Politicians and human rights campaigners have slammed the British army for sending troops to train and mentor authoritarian regimes like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, saying the “deeply concerning” practice needs to be addressed.
Criticism came after it was revealed that British troops are taking part in a combined exercise in Turkey with Saudi, Qatari and Turkish troops.
Around 120 soldiers from the Royal Welsh infantry regiment are joining US and European forces taking part in Exercise Efes 2016 in western Turkey
Turkey, a NATO ally, has long been accused of human rights abuses against the Kurds and its authoritarian leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has recently led a clampdown on both journalists and political rivals.
UK Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Tim Brake told the Middle East Eye on Friday that Turkey’s record makes Britain’s participation in the exercise “deeply concerning.”
“Despite the UK government’s attempts to breeze over these uncomfortable truths, Erdogan’s government is not one with which the UK shares many values,” he said.
Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), told Middle East Eye the exercise is “yet another example of a UK foreign policy that fails to take regional tensions into account and all-too-often prioritises arms sales and military relations over human rights.”
On May 23, it emerged that British soldiers are training troops for regimes on the UK’s own human rights watch list, including authoritarian states such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Burma and Bahrain.
Information released by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) shows that since 2014 UK military personnel have offered training to 16 countries whose record on human rights is dubious, to say the least.
These include countries the UK has recently attacked such as Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan; Gulf theocracies such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia; former colonies Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Sudan; and even global rivals such as China.