How Britain taught Arab police forces all they know

Campaigners raise questions about 'cosy relationship' as death toll mounts

There was growing anger last night over the enmeshed relationship between authoritarian Gulf governments and the British military and police after weeks of democracy protests across the Arab world that met with violent state repression.

As demonstrators in Bahrain and Libya attended funerals and faced armed soldiers yesterday, campaign groups called on the Government to re-evaluate whether Britain should be so heavily involved in the training of Arab police and the military.

In the past two years, British police have helped to train their counterparts in Bahrain, Libya, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia through schemes run by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), which organises overseas training. At present, there are three full-time advisers working with the Bahraini police, which was heavily implicated in the violent crackdown on protests in Manama this week.

Since the warming of relations between Libya and Britain, officers travelled frequently to Tripoli between 2008 and 2009 to train police, and Britain has authorised the export of tear gas, crowd-control ammunition, small-arms ammunition and door-breaching projectile launchers.

Three years ago, ministers agreed to send Libya vehicles armed with water cannons. There are also unconfirmed reports that riot vans made by British companies have been present during crackdowns in the Libyan city of Benghazi, where scores have been killed.

And there is the long-standing connection between the UK military and Arab regimes that send scores of officers through training at Sandhurst. Five Arab heads of state are Sandhurst alumni, including the King of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifa, who ordered the violent crackdown.

Other Arab rulers who have been through officer training in Britain include King Abdullah of Jordan, the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah al-Salim Al Sabah, the Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said al Said, and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Tom Porteous, the UK director of Human Rights Watch, urged a government review of such close links after the attacks on peaceful protesters in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain.

"It is a real concern and highly symbolic of the cosy and powerful relationship that countries like the UK and the USA have had for many years with these deeply repressive regimes," he said. "The British Government often states that it insists on incorporating human rights elements in its overseas training programmes but when it comes to dealing with protesters, we have seen over the past few weeks how the security forces in many of these countries are unleashed in a particularly brutal way."

An NPIA spokesman said British police have helped to train the Bahrainis in "effective search techniques, tackling cyber-crime, dealing with forensics and evidence gathering", adding "respect for human rights and diversity underpins all NPIA's training and support for overseas police forces".

The MoD said last night that the British military has long-standing "mutually beneficent training programmes" with a host of Middle Eastern countries, adding that the military was still trying to draw up a list of how many officers are involved in training abroad, but declined to comment further.

But Saeed al-Shehabi, a London-based dissident who runs the Bahrain Freedom Movement, said: "The regime in Bahrain has proven that it has no humanity, no respect for human rights or international conventions. British arms are being used for internal repression of peaceful protests. Why is the British Government letting this happen?"

Suggested Topics
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
News
news

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Lecturer - Construction

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Construction Lecturer needed for a Col...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job ? This is a new post...

Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week