UK armed forces providing training for some of world’s most repressive regimes

By agency reporter
August 27, 2020

Campaigners have called on the UK government to review its military collaboration and training with human rights abusing regimes.

A recent parliamentary question by Labour MP Sam Tarry shows that from 2018-2020 the UK provided military training for 17 countries identified as ‘human rights priority countries’ by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

The FCO defines these as countries where they are “particularly concerned about human rights issues” and believe the UK can make a difference. There are 30 countries in total, and in 2018-2020, the UK armed forces provided training to 17 of them: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Maldives, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe.

A lot of the training for Saudi Arabian forces is linked to the use of UK-made fighter jets which are being used in the war in Yemen where the Saudi-led bombardment has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

Some of the training courses provided to countries on the FCO list that have raised concern include:

  • Bahrain: International Officers Electronic Warfare
  • Bangladesh: International Urban Operations Instructors Course
  • China: Initial Officer Training
  • Egypt: Amphibious Warfare Course
  • Pakistan: International Air Battle Management Course
  • Saudi Arabia: Fast Jet Tactical and Weapons
  • Sri Lanka: Advanced Command and Staff Course
  • Uzbekistan: Defence Train The Trainer


  • Bahrain: Sniper Platoon Commanders Course
  • Egypt: All Arms Commando Course
  • Iraq: Platoon Commanders' Battle Course
  • Israel: Amphibious Warfare Course
  • Maldives: All Arms Basic Drill Instructor Course
  • Saudi Arabia: International Officers Electronic Warfare

Note: 'All Arms' refers to all branches of the armed forces, not to weapons.

There has also been training provided for regimes with poor human rights records who are not on the FCO list. These include armed forces in:

  • Belarus: Advanced Command and Staff Course (2018/19)
  • Hong Kong: Squadron Commanders Course - Security CLearnace Only (2018/19)
  • Oman: Platoon Commanders' Battle Course Tactics Only (2018/19)
  • Philippines: International Jungle Warfare Instructors Course (2019/20)
  • Qatar: All Arms Commando Course (2018/19)
  • Turkey: Light Weapon Design (2018/19)
  • United Arab Emirates: International Officers Electronic Warfare (2018/19)

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “Many of these armies have appalling human rights records and have been linked to brutal oppression as well as international aggression. By training and collaborating with despots, dictatorships, and human rights abusers the UK risks making itself complicit in the abuses that are being inflicted.

"For far too long, successive UK governments have talked about the importance of human rights and democracy while arming, supporting, and strengthening authoritarian regimes across the world. There must be an end to the hypocrisy and a full review of which forces the UK has trained and if they have been linked to human rights abuses.”

* The Foreign and Commonwealth Office list is here

* Campaign Against Arms Trade https://www.caat.org.uk/


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