The UK provided military training to 17, out of 30, countries on the British Foreign Office’s own human rights watch list, which includes Sri Lanka, from 2018-2020.
According to the British Foreign Office, this list comprises countries where the UK has “particularly concerned about human rights issues”. UK ministers have admitted to providing training to the majority of countries on this list.
The Independent reports that the UK provided military training to;
“Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Maldives, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe”.
Other countries will poor human rights records such as “Oman, Qatar, Turkey, the UAE, and the Philippines” were also provided military training.
These details were revealed in response to a written parliamentary question by Labour MP Sam Tarry.
Sri Lanka’s Army has a substantial history of alleged human rights violations, both at home and abroad.
During the final months of the armed conflict, credible accusations of war crimes and genocide against the Tamil people arose as the Sri Lankan military intentionally and indiscriminately shelled designated safe zones and hospitals. An estimated 70,000-140,000 Tamils were killed, 300,000 Tamils were forcefully displaced and a further 25,000-30,000 were injured. Access to vital good such as medicine and good was intentionally restricted. State soldiers committed horrific acts of sexual violence, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings which continue to plague Sri Lanka.
The Independent further highlights that as recently as March, the UK provides training to “the armed forces of Belarus, a dictatorship where pro-democracy protesters have faced repression in recent months”.
The UK has also provided sniper commander courses to soldiers in Bahrain, who, according to Human Rights Watch, cracked down on peaceful dissent in 2018, virtually eliminating all opposition to its government.
Britain also provided Saudi Arabian forces training in fighter jet and tactical weapons use. Saudi Arabia has engaged in an aerial bombardment in Yemen that the UN and aid agencies claim have created a humanitarian catastrophe, reports the Independent.
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade has criticised Britain’s decision to provide military training to these regimes, stating:
"By training and collaborating with despots, dictatorships, and human rights abusers the UK risks making itself complicit in the abuses that are being inflicted”.
He further stated:
“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 UK government’s, Ministry of Defence has responded by stating that it keeps any training it does with other countries under review.
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