Queen's birthday: Six dictators and leaders with poor human rights records greeted by Elizabeth II

From Bashar al-Assad to Robert Mugabe, the Queen has come into contact with her fair share of despots

Maya Oppenheim
Friday 03 June 2016 17:02
In her lengthy reign the Queen has witnessed everything from the fall of the British Empire and the Berlin Wall
In her lengthy reign the Queen has witnessed everything from the fall of the British Empire and the Berlin Wall

Queen Elizabeth II will turn 90 on Thursday, becoming the country’s first nonagenarian sovereign.

As Britain’s longest reigning monarch in history, the Queen has witnessed pivotal moments in history, from the fall of the British Empire and the Berlin Wall to the arrival and departure of 12 British prime ministers.

Since coming to the throne at the tender age of 25, Her Majesty has also come into contact with a number of key political figures of the last century. In turn, the Queen has found herself in close quarters with some of the world’s most feared dictators and leaders with less than perfect human rights records.

Here is a selection of the most contentious figures the Queen has cordially shaken hands with.

President Bashar al-Assad

In her lengthy reign the Queen has witnessed everything from the fall of the British Empire and the Berlin Wall

The Syrian President called in at Buckingham Palace during an official three-day visit to Britain for talks with Tony Blair. He is the first and only Syrian president to have met the Queen.

Hailing from a family who have been in power for decades, Assad is the leader of an authoritarian regime and Commander-In-Chief of the Syrian Armed forces. The regime has been accused of being responsible for mass civilian casualties – with the Syrian Centre for Policy Research estimating 470,000 civilians have died in the war.

Mobutu Sese Seko


The Queen was pictured with the military dictator and President of the Democratic Republican of the Congo on route to Buckingham Palace at the start of his State Visit to Britain in the 70s. Known for his trademark leopard print hat, the despot who died in 1997 garnered substantial wealth through corruption and exploitation.

Robert Mugabe

The Zimbabwean dictator was awarded an honorary knighthood in 1994

The Queen came into contact with Mugabe when she awarded him with his honorary knighthood in 1994. But three years later the Queen stripped the President of Zimbabwe of his honour. The decision to annul the knighthood was actually made by Gordon Brown in light of the extreme nature of his regime and its treatment of opposition members.

Queen's Guard loses his temper with tourist

Nursultan Nazarbayev

Her Majesty welcomed Nazarbayev into the Palace in November of last year. The President of Kazakhstan lunched with the Queen, Prince Philip and Andrew. Nazarbayev has been president of Kazakhstan for 27 years and was re-elected in April of last year with 97.7 per cent of the vote. The leader has carried out an authoritarian regime, suppressed dissent and been accused of a lengthy catalogue of human rights abuses.

Yoweri Museveni

The Queen meeting Yoweri Museveni in 2015

The Queen met with Uganda’s president at a meeting of Commonwealth leaders in Malta back in November of 2015. Museveni has been accused of utilising his security forces to curb opposition to his 30-year tenure. He also signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act which originally proposed the death penalty for people in same-sex relationships. It was later ruled unlawful.

Hassanal Bolkiah

Her Majesty has met the Sultan of Brunei on more than one occasion. She has knighted both him and his father. Most recently she also met him at the meeting of Commonwealth leaders in Malta. The Sultan is the head of state, head of government and monarch of Brunei. In recent years, he has imposed sharia law and homosexuality is now punished by death by stoning.

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