International Human Rights Weekly News Roundup

by Pauline Canham

In Focus

UK provides military training to repressive states

UK_military_trainingThe UK is providing military training to 17 out of 30 countries on its Foreign Office human rights watch list.  From 2018 to 2020, UK armed forces assisted in the training of soldiers in the following states:

Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Columbia, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Maldives, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe.


Most disturbing are reports of sniper commander courses provided in Bahrain, a state known for its crackdown on peaceful protests during the Arab Spring, but also more recently in 2018. In addition, the UK has been training Saudi Arabian forces in the use of fighter jets and associated weaponry which it sold to the Kingdom and was used in the bombing of targets in Yemen, with catastrophic humanitarian consequences. 

On Tuesday, a serving British soldier was arrested in Whitehall for launching his own individual protest at the UK’s involvement in providing arms to Saudi Arabia, blowing a whistle every ten minutes for nine and a half hours, to illustrate how often a child dies in Yemen.  Yemeni born Ahmed Al Batati is refusing to serve the UK military “until they make the right decisions to end the unlawful arms trade with Saudi Arabia.”

The UK has also just announced the halt to training of police and the suspension of the export of crowd control equipment to Hong Kong, citing COVID 19 as the justification.  In addition, it has emerged that the UK has been providing training to the military of the Lukashenko regime in Belarus.  UK ministers admitted that British Royal Marines had “shared essential experience and expertise to Belarusian forces” and had provided advanced training to officers.  A Ministry of Defence spokesperson defended the training on the basis that the Belarus military had not ‘yet’ been involved in suppressing protestors and that the training was focused on UN peacekeeping and language tuition.

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