Viktor Bout’s Bloody Legacy Still Felt

The legacy of the Russian arms dealer swapped for Brittney Griner is still felt today, especially across Africa. Viktor Bout was convicted of conspiring to kill Americans.

But in the 1990s and early 2000s, he supplied weapons to myriad African conflicts. 

He trafficked weapons to rebels in Angola. He ran a criminal group that smuggled cobalt out of Congo. He delivered missiles, machine guns, and military helicopters to Liberia when it was in the middle of a civil war. 

But last week he was released by the United States in exchange for American basketball star Brittney Griner.  Bout was never held accountable for any of the acts that were documented over the years by experts at the United Nations. 

He landed in an American prison after being arrested in a sting operation in Bangkok in 2008 by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration informants posing as Colombian revolutionaries. He was then convicted of conspiring to kill Americans. 

He was greeted as a “wonderful person” when he arrived back in Russia last week. 

Many of the African victims of the conflicts he supplied with weapons are still enduring the pain and trauma he supplied, and awaiting any semblance of justice. 

Bout is responsible for the murders of thousands of people, experts said. 

Bout had a network of more than 50 planes that were constantly involved in “arms shipments from Eastern Europe into African war zones,” according to the United Nations.

For years, survivors of wars and human rights advocates have pushed for the creation of a war crimes court for various conflicts, including the Liberian war. Bout supplied weapons to Liberia, a nation in which almost everyone has suffered one way or another. 

Successive Liberian governments have resisted a war crimes court. 

With African leaders convening this week in Washington for a high-level summit, there are renewed calls for President Biden to speak with Liberian President George Weah about establishing such a court.

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