The UK is supplying military support and training to countries on its own list of human rights abusers, a new report says.
Since 2014, British armed forces have trained “either security or armed forces personnel” in 16 countries listed on its human rights abusers watchlist, The Independent has revealed.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) designated 30 nations as “human rights priority” countries last year, warning of their conduct on a range of issues from internal repression to the use of sexual violence in armed conflicts.
According to the British Defense Ministry, UK soldiers have trained the militaries of Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burma, Burundi, China, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Zimbabwe – despite the human rights records of those countries.
In March, The Independent reported that British commandos are training Bahraini soldiers in using sniper rifles, despite the alleged use of such specialist troops to target protesters during a pro-democracy uprising in 2011.
Bahraini troops also attended the Infantry Battle School in Wales last week, according to the Ministry of Defense. They visited alongside troops from Nigeria, whose top military generals have been accused of war crimes by Amnesty International.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said Britain should not be “colluding” with countries it was well aware were led by the oppressive regimes. “The UK army has provided training to some of the most authoritarian states in the world,” he said.
“The fact that many of them are included on the government's own 'human rights priority' list is a sign of how oppressive they are. The UK military should not be colluding with or legitimizing human rights abusers.”
The British government has been under fire in recent months for ramping up arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which stands accused of committing war crimes during its military campaign in Yemen. London has shrugged off international calls for an arms embargo on the Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has been accused of committing war crimes during its military campaign in Yemen. Saudi fighter jets have bombed multiple hospitals, according to Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French name Medecins Sans Frontiers.
Other reports include the Saudi bombing of Yemeni schools and weddings.
Defense minister Philip Dunne confirmed last month that British liaison officers had trained Saudi troops in using weapons systems supplied by the UK.