Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour after bombing by French secret service agents. Image: John Miller.

Report by NewsroomPlus.com

Contributed by Olexander Barnes

On the night of the 10 July 1985 at 11:38pm an explosion rocked the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior as she was moored at Marsden wharf in Auckland, then at 11:45pm a second explosion detonated, killing photographer Fernando Pereira and sinking the ship in 4 minutes.

These explosions were the result of members of the French secret service the DGSE planting limpet mines on to the hull of the ship, designed to sink her thus preventing Greenpeace from protesting against French Nuclear testing in pacific atoll of Moruroa.

Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour after bombing by French secret service agents.  Image: John Miller.
Rainbow Warrior in Auckland Harbour after bombing by French secret service agents. Image courtesy of John Miller.

What followed was one of the biggest criminal investigations ever held in New Zealand. The French government initially denied any involvement calling the event a “terrorist attack”, but upon the apprehension of Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart who were posing as a married couple under the aliases of Sophie and Alain Turenge the connection to the French government was established.

Another three agents Chief Petty Officer Roland Verge, Petty Officer Bartelo and Petty Officer Gérard Andries, were caught by Australian police on Norfolk Island but were not held until the results of forensic testing came back, during which time they were picked up by a French submarine and returned to France.

Both Dominique and Alain were charged with murder, and pleaded guilty to manslaughter, for which they were sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The sentence enraged the French government, who threatened an economic embargo on exports to the European Economic Community against New Zealand. This would have crippled New Zealand’s economy that at this time heavily relied on exports to Britain. In response to this threat, New Zealanders began to boycott French products.

Eventually both countries agreed to let the UN mediate the settlement. This resulted in 1986 nearly a full year after the bombing the Secretary-General of the UN Javier Perez de Cuellar announcing that New Zealand would receive a official apology from France as well as $13 million in compensation and France being ordered not to interfere in New Zealand’s trade negotiations.

New Zealand had to hand over Dominique and Alain to serve their sentences on Hao Atoll in French Polynesia where Alain only served his sentence until 1987 when he was returned to France because of ‘illness’ and Dominique returned to France in 1988 because she was pregnant.

The events caused a great swell of solidarity and nationalism to happen in New Zealand. Many New Zealanders saw the attack having been perpetrated against New Zealand rather than an international group, against the predictions of the French government.

There was also a cooling in relations with many of New Zealand’s traditional allies such as the United States who among other western countries did not condemn the French attack on New Zealand sovereignty. New Zealand’s relationship with small Pacific nations was strengthened and remained on excellent terms with Australia.

In 1987 under international pressure, the French government paid Greenpeace $8.16 million.

The Rainbow Warrior herself was refloated for forensic examination, this lead to the conclusion that she was irreparable. She was scuttled in Matauri Bay where she remains as a popular dive spot.

Resources:
http://my.christchurchcitylibraries.com/rainbow-warrior/

http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/nuclear-free-new-zealand/rainbow-warrior

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/about/history/the-bombing-of-the-rainbow-war/

Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.