also can be expected to add to the stock of surplusweapons.

The surplus weapons created by these changes must bedestroyed or stored at considerable expense, converted to civilian use, ordisposed of through export. Beyond being the cheapest alternative, finding amarket for such weapons offers Bulgaria the potential to recoup funds withwhich to finance its new arms purchases from the West. As noted above, Bulgariahas a long record of exporting surplus weapons to war-torn countries, and thispractice has continued under the UDF government. Such sales demonstrate thepotential for NATO-inspired military modernization to generate a dangerous"cascade" effect, providing a source of weapons to abusive military forces.[218]


Given Bulgaria's longstanding reputation as a ready sourceof weapons for all, no questions asked, it is not surprising that many of thearms deals linked to Bulgaria are particularly troubling from a human rightsperspective. Bulgaria has played a role in arms sales to forces known to commitgross violations of human rights or international humanitarian law, includingsome of the world's most egregious offenders. For example, Bulgaria was asource of weapons shipments to the forces that committed genocide in Rwanda in1994 (see below). Such arms transfers not only permit known human rightsabusers to continue their brutal behavior, causing further bloodshed andcivilian casualties, but they also provide the recipients with a sense ofinvincibility and impunity for their actions. In some cases, Bulgaria has beena weapons source for both sides in a violent conflict.

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

Tracing the origin of weapons flows to abusive armed forcesis no easy task. With few exceptions, the international arms trade is a highlysecretive business. Governments are asked to report imports and exports ofcertain categories of heavy military equipment to the United Nations on ayearly basis, but voluntary declarations-when they are submitted-are oftenincomplete. No such formal reporting mechanism exists for international armsdeals involving small arms and light weapons. In addition, the involvement ofintermediaries-including arms brokers and transport companies-together with theprevalence of deceptive practices such as the use of false documentation, therouting of shipments through third countries, and the diversion of weapons fromauthorized end-users to unauthorized ones, make it difficult to document theultimate destination of individual arms deals.

In this context, confirming Bulgaria's involvement inquestionable arms deals is particularly challenging. The country's secrecy lawsare strict and government officials are reluctant to discussspecific allegations.The case studies below therefore bring together information from both primaryand secondary sources. In particular, they draw on Human Rights Watch fieldinvestigations, official investigations, eyewitness accounts, documentaryevidence, research by other nongovernmental organizations, and media reports.Taken together, they illustrate the nature of Bulgaria's arms dealing withhuman rights abusers.


Bulgaria has been an important source of weapons for bothsides in Angola's long-running civil war. Its arms deliveries have fueled a warmarked by gross and persistent human rights abuses and violations ofinternational humanitarian law. In addition, Bulgaria's involvement in armsshipments since 1993 to the Angolan rebels, União Nacional para a IndependênciaTotal de Angola (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, UNITA),have breached a U.N. embargo. The acquisition of arms from Bulgaria andelsewhere by both sides also has violated the terms of a May 1991 Bicesseagreements, which collapsed in October 1992. After a subsequent cease-fireprotocol was reached in November 1994, the U.N. Security Council called on bothsides to cease importing weapons and war material.[219]

Bulgaria's post-cold war arms trade with Angola's warringparties 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 (seeSurplus Weapons, above). Bulgaria was also reportedly the point of origin for a1994 shipment of missiles for the Angolan government that was held up in Cyprusuntil a dispute over freight charges could be resolved.[220]In 1994 Human Rights Watch witnessed Bulgarian cargo planes being used to ferryweapons to the Angolangovernment;[221]and Bulgaria is also believed to have been involved in weapons flows to UNITAfrom 1992 to 1994.[222]

Bulgaria has continued to be linked to arms flows to Angola.Bulgaria apparently renewed its arms trade ties with the Angolan government asfighting flared again in 1996. Human Rights Watch's reports that year thatBulgaria appeared to be involved in renewed arms flows to the Angolangovernment were later confirmed.[223]InFebruary 1996 Angola's acting defense minister visited Sofia-the first visit byan African defense minister in five years-and signed a bilateral militaryagreement that restored "military-economic relations."[224]As a result, Angola purchased light weapons and ammunition from Bulgaria, whichwere delivered aboard Air Sofia planes in a series of flights in April 1996from Burgas and Sofia to Catumbela in Angola.[225]Despite concerns that violations of the cease-fire and escalation of violencecould plunge Angola back into full-scale hostilities, Human Rights Watch isaware that multiple arms flights were scheduled from Burgas to Luanda in 1998.[226](The war was reignited in January 1999.)

Several reports have linked Bulgaria to illicit armssupplies to UNITA. For example, theWashingtonPostreported that Zaire facilitated large-scale weapons supplies fromBulgaria to UNITA forces in 1996, with more than 450 tons of Bulgarian weaponssmuggled to UNITA in October and November of that year through N'Djili airportin Kinshasa.[227]Earlier that year N'Djili airport was the site of the crash of a plane believedto carry military equipment from Bulgaria for delivery to UNITA.[228]

Following the ouster of President Mobutu Sese Seko in May1997, UNITA was no longer able to rely on Zaire, which became the DemocraticRepublic of Congo (DRC), to facilitate its arms purchases. It increasingly hasrelied on alternative weapons routes but it has continued to purchase arms fromBulgaria.[229]For example, a South African arms researcher said that in March 1997 he sawsmall arms and ammunition of Bulgarian origin being loaded at a Mozambicanairfield in Nampula, near the northern port of Nacala, onto light aircraftsimilar to ones seen flying into UNITA-held areas in Angola.[230]The same researcher stated that he believed private individuals and companies,mostly operating from South Africa, arranged the weapons shipments throughMozambique.[231]The Mozambican government has denied charges that weapons for UNITA have beentransshipped through its territory.[232]

The Angolan government has alleged that Bulgarian weaponshave been delivered to UNITA via Uganda. Specifically, Angola has asserted thatUgandan military airfields have received arms shipments from Bulgaria fordelivery to UNITA.[233]This allegation was made after a major political realignment in mid-1998, whenAngola began supporting the government of Laurent Kabila of the DRC againstUgandan-backed rebels. Uganda has denied that it has any links to UNITA.[234]

When theNew YorkTimespublished an article in August 1998 naming Bulgaria as a source ofweapons shipments to UNITA and other rebel forces,[235]officials at the Bulgarian embassy in Luanda, Angola, reportedly acknowledgedthat UNITA might have acquired Bulgarian weapons.[236]A few days later, the embassy released a statement categorically denying thatBulgaria had supplied arms to UNITA.[237]Itstated that the country "is not linked to arms smuggling dozens [sic] ofkilometers from Bulgaria's borders," adding that "Bulgaria can not takeresponsibility for the actions of others."[238]Bulgaria's trade minister also denied the charges: "We follow strictly allrestrictions imposed by the U.N. Security Council, including the arms embargoon...Angola [sic]...."[239]

Subsequent revelations cast doubt on the truth of suchblanket denials. In 1999 Bulgaria was again accused of supplying militaryequipment to UNITA when a captured Angolan rebel officer explained that hisgroup had been able to conduct a rearmament drive beginning in 1996-despitebeing subject to a U.N. embargo imposed in 1993-in part because it could obtainBulgarian weapons via an indirect route. Describing weapons cargoes flown intoUNITA-held territory, he stated: "From what I managed to read, the boxes ofmunitions and arms indicated that they were from Bulgaria."[240]In addition, a South African newspaper cited claims in January 1999 that UNITAhad traded directly with Bulgarian companies to purchase weapons in exchangefor diamonds, and named Arsenal in connection with arms flows to rebel groups.[241]Arsenal's director denied that his company had supplied arms to UNITA rebels inAngola.[242]Human Rights Watch is also aware that a small UNITA delegation traveled toBulgaria in 1998 and again in January 1999, purportedly for "sightseeing"purposes,[243]but in all probability to arrange arms deals. As noted, a shipment ofsurface-to-air missiles was halted by Bulgarian authorities in October 1998 onthe suspicion that the weapons, purportedly destined for Zambia, might bediverted to a force under international embargo.[244]Itis possible that the weapons were intended for UNITA.[245]


Bulgaria also played a role in arming Burundian armed forces,which were subject to a regional arms embargo from August 1996 until January1999.[246]According to a U.N. official and a Belgium-based pilot interviewed by HumanRights Watch in 1996, weapons flights out of Burgas, flown by Belgium-basedpilots, were then supplying the Burundian government as well as Hutu rebels viaSouth Africa, Angola, and what was then Zaire.[247]

In a dramatic case in February 1998, a plane flying fromBurgas to Bujumbura, Burundi, was grounded in Lagos, Nigeria, after weaponswere discovered on board. The plane, a Boeing 707 operated by Trans Arabian AirTransport, left Burgas airport on or about February 18, 1998, and made astopover 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 theBurundian president, military chief of cabinet Alfred Nkurunziza, was aboardthe plane. He was detained by Nigerian authorities and held for one week.Nkurunziza was later promoted by President Buyoya to the post of defenseminister.[248]

As noted, Burundian Hutu rebels also have received weaponsshipments from Bulgaria. Such shipments have been facilitated by a tacticalalliance these rebels have maintained with rebel forces from Rwanda (theperpetrators of the 1994 genocide in that country), allowing them to swapweapons, including those obtained from Bulgaria, depending on who can bereached at any given time by arm traffickers.[249]


Repeated reports suggest that Bulgaria has breached a U.N.arms embargo on Rwandan forces responsible for the 1994 genocide. Human RightsWatch has previously reported a specific allegation, made by multiple sources,that Bulgaria was a transshipment point for an illegal arms shipment in July1995.[250]Specifically, airport personnel in Nairobi and an arms trader who said he wasinvolved in the deal indicated that an unspecified weapons cargo was loadedonto a plane in Sofia on or about July 7, 1995, and shipped to Kenya, fromwhere it was transported to Goma for onward shipment to Rwandan rebel forces ineastern Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo or DRC).[251]

This flight may have been part of a larger pattern of armsshipments from Bulgaria to Rwandan Hutu forces. Amnesty International andBritain's Carlton Television reported in June 1995 that numerous flightscarrying arms for Rwandan Hutu forces were flown from Bulgaria to Goma, Zaire,in early 1995.[252]They specified that the weapons flights originated in Plovdiv and Burgas inBulgaria, and that one of the flights was received in Zaire by the ousted primeminister of Rwanda.[253]TheBulgarian government flatly denied the charges. The cabinet released astatement declaring that "Bulgaria has not violated its commitments and has notsupplied arms and ammunition either to the [Rwandan] government or to therebels in Rwanda."[254]

The role of Kintex in supplying weapons to Rwanda, incontravention of a U.N. arms embargo, became the subject of an investigation bythe United Nations International Commission of Inquiry (Rwanda), known asUNICOI. It launched its investigation after a British television broadcastshowed representatives of Kintex negotiating with a bogus British firm toarrange a weapons sale to Rwanda.[255]Then Kintex director Anton Saldjiiski stated that "neither Kintex nor any otherBulgarian company has ever supplied arms to Rwanda,"[256]and the government of Bulgaria responded to the charge by stating that its owninvestigation "proved that the allegations [were] unfounded."[257]It later clarified that the government had not authorized the deal recorded byCarlton Television and it was never completed. The official Bulgarian responseto UNICOI characterized the videotaped discussions with Kintex officials as "apreliminary contact that did not result in further action," leaving aside thequestion of whether and how Kintex may have intended to proceed with the salehad the "client" been genuine.[258]

UNICOI also investigated reports of weapons flights fromBulgaria to eastern Zaire, possibly destined for Rwandan Hutu forces basedthere, in June 1996. It asked Egypt to furnish information about twoUkrainian-registered planes, carrying thirty tons of arms each, that werealleged to have flown from Bulgaria to Kinshasa, with a stopover in Egypt. Oneof the planes crashed in Kinshasa on the night of June 5-6, 1996, reportedlyafter unloading its weapons cargo at the airport. The government of Egyptreplied that "the incident referred to did not take place," and that noregistered flights from Bulgaria carrying weapons or ammunition en route toZaire landed in Egypt during the period in question.[259]

Bulgaria has continued to be associated with illicit armsshipments to the forces responsible for Rwanda's genocide. In September 1998UNICOI raised concerns about allegations that two private Bulgarian airlineswere involved in weapons deliveries to those forces.[260]As of March 1999, Bulgaria had not replied to the U.N. about these charges.[261]An official maintained that the matter was still under investigation, andindicated that a reply most likely would be sent to the U.N. secretary-general.[262]In addition, there has been speculation that an attempted shipment ofsurface-to-air missiles halted by Bulgarian authorities in October 1998 mayhave been bound for Rwanda.[263]

Sierra Leone

Bulgaria was the source of an arms shipment to Sierra Leonein February 1998. The arms shipment was arranged by a London-based privatemilitary corporation, Sandline International, on behalf of the exiled presidentof Sierra Leone, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. It arrived at Lungi airport near the SierraLeonean capital of Freetown on February 23, 1998. The cargo, delivered by SkyAir Cargo Services, a British airline, included approximately thirty-five tonsof assault rifles, ammunition, and other military equipment. This arms deliveryapparently violated a comprehensive U.N. arms embargo, which was wordedvaguely, as well as a United Kingdom law barring British citizens fromsupplying weapons to Sierra Leone.[264]

The arms shipment was received by the Nigerian-ledpeacekeeping force fighting to restore President Kabbah to power, the EconomicCommunity of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), but there is somedispute as to whether the weapons might have been used by the Kamajors, acivilian militia that has fought alongside ECOMOG in support of PresidentKabbah.[265]An independent British inquiry found that the ECOMOG commander distributed someof the weapons-250 rifles, ten machine guns, and 100,000 rounds ofammunition-to the Kamajors and ordered the rest placed in storage.[266]A Sandline representative in Freetown contradicted this claim, stating in May1998 that all the weapons remained stored under orders of President Kabbah.[267]With the continuation of hostilities in Sierra Leone, it was unclear whetherthe stored arms were later released for use by either ECOMOG or the Kamajors.[268]

The possibility that Bulgarian weapons may have beendistributed to the Kamajors, either at the time the shipment arrived orsubsequently, raises serious concerns. The Kamajors have been responsible forindiscriminate killings and torture since February 1998.[269]In addition, the U.N. has accused ECOMOG forces of serious abuses, includingsummary executions of suspected rebels.[270]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 hasbeen fairly well established. The head of Sandline acknowledged that hiscompany procured the weapons, mostly AK-47 assault rifles, in Bulgaria.[271]The owner of Sky Air, the airline contracted by Sandline, admitted that hiscompany delivered the weapons.[272]Inaddition, the BritishSunday Timesobtained documents that confirm details about the arms flight.[273]These documents reportedly show that on February 22, 1998, a Sky Air plane wasloaded with weapons at Burgas airport.[274]Theplane then departed for Kano, Nigeria, where it made a stopover beforedelivering its cargo to Sierra Leone.[275]Bulgarian customs documents obtained by theSundayTimesallegedly name Arsenal as the company that supplied the arms.[276]

Contradicting such sources, Bulgarian Prime Minister IvanKostov denied his country's involvement in the affair: "Bulgaria has notexported military supplies to Sierra Leone; we find it implausible that a largeshipment of arms can be loaded and exported behind the back of the customsauthorities." He added that the arms export licensing commission at the TradeMinistry had not received any applications for weapons exports to either SierraLeone or Nigeria, and that a review of the commission's records for theprevious two years found that no Bulgarian arms firm had been involved inbusiness deals with Sandline International.[277]Hequalified his denial by asserting that Bulgaria "bears no responsibility" ifBulgarian-made weapons exported to another African country turned up in SierraLeone.[278]

Bulgarian officials questioned about the incident in early1999 maintained that they had no information suggesting Bulgarian involvementand said that they had not been contacted by British authorities investigatingthe affair.[279]British inquiries have focused on Sandline's allegation that the Britishgovernment approved the arms deal rather than the origin of the weapons.[280]


The Bulgarian defense ministry arranged in 1998 to sell coldwar-era T-55 tanks to Uganda.[281]Agovernment spokesperson confirmed in December 1998 that Bulgaria's exportlicensing body had authorized the sale of "rather old types of tanks" toUganda, as well as to Ethiopia, but declined to discuss details of the deal,citing commercial and state secrecy laws.[282]Anestimated ninety tanks worth U.S.$35 million were delivered to the Tanzaniancoast in late 1998 aboard a Bulgarian ship, the MV Lady Juliet, then forwardedby rail to Uganda.[283]Aprivate Israeli arms dealer was reported to have brokered that deal.[284]The origin of those tanks has not been confirmed, but some sources indicatethat Bulgaria was the source.[285]Bulgaria was also reported to have sold tanks to Uganda in 1997.[286]

The tank sales, while legal, are inconsistent withBulgaria's repeated pledges to exercise restraint in its arms exports, ashighlighted in a December 1998New YorkTimesarticle.[287]Thetanks may serve to exacerbate Uganda's ongoing armed conflicts with severalrebel groups, during which all the parties have committed serious human rightsviolations. Ugandan soldiers, for example, have been responsible forextrajudicial executions, rape, torture, and arbitrary arrests.[288]

Some sources, however, question whether Uganda bought thetanks for use within its own territory. Several reports have suggested thattanks purchased by Uganda in 1998 may have been intended for use in southernSudan, where Uganda has assisted Sudanese rebels.[289]Other reports suggest that the tanks may be destined for use in the DemocraticRepublic of Congo (DRC), where Ugandan forces support the rebel Congolese Rallyfor Democracy (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie, RCD).[290]Responding to such concerns, President Laurent Kabila of the DRC unsuccessfullyurged Tanzania to block the transshipment of tanks through its territory.[291]Both the Sudanese rebels and the forces backing the RCD-which include troopsfrom the Ugandan army-have committed gross violations of internationalhumanitarian law.[292]Uganda has rejected claims that it had diverted or planned to divert the tanks.[293]

In Bulgaria, Defense Minister Georgi Ananiev reacted tocriticism of the deal by stating that no embargo is in place against thecountries to which it sold the tanks, and that the sales were consistent withthe country's international commitments.[294]During a visit to the United States, he stated: "Of course we would be verymuch worried if we learned that weapons [sold to Uganda] were diverted" inviolation of end-use guarantees.[295]Military officials interviewed by Human Rights Watch in February 1999 statedthat they were unaware that Uganda had provided weapons to rebel forces, andasserted that they would no longer export to Uganda out of concern thatBulgarian weapons might be transferred to unauthorized parties.[296]


This report was written by Lisa Misol, Sophie SilberbergFellow with the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch, and was edited by JoostHiltermann, the executive director of the Arms Division, and Ernst JanHogendoorn, research associate with the Arms Division, as well as by MichaelMcClintock, the deputy program director of Human Rights Watch, and WilderTayler, general counsel to Human Rights Watch. Several other persons at HumanRights Watch with expertise on Bulgaria or countries named in the reportreviewed and commented on drafts of the report.

The report is based on research conducted by Ms. Misol andMr. Hogendoorn, as well as by Brian Braiker, intern at the Arms Division ofHuman Rights Watch. Mr. Hogendoorn traveled to Bulgaria in February 1999 toconduct interviews with Bulgarian officials, foreign diplomats, journalists,and others. Alex Vines, research associate with the Arms Division and AfricaDivision of Human Rights Watch,provided extensive research assistance, andSharda Sekaran, associate with the Arms Division, contributed invaluableadministrative and research support. Production assistance was provided by Ms.Sekaran, Patrick Minges, publications director, and Fitzroy Hepkins, mailmanager.

In addition, several people outside Human Rights Watchassisted in the research for this report, as did several organizations thatmade information available to the author. The Arms Division of Human RightsWatch recognizes with special gratitude the assistance of Dr. Daniel N. Nelson,Professor of International Studies, Old Dominion University and SeniorAssociate, Global Concepts, Inc., Alexandria, VA, and Nikolai Chavdarov,correspondent with theSega DailyinSofia, Bulgaria, both of whom made helpful suggestions for Mr. Hogendoorn's researchinvestigation in Bulgaria.

Human Rights Watch also acknowledges with appreciation thesupport of the Compton Foundation, NOVIB, the Rockefeller Foundation, theWinston Foundation for World Peace, an anonymous member of the Rockefellerfamily, and members of the Arms Division's international advisory committee.Human Rights Watch takes sole responsibility for the content of the report.

Human Rights Watch: Mission Statement

Human Rights Watch is dedicated to protecting the humanrights of people around the world.

We stand with victims and activists to bring offenders tojustice, to prevent discrimination, to uphold political freedom and to protectpeople from inhumane conduct in wartime.

We investigate and expose human rights violations and holdabusers accountable.

We challenge governments and those holding power to endabusive practices and respect international human rights law.

We enlist the public and the international community tosupport the cause of human rights for all.

The staff includesKenneth Roth, executivedirector; Michele Alexander, development director; Reed Brody, advocacydirector; Carroll Bogert, communications director; Cynthia Brown, programdirector; Barbara Guglielmo, finance and administration director; Jeri Laber,special advisor; Lotte Leicht, Brussels office director; Patrick Minges,publications director; Susan Osnos, associate director; Jemera Rone, counsel;Wilder Tayler, general counsel; and Joanna Weschler, United Nationsrepresentative. Jonathan Fanton is the chair of the board. Robert L. Bernsteinis the founding chair.

Its Arms Divisionwas established in 1992 tomonitor and prevent arms transfers to governments or organizations that commitgross violations of internationally recognized human rights and the rules ofwar and promote freedom of information regarding arms transfers worldwide.Joost R. Hiltermann is the executive director; Stephen D. Goose is the programdirector; Loretta Bondì is the advocacy coordinator; Mary Wareham is the senioradvocate; Ernst Jan Hogendoorn and Alex Vines are research associates; LisaMisol is the Sophie Silberberg Fellow; Sharda Sekaran and Jasmine Juteau areassociates; and William M. Arkin, Kathleen Bleakley, and Monica Schurtman areconsultants. Torsten N. Wiesel is the chair of the advisory committee, andNicole Ball and Vincent McGee are the vice-chairs.

Web Site Address:

Listserv address: Tosubscribe to the list, send an e-mail message to with"subscribe hrw-news" in the body of the message (leave the subject line blank).

[1]Antoaneta Dimitrova, "The Plight of the Bulgarian Arms Industry,"RFE/RL Research Report, vol. 2, no. 7(February 12, 1993), p. 50.

[2]Elisaveta Konstantinova, "End of Cold War Shatters Bulgaria's Arms Industry,"Reuters European Business Report, November 2, 1992.

[3]In 1993, when export levels were much reduced as compared to the cold warperiod, an estimated 70 to 80 percent of arms industry production was intendedfor export. Kjell Engelbrekt, "Bulgaria and the Arms Trade,"RFE/RL Research Report, vol. 2, no. 7(February 12, 1993).

[4]Estimates of Bulgaria's peak arms exports vary widely, with conservativefigures hovering around U.S.$600 million per year and others going as high asseveral billion dollars per year. A figure used by international journalists isU.S.$1 billion. See, for example, Engelbrekt, "Bulgaria and the Arms Trade;"Douglas L. Clarke, "Eastern Europe's Troubled Arms Industries: Part II,"RFE/RL Research Report, vol. 3, no. 21(May 27, 1994); and Konstantinova, "End of Cold War."

[5]U.S. Report Describes Bulgarian Arms Sales," Associated Press, August 10,1984.

[6]Human Rights Watch interview with Nicola Tcholakov, Deputy Chief of Mission,Bulgarian Embassy to the United States, Washington, D.C., December 4, 1998.

[7]A Western expert quoted in theNew YorkTimesexpressed scepticism, stating: "I would be surprised if they didn'tknow where the arms really went....They're not asking a whole lot of questions.These people are concerned about the bottom line, and in hard currency." ChuckSudetic, "Bulgarians to Share Data on Arms Sent to Terrorists,"New York Times, August 2, 1990.

[8]Bulgarian Communists Backed Terrorism-Interior Ministry," Reuters, June 10,1992.

[9]Ibid. In addition, communist Bulgaria is believed to have supplied governmentsin Cuba, Ethiopia, Iran, Nicaragua, South Africa, and Yemen, as well as rebelgroups in Algeria, Angola, Chad, El Salvador, and Mozambique, as well as thePalestine Liberation Organization (PLO), among others. Several reports havehighlighted Bulgaria's cold war weapons sales to different governments andrebel forces. See, for example, Engelbrekt, "Bulgaria and the Arms Trade;"Ernest Beck, "Bulgaria Aims to Revamp Its International Image in the LegitimateGlobal Arms Market,"Wall Street Journal,July 24, 1995; Raymond Bonner, "Arms for the Revolution,"New York Times, February 10, 1994; Abdel Fatau Musah and RobertCastle, "Eastern Europe's Arsenal on the Loose: Managing Light Weapons Flows toConflict Zones," BASIC Paper Number 26 (May 1998), available at; and Sudetic, "Bulgarians to Share Data."

[10]See Engelbrekt, "Bulgaria and the Arms Trade;" and Alexander Mladenov and PaulBeaver, "Industry Moves from Crisis to Confidence,"Jane's Defence Contracts, June 1994.

[11]See Beck, "Bulgaria Aims to Revamp;" and Veselin Toshkov, "Strapped BulgariansLook to Arms Again for Economic Boost," Associated Press, December 5, 1994.

[12]Mladenov and Beaver, "Industry Moves from Crisis to Confidence."

[13]See Konstantinova, "End of Cold War;" "Kintex Slims Down,"Mednews - Middle East Defense News, vol. 5, no. 10 (February 17,1992); Engelbrekt, "Bulgaria and the Arms Trade;" Douglas L. Clarke, "EasternEurope's Troubled Arms Industries: Part I,"RFE/RLResearch Report, vol. 3, no. 14 (April 8, 1994); and Douglas L. Clarke,"Eastern Europe's Troubled Arms Industries: Part II."

[14]Portuguese arms trader José Saldanha, quoted in Peter Fuhrman, "Trading inDeath,"Forbes,May 10, 1993, andAndrew W. Hull and David R. Markove, "Trends in the Arms Market: Part Two,"Jane's Intelligence Review, May 1, 1997.

[15]A government official acknowledged in a press conference that Kintex hadsupplied false end-user certificates in more than one instance and that "it wasthe duty of the [government arms trade] commission to check these certificatesbut they did not do so." Vladimir Zhelyazkov, "Bulgaria Admits Arms Sales toIraq," United Press International, September 8, 1992. See also, John Pomfret,"E. Europe's ‘Merchants of Death' Elude U.S. Sting,"Washington Post, April 24, 1993; and Kjell Engelbrekt, "BulgariaAdmits Arms Shipments to Iraq," RFE/RL Newsline, September 8, 1992, availablevia the Internet at:

[16]The deals were arranged using broker-provided fake documents that namedBolivia, the Philippines, and Mali as the purchasers. Fuhrman, "Trading inDeath."

[17]Zhelyazkov, "Bulgaria Admits." See also, Fuhrman, "Trading in Death."

[18]Fuhrman, "Trading in Death."


[20]Ibid. The official asserted in a subsequent interview that his company strictlyabided by international regulations on the arms trade. BTA News Agency, April26, 1993, in Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), East Europe, May 4,1993; and Kjell Engelbrekt, "Forbes on Bulgarian Arms Trade," RFE/RL Newsline,April 26, 1993.

[21]According to one source, he resigned amidst allegations that he permittedillicit arms peddling. Engelbrekt, "Bulgaria and the Arms Trade," pp. 45-46. Atthe time, Prime Minister Dimitrov attributed the resignation of his defenseminister to a "clash of personalities." Zhelyazkov, "Bulgaria Admits." ABulgarian official interviewed in 1998 concurred that the resignation was dueto political disagreements with the prime minister, not allegations about armsdeals. Human Rights Watch interview with an official at the Bulgarian Embassyto the United States, Washington, D.C., November 11, 1998.

[22]Human Rights Watch interview with Nicola Tcholakov, Deputy Chief of Mission,Bulgarian Embassy to the United States, Washington, D.C., December 4, 1998.

[23]Engelbrekt, "Bulgaria and the Arms Trade;" and Dimitrova, "The Plight of theBulgarian Arms Industry," pp. 48-53.

[24]The arms scandal was the visible cause, but according to at least one analysis,the underlying reason for the ouster was the unpopularity of the Dimitrovgovernment's austerity program. Ian Traynor, "Eastern Europe: Hard Times MeanGood Times for the Old Guard in Eastern Europe,"Guardian(London), November 19, 1992.

[25]Tim Judah, "Bulgaria Seeks New Cabinet,"Times(London), October 30, 1992; "Dimitrov Government Falls,"Facts on File World News Digest, November 12, 1992; and EvgeniaManolova, "Arms Scandal in Bulgaria,"WarsawVoice, November 18, 1992.

[26]Peter Fuhrman, "The Heart of the Illegal Trade,"Forbes, May 10, 1993

[27]Human Rights Watch interview with Nicola Tcholakov, Deputy Chief of Mission,Bulgarian Embassy to the United States, Washington, D.C., December 4, 1998.

[28]‘Bulgaria Hosts Its First Arms Exhibition," Reuter European Business Report,November 8, 1994.

[29]Human Rights Watch interviews with Dimitar Abadjiev, Member of Parliament(UDF); a Bulgarian journalist; and a foreign diplomat, Sofia, February 1999.One official stated that the 1990 BSP government was closely aligned with thearms industry and most likely was involved in questionable arms tradingpractices. Human Rights Watch interview with Nicola Tcholakov, Deputy Chief ofMission, Bulgarian Embassy to the United States, Washington, D.C., December 4,1998.

[30]Beck, "Bulgaria Aims to Revamp,"WallStreet Journal, July 24, 1995.

[31]In 1995 Bulgaria exported to Peru twenty-one Igla surface-to-air missiles(SAMs) and two rocket launchers for the country's armed forces. The followingyear Bulgaria sold more than 200 additional portable Igla SAMs to Peru. In bothcases, Peru listed its purchases as "replacements." United Nations, "UnitedNations Register of Conventional Arms" (New York: United Nations, 1996),A/51/300, and United Nations, "United Nations Register of Conventional Arms"(New York: United Nations, 1997), A/52/312. In addition, Air Sofia, a privateBulgarian airline, was apparently involved in transporting weapons to Ecuadorshortly after armed hostilities broke out between the two countries in March1995 (see Transport Companies and Transshipment, below).

[32]The caches of weapons included types of anti-tank mines and assault riflesmanufactured in Bulgaria and a few other countries. Human Rights Watch, "GlobalTrade, Local Impact: Arms Transfers to All Sides in the Civil War in Sudan,"A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol.10, no. 4, August 1998, pp. 17-19.

[33]The arms deal, reportedly worth $120 million, was negotiated by Kintex.According to the then industry minister of Bulgaria, Kliment Vuchev, a deal wasfinalized on April 26, 1996, shortly before the United States imposed aunilateral embargo on Sudan.Kontinent(Sofia), May 6, 1996, in FBIS, East Europe, May 9, 1996; BTA News Agency, May22, 1996, in BBC Monitoring Service: Central Europe and Balkans, May 24, 1996.

[34]Bill Gertz, "Iraq Set to Buy Anti-Stealth Radar Systems,"Washington Times, November 11, 1997.

[35]Bill Gertz, "No Deal with Iraq, Czechs Assure U.S.; Pentagon Foresees NoAnti-Stealth Sales,"Washington Times,November 14, 1997. The private individuals named in theWashington Timescategorically denied the allegations. SeeStandart News(Sofia), November 13,1997, in FBIS, East Europe, November 17, 1997; andKontinent(Sofia), November 15, 1997, in FBIS, East Europe,November 19, 1997.

[36]Beck, "Bulgaria Aims to Revamp."

[37]The broker, who stated he was ordered to submit false flight plans, admittedtransporting more than 180 tons of weapons-including bombs, rocket mortars, andassault rifles-from Plovdiv airport in Bulgaria to the port of Al-Riyan insouthern Yemen. Nic North and David Brown, "Gun-Running Secret of Jet CrashBoss,"Daily Mirror(London),December 23, 1994.

[38]The weapons included more than 200 AK-47s and thousands of rounds ofammunition, as well as pistols, rocket launchers, handgrenades, sniper rifles,and landmines, which were supplied by Arsenal, a state-owned manufacturer, andflown out of Burgas airport. They are believed to have been destined for aHindu religious sect that the West Bengal state government has accused ofterrorist activities. David Graves, "Ruthless Gun Runner or Political Fall Guy?The Strange Case of Peter Bleach,"DailyTelegraph, January 17, 1998; and Raymond Bonner, "Murky Life of anInternational Gun Dealer,"New York Times,July 14, 1998. Documents obtained by Oxfam indicate that KAS Engineering, aBulgarian state-owned arms firm, helped broker the deal. Oxfam,Out of Control: The Loopholes in UK Controlson the Arms Trade(London: Oxfam UK, December 1998), p. 7.

[39]This was the object of an undercover operation by U.S. Customs agents. Thebrokers also offered to sell undercover U.S. agents tactical nuclear weapons.For an analysis of this case as an example of how nuclear material can besmuggled, see "Russian Roulette," PBS Frontline, aired on February 23, 1999,available via the Internet at:

[40]Indictment and court documents submitted as evidence in the trial of AlexanderDarichev and Aleksandr Pogrebezkij, U.S. District Court, Miami. The indictmentis available via the Internet at:

Bulgaria's trade ministry denied any wrongdoing,asserting that it had authorized the export of SAMs for delivery to Lithuania.See Ron Synovitz, "Bulgaria: Sofia Denies Wrongdoing in Arms Smuggling Case,"RFE/RL, July 2, 1997; and "Miami Grand Jury Indicts Three in Arms SmugglePlot," Reuters, July 10, 1997.

[41]A representative of the Tamil Tiger rebel movement who was killed in October1996 reportedly traveled to Bulgaria to arrange arms deals, which wereallegedly facilitated by Bulgarian officials. Rohan Gunaratna, "Sri Lanka: LTTEFundraisers Still on the Offensive,"Jane'sIntelligence Review, December 1, 1997; and Raymond Bonner, "Rebels in SriLanka Fight with Aid of Global Market in Light Arms,"New York Times, March 7, 1998.

[42]BTA News Agency, reprinted byKontinent(Sofia), March 24, 1995, in FBIS, East Europe, November 14, 1995.

[43]Human Rights Watch interviews with Bulgarian journalists, Sofia, February 1999.

[44]Mark Honigsbaum and Anthony Barnett, "UK Firms in African Arms Riddle,"Observer(London), January 31, 1999. Seealso, Raymond Bonner, "Bulgaria Becomes a Weapons Bazaar,"New York Times, August 3, 1998; and Chris Gordon, "Eastern EuropeAid Bolsters UNITA,"Mail and Guardian(Johannesburg), distributed by Africa News Online, January 15, 1999. The forcesbacking the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy (Rassemblement Congolais pourla Démocratie, RCD), which include troops from Uganda and Rwanda, have beenresponsible for massacres of civilians and other war crimes. See Human RightsWatch, "Democratic Republic of Congo: Casualties of War-Civilians, Rule of Law,and Democratic Freedoms,"A Human RightsWatch Short Report, vol. 11, no. 1, February 1999.

[45]Human Rights Watch interviews with Bulgarian journalists, Sofia, February 1999.

[46]Plamen Pantev, Valeri Ratchev, and Tilcho Ivanov, "Bulgaria and the EuropeanUnion in the Process of Building a Common European Defence," September 1996,available via the Internet at:

[47]The article attributed the information to Colonel Hristo Stanimirov, Chief ofStaff of the Defense Economy Department, Ministry of Defense, who gave a pressconference to announce sales of surplus equipment. "140 Tanks Sold to Africa,"Trud(Sofia), November 27, 1998. Seealso,Pari Daily(Sofia), Reuters BusinessBriefing, November 27, 1998.

[48]Surplus weapons exports are negotiated directly by the Bulgarian defenseministry, which has been licensed to trade in weapons since the mid-1990s, orthrough authorized intermediaries (see Arms Trading Companies, below). Incomefrom arms sales was deposited in a general defense fund until December 1998,when a separate Ministry of Defense account was established. Human Rights Watchinterview with Col. Hristo Stanimirov, Chief of Staff, Defense EconomyDepartment, Ministry of Defense, and Col. Todor Malchev, Head of Section,Procurement and Trade Department, Ministry of Defense, Sofia, February 5, 1999

[49]Hull and Markove, "Trends in the Arms Market."

[50]Beck, "Bulgaria Aims to Revamp."

[51]BTA News Agency (Sofia), September 2, 1994, in BBC Monitoring Service: CentralEurope and Balkans, September 5, 1994.

[52]Demokratsiya(Sofia), August 5, 1998,in FBIS, East Europe, August 6, 1998.

[53]"Bulgaria Press Digest," Reuters, December 10, 1998.

[54]The national security argument has been presented in a number of localBulgarian commentaries. See, for example,Duma(Sofia), May 27, 1996, in FBIS, East Europe, May 30, 1996.

[55]Human Rights Watch interviews with an official at the Bulgarian Embassy to theUnited States, Washington, D.C., November 11, 1998; and with Dimitar Abadjiev,Member of Parliament (UDF), Sofia, February 8, 1999. In addition, otherobservers supported this claim. Human Rights Watch interviews with a Bulgarianjournalist and a foreign diplomat, Sofia, February 1999.

[56]Peter Fuhrman, "The Heart of the Illegal Trade."

[57]Beck, "Bulgaria Aims to Revamp."

[58]"Bulgarian Railroad Blocked by Arms Workers," Reuters Library Report, November20, 1992.

[59]Beck, "Bulgaria Aims to Revamp." In 1996, approximately 12 percent ofBulgaria's workforce was employed by the arms industry. "International News,"Associated Press, February 22, 1996.

[60]Of those arms manufacturers that detailed their ownership structure in anindustry catalogue, all were at least 70 percent owned directly by the state.The remaining shares were held by Metalchim Holding, a joint-stock company thatis itself owned by state arms manufacturers. "Defense Industry Companies:Reference," Republic of Bulgaria, Ministry of Industry, undated (containsinformation current as of the third quarter of 1997). The industry cataloguelists twenty-two companies, but a government official indicated that there weretwenty-five arms producers as of February 1999. "Written Response to QuestionsSubmitted by Human Rights Watch," prepared by Blagoy Guenov, transmitted onFebruary 5, 1999.

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

[62]Elisaveta Konstantinova, "Bulgaria Tries to Sell Its Arms Industry," Reuters,May 6, 1998.

[63]Three-quarters of its artillery armaments and more than 50 percent of itsmachine guns and ammunition are for the African market. Most of the remainderis exported to Asia. "Defense Industry Companies: Reference," p. 6.

[64]The company earned a profit of approximately U.S.$500,000 (82 million Lv) fromarms exports in 1998, according to its executive director. "Bulgarian Press Digest,"Reuters Business Briefing, December 21, 1998, citingTrud(Sofia).


[66]"International News," Associated Press.

[67]"Bulgarian Defense Workers to Lose Jobs," RFE/RL Newsline, October 14, 1998.

[68]One trade union expressed concern that as many as 20,000 jobs in the armssector would be lost in the upcoming year.PariDaily(Sofia), Reuters Business Briefing, December 2, 1998;Duma(Sofia), January 14, 1999, in FBIS,East Europe, January 20, 1999; andBulgarskaArmiya(Sofia), January 28, 1999, in FBIS, East Europe, February 1, 1999.

[69]In this light, it is interesting to note that, according to a local report, twodeputies of the ruling UDF party traveled to central Bulgaria in early 1999 toannounce that the Arkus arms company had negotiated a U.S.$15 million deal toexport ammunition to an unidentified "non-embargo country." The deal reportedlywould sustain factory production for one year and allow the company to hireback some workers who had been laid off a few months earlier.Pari Daily(Sofia), January 8, 1999, inFBIS, East Europe, January 11, 1999.

[70]Human Rights Watch interviews with Vladimir Philipov, Foreign Affairs Secretaryto the President of Bulgaria; Dimitar Abadjiev, Member of Parliament (UDF);Bulgarian journalists; and a foreign diplomat, Sofia, February 1999. Severalnews reports point to the dismissal of top military officers who allegedly didnot support the government's military modernization package and opposed NATOmembership as evidence of anti-reform attitudes. See, for example,Demokratsiya(Sofia), March 17, 1998, inFBIS, East Europe, March 19, 1998,Demokratsiya(Sofia), November 12, 1998, in FBIS, East Europe, November 13, 1998, andTrud(Sofia), November 14, 1998, inFBIS, East Europe, November 17, 1998.

[71]Human Rights Watch interview with Plamen Radonov, Deputy Minister of Defense,and Col. Hristo Stanimirov, Chief of Staff, Defense Economy Department,Ministry of Defense, Sofia, February 9, 1999. In an earlier interview, Col.Stanimirov stated that roughly one-fifth of surplus military equipment wassold, with the remainder being scrapped. Human Rights Watch interview, Sofia,February 5, 1999. A news report in November 1998 indicated that sixty tanks,150 howitzers, and twenty MiG-21 aircraft were to be destroyed by the end of1998 because no buyers could be found.Duma(Sofia), November 16, 1998, in FBIS, East Europe, November 17, 1998.

[72]The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) tracks confirmedtransfers of major conventional weapons, as well as some other weapons systems,and reports on them annually. See, for example, Stockholm International PeaceResearch Institute,SIPRI Yearbook 1998:Armaments, Disarmament and International Security(New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 1998).

[73]The sale of the T-62 tanks was arranged by Kintex, while Armimex negotiated thesale of the BMP-1s. United Nations, "United Nations Register of ConventionalArms" (New York: United Nations, 1994), A/49/352. The tanks and BulgarianBMP-1s were surplus weapons belonging to the Bulgarian army, while theBelarussian armored combat vehicles came from surplus army stocks in Belarus.Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Arms TransferDatabase.

[74]Fifty-six of the tanks were T-62s, and the remaining six were T-55s. Bulgariaoriginally negotiated to sell sixty-two T-62 tanks. Stockholm InternationalPeace Research Institute,SIPRI Yearbook1995: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security(New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 1995), p. 553, and United Nations, "United Nations Registerof Conventional Arms" (New York: United Nations, 1995), A/50/547.

[75]The value of the deal, which also included spare parts and munitions, wasestimated to be U.S.$20 million. Stockholm International Peace ResearchInstitute (SIPRI) Arms Transfer Database. A scandal later erupted over the sizeof commissions paid to military officers involved in the deal. Philip Finnegan,"Yemen - Govt is Asking Either Cash or Around $100 Mil Worth of MilitaryWeapons Ordered by [It] During Its 1994 Civil War,"Defense News, April 7, 1997; and BTA News Agency (Sofia), September2, 1994, in BBC Monitoring Service: Central Europe and Balkans, September 5,1994.

[76]BTA News Agency (Sofia), September 2, 1994, in BBC Monitoring Service: CentralEurope and Balkans, September 5, 1994.

[77]The treaty required signatory countries to destroy excess stocks or,alternatively, to dispose of them by exceptional means, such as conversion tononmilitary use and use for target practice. Under the CFE Treaty, Bulgaria wasobliged to reduce its stocks to 1,475 battle tanks, 1,750 artillery pieces,2,000 armored combat vehicles, 67 attack helicopters, and 235 combat aircraft.As of January 1999, Bulgaria was reported to have 1,475 battle tanks, 1,744artillery pieces, 1,986 armored combat vehicles, 43 attack helicopters, and 233combat aircraft. Dorn Crawford, "Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE): AReview and Update of Key Treaty Elements," U.S. Arms Control and DisarmamentAgency, January 1999.

[78]Bulgaria was obligated to reduce its tank holdings by more than half to meetCFE requirements, but according to a U.S. intelligence assessment, Bulgariaheld 600 more tanks than it had officially declared in 1992. Thomas F.Houlihan, "Weapons Acquisition Strategy-Bulgaria (U)," Defense IntelligenceReference Document, August 1994, declassified on May 20, 1997.

[79]Additional excess stocks might be generated through new production or throughthe import of heavy weapons, often inherited from other CFE signatories. TheCFE Treaty permits excess military equipment to be exported or "cascaded" toother signatory countries within the same group (NATO or former Warsaw Pact).Bulgaria has been a beneficiary of cascaded weapons, particularly from theRussian Federation. For an explanation, see Stockholm International PeaceResearch Institute,SIPRI Yearbook 1997:Armaments, Disarmament and International Security(New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 1997), p. 475.

[80]See, for example, BTA News Agency, September 2, 1994, in BBC MonitoringService: Central Europe and Balkans, September 9, 1994; BTA News Agency, BBCWorldwide Monitoring, December 8, 1998;PariDaily(Sofia), Reuters Business Briefing, December 8, 1998; Xinhua NewsAgency, Reuters Business Briefings, December 8, 1998; and "Bulgarian DefenseMinister Rejects Allegations of Embargo-Busting," RFE/RL Newsline, December 9,1998.

[81]U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA),1997 Annual Report, Chapter 7: Adherence To and Compliance WithArms Control Agreements, available via the Internet at:

[82]Trud(Sofia), April 21, 1998, inFBIS, East Europe, April 23, 1998.

[83]The deal first became known when a defense ministry official announced onNovember 26, 1998 that the ministry had sold tanks to unspecified Africancountries. Raymond Bonner, "New Weapons Sales to Africa Trouble Arms-ControlExperts,"New York Times, December 6,1998, citing a report inTrud(Sofia)ten days earlier. TheNew York Timesobtained confirmation of the sale from the Council of Ministers in a letterfrom Sylvia Beamish, International Media Relations, Government InformationOffice, Council of Ministers, dated December 3, 1998. For additionalreferences, see Uganda, below.

[84]Pari Daily(Sofia), Reuters BusinessBriefing, February 23, 1999. The announcement was repeated by Bulgaria'sdefense minister, Georgi Ananiev, in a press conference at the BulgarianEmbassy in Washington, D.C., March 3, 1999.

[85]The Joint Consultative Group met in July 1997 at a regular CFE reviewconference and agreed to principles that would guide treaty adaptation, whichthe parties hope to complete by late 1999. Significant reduction in forcelevels was among the main objectives to which they agreed. Crawford,"Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE)."

[86]BTA News Agency (Sofia), BBC Monitoring European-Political, December 8, 1998.This sentiment was echoed by the deputy defense minister and a militaryofficial responsible for surplus weapons. Human Rights Watch interview withPlamen Radonov, Deputy Defense Minister for Logistics and Acquisition, Ministryof Defense and Col. Hristo Stanimirov, Chief of Staff, Defense EconomyDepartment, Ministry of Defense, February 9, 1999.

[87]See, for example, Musah and Castle, "Eastern Europe's Arsenal." See also thestatement by Bulgaria's ambassador in Arms Trade Practices below.

[88]Kintex was also alleged in the 1980s, in the context of cold war rivalries, tohave links to the international drug trade. Rick Atkinson, "Heroin SourceAlleged; U.S. Links Bulgaria, Drug Traffic,"Washington Post, July 25, 1984. The article describes a reportsubmitted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to a congressional taskforce, and quotes the report as stating that Kintex's drug trafficking was usedto generate hard currency and to "supply and support several dissident groupsin the Middle East with western arms and ammunition." A 1984 report of a U.S.congressional hearing and a 1986 report by a U.S. presidential commission onorganized crime both included allegations about Kintex's involvement in theinternational drug trade, attributing the claims to the Drug EnforcementAgency. According to a 1990 report in theNewYork Times, some Western diplomats have questioned the drug allegations.Sudetic, "Bulgarians to Share."

[89]A local news account in 1998 stated that Armimex's arms trading license wouldbe taken over by Metalchim Holding.PariDaily(Sofia), Reuters Business Briefing, March 18, 1998. Armimex has beensued by Russia's state-run arms trading company, Rosvooruzhenie, for U.S.$3million, and its assets were seized under orders of a Sofia court in 1998.RFE/RL Newsline, November 9, 1998.


[91]Human Rights Watch interview with Vladimir Tourtansky, Senior Advisor,Interministerial Council on Defense Industry and Logistics, Council ofMinisters, Sofia, February 8, 1999.


[93]An arms trading license is held by the ministry's Defense Economy Department.Human Rights Watch interview with Col. Hristo Stanimirov, Chief of Staff,Defense Economy Department, Ministry of Defense, and Col. Todor Malchev, Headof Section, Procurement and Trade Department, Ministry of Defense, Sofia,February 5, 1999.

[94]Human Rights Watch interview with Vladimir Tourtansky, Senior Advisor,Interministerial Council on Defense Industry and Logistics, Council ofMinisters, and Blagoy Guenov, Secretary, Interministerial Council on DefenseIndustry and Logistics, Council of Ministers, Sofia, February 5, 1999.

[95]Liliana Semerdjieva, "Bulgaria Passes New Arms Trade Licensing Policy," ReutersEuropean Business Report, February 3, 1994.

[96]Kontinent(Sofia), January 24, 1998,in FBIS, East Europe, January 27, 1998.

[97]Press accounts suggest that private companies were first licensed to trade inweapons in March 1996, but an official interviewed in Bulgaria stated thatprivate firms had been eligible for arms trade licenses since 1990. VladimirTourtansky, Senior Advisor, Interministerial Council on Defense Industry andLogistics, Council of Ministers, Sofia, February 8, 1999. See also, StefanKrause, "Bulgarian Roundup," RFE/RL Newsline, March 1, 1996; and24 Chasa(Sofia), "Bulgaria-Two PrivateFirms Receive Arms Trade Licenses," Periscope Daily Defense News Capsules,August 12, 1996.

[98]"Written Response to Questions Submitted by Human Rights Watch," prepared byBlagoy Guenov, Secretary, Interministerial Council on Defense Industry andLogistics, Council of Ministers, transmitted on February 5, 1999.

[99]Human Rights Watch interviews with cargo personnel, Belgium, April-May 1998.Many cargo airlines have since moved from Ostend as a result of new EuropeanCommunity noise pollution regulations adopted in January 1998.

[100]Human Rights Watch interviews with a U.N. official, Nairobi, August 18, 1997;and with a pilot, Brussels, August 2, 1996.

[101]Eritrea has been alleged to provide weapons to Somali faction leader HusseinMohamed Aideed, in violation of a U.N. arms embargo. Xinhua News Agency,"Weapons Flowing into Somalia," February 21, 1999.

[102]Raymond Bonner, "Despite Cutoff by U.S., Ethiopia and Eritrea Easily BuyWeapons,"New York Times, July 23,1998. The article attributed reports about Air Sofia arms flights to Westernofficials and Bulgarian press accounts. Turkish aviation officials, who grantedpermission for Air Sofia to fly in its airspace, were the source of thestatement regarding scheduled Air Sofia flights from Burgas to Asmara. Armsflights from Bulgaria to Eritrea were also noted in Karl Vick, "On the Road to‘Mega Tragedy,'"Washington Post,January 10, 1999.

[103]A Ukrainian plane was used in the flight, which originated in Bulgaria. Severalaccounts indicate that the flight took off from Burgas airport. One reportspecified that the plane carried approximately ten tons of arms. "Arms CargoCrash,"Africa Confidential(London),vol. 38, no. 16 (August 1, 1997). See also, "Press Review," BTA News Agency,July 21, 1998, obtained via the Internet at:; and BulgarskaTeleviziya (Sofia), July 21, 1998, in FBIS, Central Eurasia, July 23, 1998. Fora more circumspect analysis, see Paul Harris, "Pointers-Ukraine-Concerns OverCrash Losses,"Jane's Intelligence Review,September 1, 1998. Harris does note that a Bulgarian passenger who was"accompanying the cargo" was among those killed in the crash.

[104]The Portuguese news agency Lusa first reported the story, which was latercarried by several media organizations. See, for example, "Portugal: Cape VerdeHolds Bulgarian Cargo Plane," Reuters, April 10, 1995; "Cape Verde Still HoldsBulgarian Plane With Arms," Reuters, April 18, 1995; Stephan Krause, "CapeVerde Holds Bulgarian Cargo Plane," RFE/RL Newsline: OMRI Daily Digests, April10, 1995; and BTA News Agency (Sofia), April 10, 1995, in BBC MonitoringService: Central Europe and Balkans, April 11, 1995.

[105]The flight schedule indicated that Quito was the destination. "Cape Verde HoldsBulgarian Cargo Plane," Reuters. Cape Verdian authorities reportedly confirmedthat Ecuador was expecting the shipment. "Cape Verde Still Holds BulgarianPlane," Reuters.

[106]"Bulgarians Say Detained Arms are Not Bulgarian," RFE/RL Newsline: OMRI DailyDigests, April 11, 1995.

[107]Human Rights Watch interview with Vladimir Tourtansky, Senior Advisor,Interministerial Council on Defense Industry and Logistics, Council ofMinisters, Sofia, February 8, 1999.

[108]Human Rights Watch interview with a Bulgarian journalist, Sofia, February 1999.

[109]Human Rights Watch interviews with government officials and with foreigndiplomats, Sofia, February 1999. In March 1999 the Bulgarian ambassador to theUnited States declared, referring to Bulgarian-Russian intelligence ties: "Wecannot guarantee as a whole that there are not still some remnants of suchattachments. A good part of the former intelligence services moved to anotherjob now: they formed what is known as the mafia." Philip Dimitrov, Ambassadorto the United States, Press Conference at the Bulgarian Embassy, Washington,D.C., March 3, 1999.

[110]See, for example,Trud(Sofia),January 11, 1996, in FBIS, East Europe, January 22, 1996;Standart News(Sofia), February 12, 1998, in FBIS, East Europe,February 15, 1998;Capital Weekly(Sofia), Reuters Business Briefing, July 11, 1998; BTA News Agency (Sofia),October 2, 1998, in FBIS, East Europe, October 6, 1998; Bulgarian Television(Sofia), October 5, 1998, in FBIS, East Europe, October 8, 1998; andStandart News(Sofia), FBIS, EastEurope, November 21, 1998. For an older account of smuggling through Bulgaria,including cross-border gun-running, see "Drugs from the ex-Soviet Union,"Jane's Foreign Report, August 20, 1992.

[111]Standart News(Sofia), FBIS, EastEurope, November 21, 1998.

[112]Petko Georgiev, "Bulgaria: Mafia Scandal Overshadows Elections," RFE/RL, April18, 1997.

[113]In a press conference, the defense minister and army chief of staff said theseproblems had been prevalent under the previous government. "BulgarianCommission Unveils Corruption in Army," RFE/RL Newsline. Twenty-five officerswere reportedly dismissed on the basis of the commission's findings. "BulgarianPresident in Japan," RFE/RL Newsline, November 17, 1997, referring to anarticle in the November 14, 1997 edition ofStandartNews(Sofia).

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

[115]Human Rights Watch interview with a foreign diplomat, Sofia, February 1999.

[116]These controls-embodied in the Law on the Control of Foreign Trade Activity inArms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies and the Regulation on Implementationof the Law on Foreign Trade Activity in Arms and Dual-Use Goods andTechnologies-regulate the trade in both arms and dual-use goods andtechnologies, where the latter are items that may serve both civilian andmilitary purposes. This report is primarily concerned with the trade in arms,and only addresses dual-use items in the context of sales that violateinternational arms embargoes. Unofficial translations of Bulgaria's arms tradecontrol laws are available via the Internet at: and natexpcon/Bulgaria/decree-38.htm.

[117]Two types of trading licenses are available for companies interested inexporting weapons: full licenses permit firms to trade in all categories ofweapons; partial licenses are cheaper, but only permit trade in certain classesof weapons. Approximately thirty firms are authorized to engage in the armstrade. Human Rights Watch interview with Blagoy Guenov, Secretary,Interministerial Council on Defense Industry and Logistics, Council ofMinisters, and Vladimir Tourtansky, Senior Advisor, Interministerial Council onDefense Industry and Logistics, Council of Ministers, Sofia, February 5, 1999.

[118]Human Rights Watch interview with Blagoy Guenov, Secretary, InterministerialCouncil on Defense Industry and Logistics, Council of Ministers, and VladimirTourtansky, Senior Advisor, Interministerial Council on Defense Industry andLogistics, Council of Ministers, Sofia, February 5, 1999.

[119]In 1998 several licenses were issued that were valid only for six months. HumanRights Watch interview with Blagoy Guenov, Secretary, Interministerial Councilon Defense Industry and Logistics, Council of Ministers, and VladimirTourtansky, Senior Advisor, Interministerial Council on Defense Industry andLogistics, Council of Ministers, Sofia, February 5, 1999.

[120]In February 1999 an application submitted by a private company was held upbecause suspicions had been raised. Human Rights Watch interviews with BlagoyGuenov, Secretary, Interministerial Council on Defense Industry and Logistics,Council of Ministers, and Vladimir Tourtansky, Senior Advisor, InterministerialCouncil on Defense Industry and Logistics, Council of Ministers, Sofia,February 5, 1999; and with Dimiter Zhalev, Department of NATO, WEU, andSecurity Issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sofia, February 8, 1999. Under apast government, the arms trading licenses of Teraton and Armimex werereportedly revoked.24 Chasa(Sofia),October 11, 1995, in FBIS, East Europe, October 20, 1995.

[121]"Written Response to Questions Submitted by Human Rights Watch," prepared byBlagoy Guenov, transmitted on February 5, 1999.

[122]Individual arms transaction permits are required for the export, reexport(transshipment), or importation of arms. The requirements are the same in eachcase. For the purposes of this report, "export permit" includes permits issuedfor either export or transshipment of arms.

[123]The Ministry of Defense can also sell its surplus weapons through a licensedarms trading company, as was the case in 1993 with the export of surplusarmored vehicles to Angola (see Surplus Weapons, above).

[124]Human Rights Watch interview with Vladimir Tourtansky, Senior Advisor,Interministerial Council on Defense Industry and Logistics, Council ofMinisters, Sofia, February 8, 1999. It appears that a representative of one ofBulgaria's intelligence services also serves on both committees. Human RightsWatch interview with a Bulgarian government official, Sofia, February 1999.

[125]According to a Bulgarian official, the trade ministry commission requires thatcompanies seeking an arms export permit submit the following documents: theexport permit application, which specifies the quantity and type of goods, aswell as the country of destination; a copy of the end-user certificate, signedand stamped by the petitioning arms trading company; copies of the company'sarms trading license; a copy of the contract; and, if an intermediary isinvolved in the proposed transaction, a copy of the arms trade license of thebroker company, signed and stamped by the petitioning arms trading company.Petitioning companies must also pay an application fee. "Written Response toQuestions Submitted by Human Rights Watch," prepared by Blagoy Guenov,transmitted on February 5, 1999.

[126]Human Rights Watch interview with Stoyan Nikolov, Chief Expert, Department ofMilitary Economic Cooperation, and Secretary, Commission for Control of ForeignTrade in Arms and Dual-Use Technologies, Ministry of Trade, and ChristoAtanasov, Chief Expert, Dual-Use Goods and Export Control Division, Ministry ofTrade, Sofia, February 8, 1999. According to another official, the commissionmay also approach the Interministerial Council for advice on a pendingapplication. Human Rights Watch interview with Vladimir Tourtansky, SeniorAdvisor, Interministerial Council on Defense Industry and Logistics, Council ofMinisters, Sofia, February 8, 1999.

[127]Human Rights Watch interview with Stoyan Nikolov, Chief Expert, Department ofMilitary Economic Cooperation, and Secretary, Commission for Control of ForeignTrade in Arms and Dual-Use Technologies, Ministry of Trade, and ChristoAtanasov, Chief Expert, Dual-Use Goods and Export Control Division, Ministry ofTrade, Sofia, February 8, 1999.

[128]"Written Response to Questions Submitted by Human Rights Watch," prepared byBlagoy Guenov, transmitted on February 5, 1999.

[129]Human Rights Watch interview with Vladimir Tourtansky, Senior Advisor,Interministerial Council on Defense Industry and Logistics, Council ofMinisters, Sofia, February 8, 1999.

[130]Again, a fee is required with the application. "Written Response to QuestionsSubmitted by Human Rights Watch," prepared by Blagoy Guenov, transmitted onFebruary 5, 1999.

[131]The maximum fine is set at 1 million Lv. The fine was equivalent toapproximately U.S.$14,000 in 1995, but inflation significantly eroded itsvalue.

[132]A government official explained: "Arms export controls are a political prioritybecause we want to join the European Union and NATO." Human Rights Watchinterview with Dimiter Zhalev, Department of NATO, WEU and Security Issues,Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sofia, February 8, 1999. This view was reinforcedby an advisor to President Petar Stoyanov. Human Right Watch interview withVladimir Philipov, Foreign Affairs Secretary to the President of Bulgaria,Sofia, February 4, 1999.

[133]Bulgaria's control lists have been aligned with those of the WassenaarArrangement and the European Union. "Export Control Legal Basis," Republic ofBulgaria, Ministry of Trade and Tourism, January 1999.

[134]The proposed amendments exclude from control arms imports and exports intendedfor use in international, multilateral, or bilateral exercises, peacekeeping,or training missions to which Bulgaria is a party.

[135]Under the proposal, three-to-six-year prison sentences and fines of up toU.S.$60,000 (100 million Lv) would be imposed for a first offense. Repeatoffenders would be subject to five to ten years in prison and a fine of up toU.S.$180,000 (300 million Lv).

[136]The proposed law would require that "representatives of the parties to thetransaction and of the end user" be declared, expanding on an existingprovision by requiring this information at the time the application issubmitted. The definition proposed to be included in the implementingregulations of the arms trade control law reads: "Broker (middleman) activityshall include all activities, related to the implementation of the foreigntrade transaction, including forwarding and transport services and financing,when the person performing such activities is not the actual exporter,importer, or reexporter." The draft amendments were presented to Human Rights Watchin Bulgarian, so these represent unofficial translations.

[137]In May 1998 Bulgaria enacted by decree a law implementing the U.N. arms embargoon the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which was imposed two months earlier. Agovernment official asserted that similar decrees had been enacted on otheroccasions to outlaw violations of arms embargoes. Human Rights Watch interviewwith Dimiter Zhalev, Department of NATO, WEU, and Security Issues, Ministry ofForeign Affairs, Sofia, February 8, 1999.

[138]Human Rights Watch interview with Stoyan Nikolov, Chief Expert, Department ofMilitary Economic Cooperation, and Secretary, Commission for Control of ForeignTrade in Arms and Dual-Use Technologies, Ministry of Trade, and ChristoAtanasov, Chief Expert, Dual-Use Goods and Export Control Division, Ministry ofTrade, Sofia, February 8, 1999.

[139]In particular, the text of the agreement states that its purpose is "tocontribute to regional and international security and stability, by promotingtransparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms anddual-use goods and technologies, thus preventing destabilizing accumulations."

[140]Such information is provided only on the recommendation of an interministerialteam. Human Rights Watch interview with Dimiter Zhalev, Department of NATO,WEU, and Security Issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sofia, February 8, 1999.

[141]Participating states pledge to avoid arms transfers that, among otherconditions, would be likely to violate U.N. sanctions, prolong or aggravate anexisting armed conflict, contribute to regional instability, be used forrepression or to commit human rights abuses, or be diverted or reexported in amanner that contravenes the purpose for which the OSCE set the criteria. See

[142]As of March 1999, OSCE arms embargoes were in effect on Armenia and Azerbaijan.

[143]In a joint statement, Bulgaria and twelve other non-E.U. member countriesstated that they "align themselves to the criteria and principles contained inthe Code, which will guide them in their national export control policies."Council of the European Union General Secretariat Press Release, 10754/98(Presse 272-G), Brussels, August 3, 1998.

[144]In August 1998 Bulgaria's trade minister identified the countries to which E.U.restrictions apply as including China, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),Nigeria, and Iran.Demokratsiya(Sofia), August 7, 1998, in FBIS, East Europe, August 10, 1998.

[145]An official stated that Bulgaria, as a non-E.U. member, does not adhere tothese reporting provisions. Human Rights Watch interview with Dimiter Zhalev,Department of NATO, WEU, and Security Issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,Sofia, February 8, 1999.

[146]Human Rights Watch interview with Stoyan Nikolov, Chief Expert, Department ofMilitary Economic Cooperation, and Secretary, Commission for Control of ForeignTrade in Arms and Dual-Use Technologies, Ministry of Trade, and ChristoAtanasov, Chief Expert, Dual-Use Goods and Export Control Division, Ministry ofTrade, Sofia, February 8, 1999.

[147]This argument is made in Raymond Bonner, "New Weapons Sales."

[148]Demokratsiya(Sofia), August 7, 1998,in FBIS, East Europe, August 10, 1998.

[149]"Bulgaria Denies Selling Arms to Terrorists," RFE/RL Newsline, August 4, 1998.Such a defense of Bulgaria's involvement in questionable arms deals isconsistent with claims made by prior governments that Bulgaria cannot be heldresponsible if weapons it authorizes for export are subsequently rerouted orreexported. See, for example,StandartNews(Sofia), January 16, 1996, in FBIS, East Europe, January 23, 1996.

[150]BTA News Agency (Sofia), August 3, 1998, in FBIS, East Europe, August 5, 1998.

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

[152]Human Rights Watch interview with a Bulgarian journalist, Sofia, February 1999.

[153][154]An official asserted that Bulgaria's arms trade controls had been improvedprogressively over time, and that the government much more rigorouslyimplemented regulations than had prior governments. Human Rights Watchinterview with Colonel Venelin Velikov, Deputy Director, National Service forCombating Organized Crime, Ministry of Interior, Sofia, February 8, 1999. Inaddition, Bulgaria's ambassador to the United States wrote that the country'sarms trade record was "far from satisfactory," except during the 1991-92 periodin which he was the prime minister of Bulgaria. Philip Dimitrov, "Letter to theEditor of theNew York TimesConcerning ‘A Weapons Bazaar Blooming in Bulgaria,'" unpublished and undated.Bulgaria's deputy industry minister also stated in an interview that the priorgovernment may have approved "questionable" arms deals. See Marc Epstein,"Balkans trafic d'armes au goût bulgare,"L'Express(Paris), December 17, 1998.

[154]The replacement of arms industry directors was viewed mostly as an effort bythe new government to appoint industry leaders from its own party.Duma(Sofia), April 12, 1997, in FBIS,East Europe, April 15, 1997; andCapitalWeekly(Sofia), Reuters Business Briefing, July 4, 1998. In at least onecase, the newly appointed director replaced several top company managers. SeeKontinent(Sofia), FBIS, East Europe,January 24, 1998. A government official concurred that the management changeswere politically-motivated. Human Rights Watch interview with Nicola Tcholakov,Deputy Chief of Mission, Bulgarian Embassy to the United States, Washington,D.C., December 4, 1998.

[155]Philip Dimitrov, "Letter to the Editor." At the time they were removed, onepress account stated that the reasons for the replacement had not been madepublic, while another account, which noted that the deputy director of Kintextook over leadership of the company, stated that the removals were due to thetrading companies' poor economic performance.Standart News(Sofia), September 23, 1998, in FBIS, East Europe,September 24, 1998; and BTA News Agency (Sofia), July 3, 1998, in FBIS, EastEurope, July 3, 1998.

[156]Philip Dimitrov, Ambassador to the United States, Press Conference at theBulgarian Embassy, Washington, D.C., March 3, 1999.

[157]Standart News(Sofia), FBIS, EastEurope, September 24, 1998.

[158]Human Rights Watch interview with Nicola Tcholakov, Deputy Chief of Mission,Bulgarian Embassy to the United States, Washington, D.C., December 4, 1998. Seealso,Demokratsiya(Sofia), July 6,1998, in FBIS, East Europe, July 7, 1998.

[159]Human Rights Watch interview with Vladimir Tourtansky, Senior Advisor,Interministerial Council on Defense Industry and Logistics, Council of Ministers,Sofia, February 8, 1999. In another example of the appointment of former armstrade control officials to arms industry posts, it was reported that a formermember of the Trade Ministry commission was named to lead Armimex.Standart News(Sofia), September 23,1998, in FBIS, East Europe, September 24, 1998.

[160]Human Rights Watch interview with a Bulgarian government official, Sofia,February 1999.

[161]The officials stated that an inquiry had been initiated about a petitioningcompany about which suspicions had been raised, and that this investigationwould cause consideration of the application to be postponed. Human RightsWatch interview with Blagoy Guenov, Secretary, Interministerial Council onDefense Industry and Logistics, Council of Ministers, and Vladimir Tourtansky,Senior Advisor, Interministerial Council on Defense Industry and Logistics,Council of Ministers, Sofia, February 5, 1999.

[162]Human Rights Watch interviews with Blagoy Guenov, Secretary, InterministerialCouncil on Defense Industry and Logistics, Council of Ministers, and VladimirTourtansky, Senior Advisor, Interministerial Council on Defense Industry andLogistics, Council of Ministers, Sofia, February 5, 1999; and with DimiterZhalev, Department of NATO, WEU and Security Issues, Ministry of ForeignAffairs, Sofia, February 8, 1999.

[163]Human Rights Watch interview with a Bulgarian government official, Sofia,February 1999.

[164]Human Rights Watch interview with Col. Venelin Velikov, Deputy Director,National Service for Combating Organized Crime, Ministry of Interior, Sofia,February 8, 1999.

[165]Human Rights Watch interview with Bulgarian government official, Sofia,February 1999.

[166]Human Rights Watch interviews with Vladimir Tourtansky, Senior Advisor, Councilof Ministers, Interministerial Council on Defense Industry and Logistics;Dimiter Zhalev, Department of NATO, WEU and Security Issues, Ministry ofForeign Affairs; and Stoyan Nikolov, Chief Expert, Department of MilitaryEconomic Cooperation, and Secretary, Commission for Control of Foreign Trade inArms and Dual-Use Technologies, Ministry of Trade, and Christo Atanasov, ChiefExpert, Dual-Use Goods and Export Control Division, Ministry of Trade, Sofia,February 8, 1999.

[167]Human Rights Watch interviews with Vladimir Tourtansky, Senior Advisor, Councilof Ministers, Interministerial Council on Defense Industry and Logistics; andwith Col. Venelin Velikov, Deputy Director, National Service for CombatingOrganized Crime, Ministry of Interior, Sofia, February 1999.

[168]Human Rights Watch interview with Stoyan Nikolov, Chief Expert, Department ofMilitary Economic Cooperation, and Secretary, Commission for Control of ForeignTrade in Arms and Dual-Use Technologies, Ministry of Trade, and ChristoAtanasov, Chief Expert, Dual-Use Goods and Export Control Division, Ministry ofTrade, Sofia, February 8, 1999.

[169]Human Rights Watch interview with a Bulgarian government official, Sofia,February 1999.

[170]After the interviewer returned to the question repeatedly, the officialsresponded by stating that they presumed that the Trade Ministry commissionwould deny future applications for arms sales to that country. Human RightsWatch interview with Blagoy Guenov, Secretary, Interministerial Council onDefense Industry and Logistics, Council of Ministers, and Vladimir Tourtansky,Senior Advisor, Interministerial Council on Defense Industry and Logistics,Council of Ministers, Sofia, February 5, 1999. Similarly, Bulgaria's arms tradecontrols do not include clear penalties for arms brokers and arms trading companiesthat furnish false documents (see Legal Accountability, below).

[171]Human Rights Watch interview with Col. Venelin Velikov, Deputy Director,National Service for Combating Organized Crime, Ministry of Interior, Sofia,February 1999.

[172]The other verification means described by a government official include:exercising licensing control over Bulgarian transport companies, when these areused to deliver the shipment; verifying through Bulgarian embassies or trademissions overseas, when foreign transport firms are used; monitoring the sourceof payment for the arms; checking the designated route of the shipment; andgathering intelligence through security services. "Written Response toQuestions Submitted by Human Rights Watch," prepared by Blagoy Guenov, transmittedon February 5, 1999.

[173]Human Rights Watch interview with Plamen Radonov, Deputy Defense Minister forLogistics and Acquisition, Ministry of Defense, and Col. Hristo Stanimirov,Chief of Staff, Defense Economy Department, Ministry of Defense, Sofia,February 9, 1999.

[174]Human Rights Watch interview with Dimiter Zhalev, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,Sofia, February 8, 1999.

[175]Dimiter Zhalev, Department of NATO, WEU and Security Issues, Ministry ofForeign Affairs, Sofia, February 8, 1999. Two other sources echoed the need fortraining. Human Right Watch interviews with Vladimir Philipov, Foreign AffairsSecretary to the President of Bulgaria; and with a foreign diplomat, Sofia,February 1999. Some training programs have been undertaken or are underway (seeSteps Toward Reform, below).

[176]In 1995 three military officers were arrested in connection with thedisappearance in transit two years earlier of a consignment of Bulgarianweapons-including 10,000 mine throwers, 10,000 mines, and 250 sniper rifles worthan estimated U.S.$670,000-destined for Albania, from where they were believedto have been illegally diverted to Bosnia or Serbia. A Bulgarian journaliststated that the investigation showed that the equipment had left Bulgaria inaccordance with the law and then disappeared in the Former Yugoslav Republic ofMacedonia, and that therefore the officers were not prosecuted. Human RightsWatch interview with a Bulgarian journalist, Sofia, February 1999. See also BTANews Agency, June 16, 1995, available via the Internet at:, andTrud(Sofia), November 14, 1997, inFBIS, East Europe, November 19, 1997.

[177]"The Quality of Governance-The Challenge of the New Millennium," presented byMario Tagarinski, Minister of Public Administration, Republic of Bulgaria, tothe International Conference on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding IntegrityAmong Justice and Security Officials, Washington, D.C., February 24-26, 1999.

[178]Demokratsiya(Sofia), August 7, 1998,in FBIS, East Europe, August 10, 1998.

[179]Human Rights Watch interview with a Bulgarian government official, Sofia,February 1999.

[180]"Bulgarian Polls Suggest Widespread Corruption," RFE/RL Newsline, February 3,1998.

[181]Human Rights Watch interview with a Bulgarian journalist, Sofia, February 1999.

[182]Western diplomats have told Human Rights Watch that corruption in Bulgariareaches into the upper levels of government, and includes officials in the twocommissions responsible for arms trade licensing. Human Rights Watch interviewswith foreign diplomats, Sofia, February 1999.

[183]Tagarinski, "The Quality of Governance."

[184]Human Rights Watch interview with Dimitar Abadjiev, Member of Parliament (UDF),Sofia, February 8, 1999. See also, "Written Response to Questions Submitted byHuman Rights Watch," prepared by Blagoy Guenov, transmitted on February 5,1999.

[185]"Written Response to Questions Submitted by Human Rights Watch," prepared byBlagoy Guenov, transmitted on February 5, 1999.

[186]Human Rights Watch interviews with journalists and foreign diplomats, SofiaFebruary 1999. See also, Human Rights Watch,World Report 1999(New York: Human Rights Watch, 1998), pp. 254-55,available via the Internet at:

[187]Human Rights Watch interview with Vladimir Tourtansky, Senior Advisor,Interministerial Council on Defense Industry and Logistics, Council ofMinisters, Sofia, February 8, 1999.

[188]See, for example, Tagarinski, "The Quality of Governance."

[189]"Bulgarian Premier Says Fight Against Corruption Successful," RFE/RL Newsline,December 21, 1998.

[190]In October 1998 the head of Bulgaria's customs department announced that thecountry would soon initiate customs cooperation programs with those threecountries.Pari Daily(Sofia),October 10, 1998, in Reuters Business Briefing, October 11, 1998.

[191]Human Rights Watch interview with U.S. government officials, Washington, D.C.,February 1999.

[192]Human Rights Watch interview with Vladimir Tourtansky, Senior Advisor,Interministerial Council on Defense Industry and Logistics, Council ofMinisters, Sofia, February 8, 1999.

[193]Human Rights Watch interview with Dimiter Zhalev, Department of NATO, WEU andSecurity Issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sofia, February 8, 1999.

[194]Pari Daily(Sofia), October 10, 1998,in Reuters Business Briefing, October 11, 1998.

[195]Human Rights Watch interview with Col. Venelin Velikov, Deputy Director,National Service for Combating Organized Crime, Ministry of Interior, Sofia,February 8, 1999.

[196]Pari Daily(Sofia), Reuters BusinessBriefing, December 23, 1998; andDemokratsiya(Sofia), December 23, 1998, in BBC Monitoring Service: Central Europe andBalkans, December 24, 1998.

[197]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 forLogistics and Acquisition, Ministry of Defense, and Col. Hristo Stanimirov,Chief of Staff, Defense Economy Department, Ministry of Defense, Sofia, February9, 1999.


[199]The owner of Miltex, Inc., furthermore stated that the company has no dealingsin Africa, and instead sells weapons-including firearms purchased inBulgaria-to markets in the United States and other Western countries. Hesuggested that competitors may be responsible for the allegations or,alternatively, that people with whom he had worked in the past might befreelancing using Miltex's name. The company, which had previously been basedin La Plata, Maryland, relocated to Alexandria, Virginia, in 1999. Human RightsWatch telephone interview with Dale Stoffel, March 15, 1999. In 1998 Miltex,Inc., was Arsenal's U.S. trading partner and helped it market a new version ofthe Makarov pistol. "Privatization at Arsenal on Hold,"Small Arms World Report, vol. 8, nos. 3 and 4 (Fall 1998/Winter1998-1999), p. 12.

[200]As of early February 1999, Bulgarian authorities had attempted to verify theauthenticity of the documents by contacting the country named in theapplication as the purchaser through its embassy in Moscow. Human Rights Watchinterview with a Bulgarian government official, Sofia, February 1999.

[201]Human Rights Watch interview with Blagoy Guenov, Secretary, InterministerialCouncil on Defense Industry and Logistics, Council of Ministers, and VladimirTourtansky, Senior Advisor, Interministerial Council on Defense Industry andLogistics, Council of Ministers, Sofia, February 5, 1999.

[202]Ibid. Under the proposed legislative changes, Bulgaria's new arms tradecontrols would not apply to arms intended for use in peacekeeping and trainingmissions (see National Arms Trade Controls, above).

[203]Brooks Tigner, "Bulgaria Planning to Restructure State-Owned Industrial Sectorand Implement a Modern Weapons Program,"DefenseNews,May 17, 1998. See also, BTA News Agency (Sofia), October 15, 1998, inBBC Monitoring Service: Central Europe and Balkans, October 17, 1998.

[204]Some companies will be sold by an outside consulting firm, theBulgarian-Russian Investment Bank (BRIBank). "Bulgaria in Talks with BRIBank onArms Plants Sale," Reuters, August 10, 1998.

[205]Konstantinova, "Bulgaria Tries to Sell."

[206]Human Rights Watch interview with Col. Hristo Stanimirov, Chief of Staff,Defense Economy Department, Ministry of Defense, and Col. Todor Malchev, Headof Section, Procurement and Trade Department, Ministry of Defense, Sofia,February 5, 1999; and Georgi Ananiev, Defense Minister, Press Conference at theBulgarian Embassy, Washington, D.C., March 3, 1999.

[207]Capital Weekly(Sofia), ReutersBusiness Briefing, February 20, 1999.

[208]The sale of one company reportedly was arranged in 1998. Nikolay Pavlov,"$750,000 To Be Paid for the First Defense Industry Plant,"24 Chasa(Sofia), April 7, 1998,reproduced inMonitor of Privatizationand Foreign Investment, issue 2 - 98, obtained via the Internet at: As of early 1999,the privatization of two arms factories had been halted.Kontinent(Sofia), January 4, 1999, in FBIS, East Europe, January5, 1999.

[209]The arms manufacturing companies need to be restructured so that sharescurrently held by Metalchim Holding, an industry consortium, are transferred tothe government.Capital Weekly(Sofia), Reuters Business Briefing, February 20, 1999.


[211]For example, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Bozhkov announced in January 1999that privatization mechanisms were being prepared for arms industry companies."Bulgarian Press Digest," Reuters Business Briefing, January 19, 1999, citingStandart News(Sofia) andSega Daily(Sofia). Bulgarian officialsconfirmed in March 1999 that the government was committed to privatizing thearms industry. Georgi Ananiev, Defense Minister, and Philip Dimitrov,Ambassador to the United States, Press Conference at the Bulgarian Embassy, Washington,D.C., March 3, 1999.

[212]Philip Dimitrov, "Letter to the Editor." Mr. Dimitrov argued that privatizationwould help improve government control over the arms trade. Mr. Dimitrov made asimilar statement in early 1999. Philip Dimitrov, Ambassador to the UnitedStates, Press Conference at the Bulgarian Embassy, Washington, D.C., March 3,1999.

[213]Human Rights Watch with a Bulgarian Embassy official, Washington, D.C.,November 11, 1998; and with a representative of a Bulgarian civil societyorganization, Sofia, February 1999.

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

[215]Bulgaria's foreign minister, Nadejda Mihailova, stated in 1998: "We are alreadydeveloping plans to reduce the size of the army, buy Western equipment andgenerally bring the military into line with NATO norms." "Invest in Bulgaria?"Jane's Foreign Report, March 26, 1998.

[216]HumanRights Watch interview with Col. Hristo Stanimirov, Chief of Staff, DefenseEconomy Department, Ministry of Defense, and Col. Todor Malchev, Head ofSection, Procurement and Trade Department, Ministry of Defense, Sofia, February5, 1999.

[217]"Bulgaria to Cut Personnel,"Jane'sDefence Weekly, September 10, 1997.

[218]Concerns about the export of surplus weapons are described in Joost Hiltermann,"NATO as Weapons Proliferator," editorial published in theInternational Herald Tribune(Paris), June 11, 1998. See also Musahand Castle, "Eastern Europe's Arsenal."

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

[220]The shipment was said to be worth over U.S.$7 million. Human Rights Watch ArmsProject and Human Rights Watch/Africa,Angola:Arms Trade and Violations of the Laws of War Since the 1992 Elections(NewYork: 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 inNicosia was not able to determine whether the shipment was released. HumanRights Watch telephone conversation with Michele Kambas, Reuters correspondentin Nicosia, Cyprus, February 9, 1999.

[221]During a field investigation in Angola in May and June 1994, a Human Rights Watchresearcher witnessed large shipments of military equipment, including artillerypieces, being unloaded from cargo planes that were clearly marked as being fromBulgaria and other former Warsaw Pact countries. The origin of the armsthemselves could not be confirmed. Human Rights Watch,Angola: Arms Trade and Violations of the Laws of War, p. 39.

[222]Ibid, p. 57. See also, Human Rights Watch,WorldReport 1995(New York: Human Rights Watch, 1994), p. 10.

[223]Human Rights Watch, "Between War and Peace," p. 13.

[224]BTA News Agency (Sofia), February 21, 1996, in BBC Monitoring Service: CentralEurope and Balkans, February 23, 1996.

[225]Human Rights Watch interviews with government officials in Angola, November1996.

[226]Human Rights Watch interviews with an airline industry source, August andSeptember 1998.

[227]James Rupert, "Zaire Reportedly Selling Arms to Angolan Ex-Rebels,"Washington Post, March 21, 1997. Thearticle stated that cargo flights from Bulgaria arrived at the N'Djili airportseveral times a week for several weeks in mid-to-late 1996, delivering weaponsand ammunition. According to a diplomatic source, the arms shipments includedAK-47s and 60mm and 120mm mortars, as well as rocket-propelled grenades andlaunchers. Another diplomatic source quoted in the report stated that the cargowas repackaged for onward shipment to UNITA-held areas of Angola.

[228]A foreign pilot working for a Zaire-based company who witnessed the crashstated: "This particular load of arms came from Bulgaria. It was bound forLuzamba, in Angola, but weapons come in here all the time and they goeverywhere." John Fleming, "Zaire-Politics: No Shortage of Weapons," InterPress Service, August 12, 1996. See also,DeStandaard(Brussels), August 26, 1996, in FBIS, Central Africa, August 29,1996; and Human Rights Watch,WorldReport 1997(New York: Human Rights Watch, 1996), p. 17.

[229]In addition to the sources cited below, see Lesley Wroughton, "Angola: AngolanPeace at Peril in Zaire Domino Effect," Reuters, June 13, 1997; and KenPottinger, "Angolan Rebels Raise Fear of New Civil War,"Daily Telegraph(London), August 19, 1997.

[230]Jakkie Potgieter, senior researcher with the Institute for Security Studies inSouth Africa, said that markings on the crates in which the weapons werepacked, as well as on the wrapping surrounding the crates, indicated that theywere from Bulgaria. He said that some of the crates-whose contents hesaw-contained assault rifles and rocket launchers. He stated that the armsshipment he witnessed was headed to Cazombo in central-eastern Angola, but hewas unable to confirm their arrival in UNITA-held areas. Human Rights Watchinterview, Eskom Conference Center, Midrand, South Africa, July 3, 1997,supplemented by a follow-up interview by telephone on February 23, 1999. Potgieterdescribed the planes, which he also saw bringing in weapons from other pointsof origin in November 1996, as Cessna 210s and DC-3 transporters. See PetaThornycroft, "SA Arms Going to UNITA,"ElectronicMail and Guardian(Johannesburg), June 20, 1997, available via the Internetat:

[231]Jakkie Potgieter, "Letters,"Weekly Mailand Guardian(Johannesburg), June 27, 1997, available via the Internet at:

[232]The government rejected charges that weapons for UNITA have been transshippedthrough its territory but stated in June 1997 that it would investigate suchclaims.See "Mozambique InvestigatesAlleged Arms Smuggling to UNITA," Agence France Press, June 26, 1997; andRadio Maputo, June 25, 1997, in BBCMonitoring Service: Africa, June 27, 1997. Mozambican army chief of staffLieutenant-General Lagos Lidimo rejected as fabrications allegations that anarms network run by Portuguese businessmen through the Mozambican port ofNacala were linked to senior Mozambican officials.SouthScan, vol. 12, no. 25 (July 4, 1997). As of March 1999 theresults of any such investigation by Mozambican authorities had not been madepublic.

[233]Pavel Myltsev, "Uganda: Ugandan President Admits Backing to UNITA,"ITAR-TASS,September 9, 1998.

[234]"Uganda Denies Involving [sic] in War in Angola," Xinhua News Agency, December21, 1998; andNew Vision(Kampala),December 21, 1998, in BBC Monitoring Service: Africa, December 22, 1998. See alsoJohn Groblner, Tangeni Amupadhi, and Chris Gordon, "Jailed South Africans ‘FlewTrucks to UNITA,'"Weekly Mail andGuardian(Johannesburg), May 1, 1998, available via the Internet at:

[235]Bonner, "Bulgaria Becomes."

[236][237]The Bulgarian ambassador was said to have admitted that UNITA might haveobtained arms in Bulgaria from private sources.Jornal de Angola(Luanda), Reuters Press Digest, August 5, 1998.According to another account, the Bulgarian commercial attaché acknowledgedthat Bulgarian weapons, possibly supplied by Kintex and Arsenal, might be inuse by UNITA rebels, Sam Mujuda, Brighton Phiri, and Goodson Machona, "CongoConflict Worries Chiluba,"Post of Zambia,August 7, 1998, available via the Internet at:

[237]"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]BTA News Agency (Sofia), August 12, 1998, in BBC Monitoring Service: CentralEurope and Balkans, August 14, 1998. See also, "Bulgarian Press Digest,"Reuters Business Briefing, August 13, 1998 citing24 Chasa(Sofia); and Televisâo Popular de Angola (Luanda), August10, 1998, in BBC Monitoring Service: Africa, August 12, 1998.

[240]Jornal de Angola(Luanda), February1, 1999, republished by Noticias de Angola web site, BBC Worldwide MonitoringService: Africa, February 3, 1999. The commander was quoted elsewhere asstating"...[T]he weapons came from a European country and passed through anAfrican country, but I don't know which. Bulgaria was written on the boxes."See Rosa Ingwane, "Angolan Rebel Tells of Weapons Buys," Associated Press, January29, 1999. See also, "Captured Rebel Says African States Helped UNITA Arm,"Reuters, January 28, 1999. The information provided by the officer must betreated with caution as he made his reported statement while in the custody ofthe Angolan government.

[241]Based on statements by Paul Beaver, an arms trade expert for the Jane'sInformation Group, the article stated that UNITA had bought weapons fromeastern Europe and that Arsenal was known to have supplied rebels in SouthYemen and the DRC. Chris Gordon, "Eastern Europe Aid Bolsters UNITA,"Mail and Guardian(Johannesburg),distributed by Africa News Online, January 15, 1999.

[242]Demokratsiya(Sofia), January 18,1999, in FBIS, East Europe, January 20, 1999.

[243]The delegation traveled via Lusaka and London. Human Rights Watch interview,London, January 1999.

[244]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 forLogistics and Acquisition, Ministry of Defense, and Col. Hristo Stanimirov,Chief of Staff, Defense Economy Department, Ministry of Defense, Sofia,February 9, 1999.

[245]The government of Angola has repeatedly accused Zambia of serving as a countryof 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 Statesof Aiding UNITA," Reuters, January 23, 1999. In addition, a South Africanresearch institute reported in April 1998 that UNITA has received weapons viaZambia. Richard Cornwell and Jakkie Potgieter, "Angola-Endgame or Stalemate?"Institute for Security Studies Occasional Paper No. 3, April 1998, available viathe Internet at: Zambia hasdenied official involvement in weapons flows to UNITA, but in early 1999 itundertook to investigate whether individuals in Zambia might have smuggledweapons illegally. Xinhua News Agency, Reuters Business Briefing, January 29,1999.

[246]On August 9, 1996, an ad hoc group of neighboring countries agreed tocomprehensive sanctions on Burundi. Bulgaria itself was not subject to theembargo.

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

[248]De Standaard(Brussels), March 13,1998, in FBIS, West Europe, March 16, 1998. See also, "Burundi: In Brief-NewBurundi Defense Minister,"Jane's DefenceWeekly, April 8, 1998.

[249]"Interim Report of the International Commission of Inquiry (Rwanda)," containedin United Nations Secretary-General, "Letter Dated 18 August 1998 from theSecretary-General Addressed to the President of the Security Council" (NewYork: United Nations, 1998), S/1998/777 (August 19, 1998), paras. 46-58.

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

[251]The deal reportedly was arranged by representatives of Viercom, a Ukrainiancompany based in Kiev. Ibid.

[252]The series of arms flights reportedly began in 1994, involving cargo planesregistered in Ghana, Nigeria, the Ukraine, and Russia. The weapons flights intoGoma, which were said to land on Tuesday nights, continued until at leastmid-May 1995. These reports expanded on allegations first made in April 1995 byRobin Cook, then the United Kingdom's shadow foreign affairs minister. SeeAmnesty International, "Rwanda: Arming the Perpetrators of the Genocide"(London: Amnesty International, June 1995), p. 3; "Merchants of Death: The CookReport," 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 describesallegations by Robin Cook and Carlton Television, as well as its own findings.

[253]Amnesty International, "Rwanda: Arming," p. 4.

[254]"Bulgaria Denies Amnesty Report on Arms to Rwanda," Reuters, June 13, 1995.

[255]The "British firm" was actually an undercover reporter for Carlton Television.

[256]Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, "Kintex Never Supplied Arms to Rwanda," Bulletin ofNews from Bulgaria,June 16, 1995,available via the Internet at:

[257]Response as quoted in "Second Report of the International Commission of Inquiry(Rwanda)," contained in United Nations Secretary-General, "Letter Dated 14March 1996 from the Secretary-General Addressed to the President of theSecurity Council" (New York: United Nations, 1996), S/1996/195. As of November1998, when UNICOI submitted its final report, it had not received a response toits request for further information about Bulgaria's investigation. The requestwas made on August 6, 1996, as noted in "Third Report of the InternationalCommission of Inquiry (Rwanda)," contained in United Nations Secretary-General,"Letter Dated 24 December 1997 from the Secretary-General Addressed to thePresident of the Security Council" (New York: United Nations, 1997),S/1997/1010. Human Rights Watch confirmed by telephone that UNICOI had notreceived a reply as of March 1999. Telephone conversation with a U.N. sourceclose to the commission, March 9, 1999.

[258]Response as quoted in "Third Report of the International Commission of Inquiry(Rwanda)." See also "Bulgaria's Authorities Have Not Licensed Arms Sales toRwanda,"Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, March 29, 1996, available via the Internetat:

[259]Response as quoted in "Addendum to the Third Report of the InternationalCommission of Inquiry (Rwanda)," contained in United Nations Secretary-General,"Letter Dated 26 January 1998 from the Secretary-General Addressed to thePresident of the Security Council" (New York: United Nations, 1998), S/1998/63.

[260]"Final Report of the International Commission of Inquiry (Rwanda)," containedin United Nations Secretary-General, "Letter Dated 18 November 1998 from theSecretary-General Addressed to the President of the Security Council" (NewYork: United Nations, 1998), S/1998/1096, para. 72.

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

[262]Human Rights Watch interview with Dimiter Zhalev, Department of NATO, WEU andSecurity Issues, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sofia, February 8, 1999.

[263]24 Chasa(Sofia), December 23, 1998,included in a translation the same day of a report byDemokratsiya(Sofia) in BBC Monitoring Service: Central Europe andBalkans, December 24, 1998. Information received by Human Rights Watch suggeststhat the shipment may have been destined for Angola (see above).

[264]A U.N. security council resolution imposing an arms embargo on all parties inSierra Leone was proposed by the U.K. on October 8, 1997 and adopted asResolution 1132 the same day. A subsequent U.K. Order in Council implementedthe international embargo by banning British citizens from supplying arms toanyone "in or connected with" Sierra Leone without a license issued by thegovernment. An independent inquiry launched in Britain to examine Sandline'sclaim that it acted with the approval of the British government established inJuly 1998 that the arms shipment violated the U.N. and British embargoes. Asubsequent parliamentary investigation, completed in February 1999, reached thesame conclusion regarding the illegality of the shipment. However, U.N. lawyersreportedly have offered a different interpretation suggesting that the Sandlineshipment, if it were destined to a regional peacekeeping force (ECOMOG), wouldnot have been illegal. As noted, Sandline was contracted by President Kabbah.For more information on the government inquiries, see Sir Thomas Legg and SirRobin Ibbs, "Report of the Sierra Leone Arms Investigation," July 27, 1998,available via the Internet at:, the "Legg Report"); and "Sierra Leone: Second Report," House ofCommons Foreign Affairs Committee (London: The Stationery Office, February 3,1999), hereafter, "House of Commons Report. For information on the U.N. rulingon the legality of the shipment, see Laura Silber and David Wighton, "UNLawyers Rule on Sierra Leone Arms,"FinancialTimes, May 23, 1998; and James Bone, "Sandline is Given Support by UN,"Times(London), May 25, 1998.

[265]"Legg Report," pp. 29, 72. President Kabbah organized the civilian militiassupporting him into Civilian Defense Forces (CDF). The Kamajors constitute thelargest and most powerful of the CDFs.


[267]Sam Kiley, "Sierra Leone: Fred the Fijian's Unkillables Put Junta on the Run,"Times(London), May 15, 1998, p. 16.

[268]One report, published in May 1998, stated that the weapons had been used byECOMOG forces beginning in March 1998. Sam Kiley, "Sandline Weapons Still BeingUsed to Crush Rebel Force,"Times(London), May 11, 1998, p. 11.

[269]The vast majority of abuses committed in Sierra Leone were perpetrated bymembers of two rebel groups, the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) andthe Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The Kamajors have also been responsiblefor serious abuses. Human Rights Watch, "Sowing Terror: Atrocities againstCivilians in Sierra Leone,"A HumanRights Watch Short Report, vol. 10, no. 3 (A), July 1998, pp. 4-5, 23-25.

[270][Judith Miller, "U.N. Monitors Accuse Sierra Leone Peacekeepers of Killings,"New York Times, February 12, 1999. AU.N. official stated that ECOMOG commanders had confirmed to him that troopsunder their command had been responsible for "excesses" and assured him thatthey had made one hundred arrests in connection with the charges, but ECOMOGlater was reported to have denied that account. Xinhua News Agency, ReutersBusiness Briefing, February 19, 1999.

[271]Michael Evans, "Sandline Chief Insists He Had Official Approval,"Times(London), May 20, 1998. It isinteresting to note that Sandline had chartered planes operated by Air Sofia inconnection with its planned operations in Papua New Guinea, where it wascontracted to help quash an insurgency in 1997. One Air Sofia plane, a smallAntonov 12 aircraft, reportedly delivered crates of sophisticated weapons to anairport near where a strike against rebels was to have been launched. "PNGHires Mercenaries to Blast Rebels,"Australian(Sydney), Reuters Business Briefing, February 22, 1997; "Downer's TripwireAct,"Australian(Sydney), ReutersBusiness Briefing, February 22, 1997; and Radio Australia (Melbourne), February24, 1997, in BBC Monitoring Service: Asia-Pacific, February 25, 1997. Armsloaded onto a second Air Sofia plane, a larger Antonov 124 aircraft, wereimpounded in Australia, and the planned attack was canceled under publicpressure. Alex Vines, "Mercenaries and the Privatization of Security in Africain the 1990s," in Greg Mills (ed.),ThePrivatization of Security in Africa(Johannesburg: South African Instituteof International Affairs, 1999).

[272]Patrick Wintour, David Connett, Michael Gillard, Jay Rayner, Shyam Bhatia, andPeter Beaumont, "Doing the Right Thing...the Wrong Way,"Observer(London), May 10, 1998.

[273]Michael Jones, "Can Cook Beat Mercenaries?,"Sunday Times(London), May 17, 1998.

[274]In Bulgaria Human Rights Watch obtained copies of air cargo documents showingthat a Sky Air Boeing 707 plane was loaded with cargo at Burgas airport onFebruary 22, 1998, before departing at 1:40 p.m. for Kano, Nigeria, as had beenreported by theSunday Times.

[275]Jones, "Can Cook Beat Mercenaries?" TheSundayTimesarticle is the most detailed, but several other newspapers alsoreported that the arms were delivered from Bulgaria to Sierra Leone viaNigeria. See Nicholas Rufford, "Diamond Dogs of War,"Times(London), May 10, 1998; Wintour et al., "Doing the RightThing...the Wrong Way;" and "Private Armies, Public Relations,"Africa Confidential(London), vol. 39,no. 11 (May 29, 1998).

[276]Jones, "Can Cook Beat Mercenaries?"

[277]BTA News Agency (Sofia), May 12, 1998, in BBC Monitoring Service: CentralEurope and the Balkans, May 18, 1998.

[278]"Bulgarian Premier Denies Breaking Arms Embargo," RFE/RL Newsline, May 18,1998.

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

[280]See "Legg Report" and "House of Commons Report."

[281]The deal first became known when a defense ministry official announced onNovember 26, 1998 that the ministry had sold tanks to unspecified Africancountries. Raymond Bonner, "New Weapons Sales to Africa Trouble Arms-ControlExperts,"New York Times, December 6,1998, citing a report inTrud(Sofia)ten days earlier. On the basis of a written response from the Bulgarian Councilof Ministers, Bonner confirmed that the tanks were sold to Uganda and Ethiopia,as first reported byTrud. See alsoKontinent(Sofia), November 27, 1998, inFBIS, East Europe, November 30, 1998; and BTA News Agency, Reuters BusinessBriefing, December 8, 1998.

[282]The spokesperson wrote: "As far as the question of profit and how many itemsare sold for each country, we are not allowed to submit this informationbecause it is considered a state and commercial secrecy by Bulgarian laws."Letter from Sylvia Beamish, International Media Relations, GovernmentInformation Office, Council of Ministers, to Raymond Bonner,New York Times, December 3, 1998,unpublished.

[283]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 BusinessBriefing, 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, somesixty tanks had been delivered of a total consignment of ninety tanks. See, forexample,New Vision(Kampala), BBCMonitoring Africa-Political, January 2, 1999.

[284]"Uganda Receives MBTs,"Jane's DefenceWeekly;New Vision(Kampala),December 17, 1998, in Reuters Business Briefing, December 18, 1998;New Vision, December 20, 1998, inReuters Business Briefing, December 22, 1998; and Nikolai Chavdarov, "BulgariaInvolved in Arms Scandal,"Sega Daily(Sofia), December 21, 1998.

[285]Human Rights Watch submitted written requests for confirmation to BlagoyGuenov, Secretary to the Bulgaria's Interministerial Council on DefenseIndustry and Logistics at the Council of Ministers on February 12, 1999, and toAmama Mbabazi, the Ugandan State Minister of Regional Cooperation, on February18, 1999, but had not received a response from either official as of mid-March1999. For press accounts naming Bulgaria as the likely source of the deliveredtanks, see, for example, Chavdarov, "Bulgaria Involved in Arms Scandal;" andNikolai Chavdarov, "The African Scandal in Which Bulgaria Was Involved StillRumbles On,"Sega Daily(Sofia),January 5, 1999. Several other reports published in late 1998 and early 1999stated that the tanks originated in Ukraine, but a Ukrainian export controlofficial 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 hasfollowed Uganda's military purchases for a leading defense trade publicationbelieves that Bulgaria, working with the Israeli broker, arranged to sell tanksthat originated in Ukraine, Bulgaria, and possibly Romania. Human Rights Watchtelephone interview with Paul Harris, correspondent forJane's Intelligence Review, March 4, 1999. See also, "Uganda BoughtSoviet Tanks," Associated Press, December 17, 1999.

[286]According to a press account, an official audit of Uganda's 1997 militaryprocurement reported that ten T-54 tanks purchased in Bulgaria were defective."Audit of Military Expenses,"IndianOcean Newsletter(Paris), June 13, 1998. Bulgaria did not report tankexports to Uganda in 1997 to the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms.

[287]Bonner, "New Weapons Sales."

[288]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 AlliedDemocratic Forces (ADF) operated from western Uganda and eastern DRC. For areview of their human rights record, see Human Rights Watch,World Report 1999, pp. 81-82, availablevia the Internet at:

[289]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), analliance of rebel groups in southern Sudan, has used tanks in operationsagainst the Sudanese government. Uganda has strongly supported the SPLA andhelped it acquire weapons. See Human Rights Watch, "Global Trade, LocalImpact," pp. 17, 46-48.

[290]According to U.S. officials interviewed by theNew York Times, Uganda has no need for used tanks. Bonner, "NewWeapons Sales." See also, NTV (Moscow), November 28, 1998, in FBIS, CentralEurasia, December 2, 1998; Chavdarov, "Bulgaria Involved in Arms Scandal;"New Vision(Kampala), Reuters BusinessBriefing, January 2, 1999; and Chavdarov, "The African Scandal."

[291]Daily Mail(Dar es Salaam), BBCMonitoring Service: Africa, December 3, 1998.

[292]See Human Rights Watch, "Global Trade, Local Impact," and Human Rights Watch,"Casualties of War."

[293]New Vision(Kampala), Africa NewsService, Reuters Business Briefing, November 28, 1998; and Xinhua News Agency,Reuters Business Briefing, January 2, 1999.

[294]BTA News Agency, Reuters Business Briefing, December 8, 1998;Pari Daily(Sofia), Reuters BusinessBriefing, December 8, 1998; Xinhua News Agency, Reuters Business Briefing,December 8, 1998; "Bulgarian Defense Minister Rejects Allegations ofEmbargo-Busting," RFE/RL Newsline, December 9, 1998.

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

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

Copyright notice: © Copyright, Human Rights Watch

Search Refworld