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File:Rainbow Warrior-1.svg

A drawing of the Rainbow Warrior

The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, codenamed Opération Satanique,[1] was an operation by the "action" branch of the French foreign intelligence services, the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE), carried out on July 10, 1985. It aimed to sink the flagship of the Greenpeace fleet, the Rainbow Warrior in the port of Auckland, New Zealand, to prevent her from interfering in a nuclear test in Moruroa.

Fernando Pereira, a photographer, drowned on the sinking ship. Two French agents were arrested by the New Zealand Police on passport fraud and immigration charges. They were charged with arson, conspiracy to commit arson, willful damage, and murder. As part of a plea bargain, they pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to ten years in prison, of which they served just over two.

The scandal resulted in the resignation of the French Defence Minister Charles Hernu.

Background[edit | edit source]

File:Moruroa atoll.JPG

Moruroa atoll from space

In the 1980s, the Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique was developing nuclear warheads for the M4 SLBM, which were tested in underground explosions in the French Polynesian atoll of Moruroa.

Greenpeace was opposed to testing and planned to lead yachts to the atoll to protest, including an illegal incursion into French military zones. The Rainbow Warrior had not previously visited New Zealand, but David Lange's New Zealand Labour Party government opposed nuclear weapons development and had banned nuclear-armed or powered ships from New Zealand ports. (As a consequence the United States was in the process of withdrawing from its ANZUS mutual defence treaty obligations.)

The French government decided that in order to stop the planned protest, the Greenpeace flagship would have to be sunk. Operation Satanique would seek to disable the Rainbow Warrior while it was docked, while trying to prevent any casualties. Twenty years after the incident, a report by the then head of French intelligence said that the attack was authorized by French President François Mitterrand.

Sinking of the ship[edit | edit source]

File:Fernando Pereira by David Robie.jpg

Fernando Pereira

Agents had boarded and examined the ship while it was open to public viewing. DGSE agent Christine Cabon, posing as environmentalist Frederique Bonlieu, volunteered for the Greenpeace office in Auckland. Cabon secretly monitored communications from the Rainbow Warrior, collected maps, and investigated underwater equipment, in order to provide information crucial to the sinking. After the necessary information had been gathered, two DGSE divers beneath the Rainbow Warrior attached two limpet mines and detonated them 10 minutes apart. The first bomb went off 11:38 P.M., creating a large hole about the size of an average car. Agents intended the first mine to cripple the ship so that everybody would be evacuated safely off when the second mine was detonated. However, the crew did not react to the first explosion as the agents had expected. While the ship was initially evacuated, some of the crew returned to the ship to investigate and film the damage. A Portuguese-Dutch photographer, Fernando Pereira, returned below decks to fetch his camera equipment. At 11:45 P.M., the second bomb went off. Pereira drowned in the rapid flooding that followed, and the other ten crew members were either safely evacuated on the order of Captain Peter Willcox or were thrown into the water by the second explosion. The Rainbow Warrior sank four minutes later.

Scandal[edit | edit source]

Operation Satanique was a public relations disaster. France, being an ally of New Zealand, initially denied involvement and joined in condemning what it described as a terrorist act. The French Embassy in Wellington denied involvement, stating that "the French Government does not deal with its opponents in such ways".[2]

After the bombing, the New Zealand Police started one of the country's largest police investigations. Most of the agents escaped New Zealand, but two, Captain Dominique Prieur and Commander Alain Mafart – posing as married couple 'Sophie and Alain Turenge' and having Swiss passports – were identified as possible suspects with the help of a Neighborhood Watch group, and were arrested. Both were questioned and investigated, and their true identities were discovered, along with the French government's responsibility. Both agents pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on November 22, 1985.

France threatened an economic embargo of New Zealand's exports to the European Economic Community if the pair were not released.[3] Such an action would have crippled the New Zealand economy, which was dependent on agricultural exports to Britain.

File:Atoll de Hao (prise de vue - l'infirmerie).jpg

Hao atoll

In June 1986, in a political deal with Prime Minister of New Zealand David Lange, presided over by United Nations Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, France agreed to pay NZ$13 million (USD$6.5 million) to New Zealand and apologise, in return for which Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur would be detained at the French military base on Hao Atoll for three years. However, the two agents had both returned to France by May 1988, after less than two years on the atoll. Mafart returned to Paris on December 14, 1987 for medical treatment, and was apparently freed after the treatment. He continued in the French Army and was promoted to colonel in 1993. Prieur returned to France on May 6, 1988, because she was pregnant, her husband having been allowed to join her on the atoll. She, too, was freed and later promoted. The removal of the agents from Hao without subsequent return was ruled to be in violation of the 1986 agreement.[4]

Three other agents, Chief Petty Officer Roland Verge, Petty Officer Bartelo and Petty Officer Gérard Andries, who sailed to New Zealand on the yacht Ouvéa, were arrested by Australian police on Norfolk Island, but released as Australian law did not allow them to be held until the results of forensic tests came back. They were then picked up by the French submarine Rubis, which scuttled the Ouvéa.

A sixth agent, Louis-Pierre Dillais, commander of the operation, was never captured and never faced charges. He acknowledged his involvement in an interview with New Zealand State broadcaster TVNZ in 2005.[5]

A commission of enquiry headed by Bernard Tricot cleared the French government of any involvement, claiming that the arrested agents, who had not yet pleaded guilty, had merely been spying on Greenpeace. When The Times and Le Monde claimed that President Mitterrand had approved the bombing, Defence Minister Charles Hernu resigned and the head of the DGSE, Admiral Pierre Lacoste, was fired. Eventually, Prime Minister Laurent Fabius admitted the bombing had been a French plot: On 22 September 1985, he summoned journalists to his office to read a 200 word statement in which he said: "The truth is cruel," and acknowledged there had been a cover-up, he went on to say that "Agents of the French secret service sank this boat. They were acting on orders."[6]

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

File:Matauri Bay Rainbow Warrior memorial4.JPG

Memorial to the Rainbow Warrior, at Matauri Bay in Northland, New Zealand

In the wake of the bombing, a flotilla of private New Zealand yachts sailed to Moruroa to protest against the French test.

French nuclear tests in the Pacific were halted, although a further series of tests was conducted in 1995.[7] In 1987, under international pressure, the French government paid $8.16 million to Greenpeace.

The Rainbow Warrior was refloated for forensic examination. She was deemed irreparable and scuttled at Template:Coord/input/dec in Matauri Bay, near the Cavalli Islands, on 2 December 1987, to serve as a dive wreck and fish sanctuary. Her masts had been removed and put on display at the Dargaville Maritime museum.

The failure of Western leaders to condemn this violation of a friendly nation's sovereignty caused a great deal of change in New Zealand's foreign and defence policy.[8] New Zealand distanced itself from its traditional ally, the United States, and built relationships with small South Pacific nations, while retaining excellent relations with Australia, and to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom.[9]

In 2005, Admiral Pierre Lacoste, head of DGSE, admitted the death weighed on his conscience and said the aim of the operation had not been to kill. He also claimed François Mitterrand, the then President of France, had personally authorized the action. He acknowledged the existence of three teams: the crew of the yacht, reconnaissance and logistics (those successfully prosecuted), plus a two-man team that carried out the bombing and whose identities have never been confirmed.[10]

A 20th anniversary memorial edition of the 1986 book Eyes of Fire: The Last Voyage of the Rainbow Warrior,[11] by New Zealand author David Robie who was on the bombed ship, was published in July 2005. He was interviewed by TVNZ on 8 August 2006 about the Court of Appeal judgement.[12]

Also on that anniversary, Television New Zealand (TVNZ) sought to access a video record made at the preliminary hearing where the two agents pleaded guilty. The footage had remained sealed on the court record since shortly after conclusion of the criminal proceedings. The two agents opposed release of the footage—despite having both written books on the incident—and have unsuccessfully taken the case to the New Zealand Court of Appeal and, subsequently, the Supreme Court of New Zealand.[13]

On 7 August 2006, judges Hammond, O'Regan and Arnold dismissed the former French agents' appeal[14] and Television New Zealand broadcast their guilty pleas the same day. However, two days later the judges reversed their ruling, temporarily blocking webcasts[15] and further broadcasts of the footage.[12]

In 2006 Antoine Royal revealed that his brother, Gérard Royal, had claimed to be involved in planting the bomb. Their sister is French Socialist Party politician Ségolène Royal who was contesting the French presidential election.[16][17] Other sources identified Royal as merely a Zodiac pilot,[18] and the New Zealand government announced there would be no extradition requests since the case was closed.[19]

Louis-Pierre Dillais is now an executive in the U.S. subsidiary of Belgian arms manufacturer FN Herstal and lives in the U.S. state of Virginia.[5] Ironically the New Zealand government has been buying arms from FN Herstal.[20] Greenpeace are still pursuing the extradition of Dillais for his involvement in the act.[21]

The Greenpeace website states that on 14 October 2011, it launched a new vessel called Rainbow Warrior III. The website describes it as a sailing vessel with an auxiliary electric motor.[22]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Bremner, Charles (11 July 2005). "Mitterrand ordered bombing of Rainbow Warrior, spy chief says". The Times (London). http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-1689202,00.html. Retrieved 16 November 2006. 
  2. Diary Compiled by Mike Andrews (Secretary of the Dargaville Maritime Museum)
  3. Shabecoff, Philip (3 October 1987). "France Must Pay Greenpeace $8 Million in Sinking of Ship". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1987/10/03/world/france-must-pay-greenpeace-8-million-in-sinking-of-ship.html. Retrieved 11 April 2010. 
  4. "Case concerning the difference between New Zealand and France concerning the interpretation or application of two agreements, concluded on 9 July 1986 between the two States and which related to the problems arising from the Rainbow Warrior Affair". Reports of International Arbitral Awards XX: 215–284, especially p 275. 30 April 1990. http://untreaty.un.org/cod/riaa/cases/vol_XX/215-284.pdf. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Goldenberg, Suzanne (25 May 2007) "Rainbow Warrior ringleader heads firm selling arms to US government". guardian.co.uk, Retrieved 26 May 2007
  6. Evening Mail - Monday 23 September 1985
  7. "Fifth French nuclear test sparks international outrage". CNN. 28 December 1995. http://edition.cnn.com/WORLD/9512/france_nuclear/index.html. Retrieved 13 June 2010. 
  8. Keith Sinclair, A History of New Zealand Penguin Books, New Zealand, 1991
  9. Nuclear Free: The New Zealand Way, The Right Honourable David Lange, Penguin Books, New Zealand, 1990
  10. Field, Catherine (30 June 2005). "'Third team' in Rainbow Warrior plot". nzherald.co.nz. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?c_id=1&ObjectID=10333480. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  11. "Eyes of Fire: The Last Voyage of the Rainbow Warrior". South Pacific Books. 15 July 2005. http://www.wheelers.co.nz/browse/search/results/?title=Eyes+of+Fire%3A+The+Last+Voyage+of+the+Rainbow+Warrior*&author=Robie. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Tuesday August 8 | BREAKFAST | ONE NEWS". TV One (New Zealand). 8 August 2006. http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/497100/809128. Retrieved 6 June 2010. 
  13. http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3487761a11,00.html[dead link]
  14. Transcript Mafart Prieur v TVNZ, PDF document, 195Kb, 22 November 2005, Retrieved 22 September 2010
  15. http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3760746a12855,00.html[dead link]
  16. NZH Staff (30 September 2006). "Presidential hopeful's brother linked to Rainbow Warrior bomb". nzherald.co.nz. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=1&ObjectID=10403727. Retrieved 1 October 2006. 
  17. "NZ rules out new Rainbow Warrior probe". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 1 October 2006. http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200610/s1753103.htm. Retrieved 1 October 2006. 
  18. Guerres secrètes à l'Élysée, by Paul Barril, ed Albin Michel, Paris (1996)
  19. Kay, Martin (2 October 2006). "French frogman slips the net; Paper identifies bomber, but PM says the case will remain closed". The Dominion Post. pp. A1. 
  20. NZ trades with Arms Company whose US chief executive was a lead agent in the Rainbow Warrior bombing NZ Green Party, Retrieved 26 May 2007
  21. Greenpeace gunning for the leader of Warrior bombers Stuff.co.nz, Retrieved 26 May 2007[dead link]
  22. http://anewwarrior.greenpeace.org/

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Michael King, Death of the Rainbow Warrior (Penguin Books, 1986). ISBN 0-14-009738-4
  • David Robie, Eyes of Fire: The Last Voyage of the Rainbow Warrior (Philadelphia: New Society Press, 1987). ISBN 0-86571-114-3
  • The Sunday Times Insight Team, Rainbow Warrior: The French Attempt to Sink Greenpeace (London: Century Hutchinson Ltd, 1986). ISBN 0-09-164360-0

External links[edit | edit source]

Films (all are productions for television):

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