UK trained Bahraini army officers even after crackdown began
Britain continued to train Bahraini army officers at Sandhurst months after the Gulf state began its brutal crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators, it was disclosed yesterday.
Five Bahraini officers were receiving tuition at the élite military academy in Surrey as recently as last month, a Freedom of Information (FoI) request has revealed.
The link emerged as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) was criticised for dispatching army personnel to Saudi Arabia to instruct the kingdom's national guard in public order techniques and the use of sniper rifles. The security force has been deployed to help crush the uprising in Bahrain and impose martial law.
The five most recent Bahraini trainees at Sandhurst have since returned home. They included Sheikh Mohammed bin Salman al-Khalifa, son of Bahrain's Crown Prince, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa.
Sandhurst has a long tradition of training military officers from Bahrain, where at least 29 people have died in street fighting since February. The country is ruled by a Sunni royal family, but the majority of its population is Shia. Most of those killed have been Shia demonstrators supporting civil rights. Crowd control is included in the training at Sandhurst, but the MoD has emphasised that it is only a tiny part of the course, and does not qualify trainees to act as specialists in the field.
The King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, is a Sandhurst graduate. He is also a patron of the Sandhurst Foundation, a charity for trainees, to which he has donated £70,000. According to official figures, 61 Bahrainis have been trained at the academy since 1995.
The former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said it was "surprising" that the links had been kept up despite the violence in Bahrain. "At the very least these arrangements should have been suspended pending the outcome of the political changes," he said.
Nishma Doshi, the campaigner who submitted the FoI request, said: "It is astonishing we invade Libya claiming we're defending protesters, while at the same time training the forces who are murdering protesters in Bahrain."
An MoD spokesman said: "All overseas requests for defence training are considered on a case-by-case basis and it would not be provided if we thought such training would lead to human rights abuses. Indeed, providing training to the same high standards used by UK armed forces helps to save lives and raise awareness of human rights."
Separate FoI requests disclosed that up to 20 British teams are sent to Saudi Arabia each year to give instruction in "weapons, fieldcraft and general military skills training, as well as incident handling, bomb disposal, search, public order and sniper training".
Nicholas Gilby of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: "Britain's important role in training the Saudi Arabian National Guard in internal security over many years has enabled them to develop tactics to help suppress the popular uprising in Bahrain."
- 1 Chelsea victory parade mocked on Twitter as 'tens of fans' pack the streets of London
- 3 Johnny Depp facing 10 years in jail for illegally bringing dogs to Australia
- 4 US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
- 5 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
Johnny Depp facing 10 years in jail for illegally bringing dogs to Australia
US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission, Benefits, OTE £100k: SThree: ...
£32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...
£27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you a recent graduate loo...