By Claire Ferris-Lay
Britain sends up to 20 teams a year to Saudi; questions raised over human rights abuses
Britain sends 20
military training teams a year to Saudi Arabia to train the kingdom’s national
guard, the forces deployed in the recent crackdown on protests in neighbouring
Bahrain, it was reported Sunday.
Ministry of Defence (MoD) admitted military personnel run courses in “weapons,
fieldcraft and general military skills training, as well as incident handling,
bomb disposal, search, public order and sniper training,” the UK’s Observer
The courses are
organised through the British Military Mission to the Saudi Arabian National
Guard, a unit that consists of eleven British army personnel, the paper said.
Saudi Arabia covers “all BMM personnel, as well as support costs such as
accommodation and transport,” the MoD. “By providing training for countries to
the same high standards used by UK armed forces we help to save lives and raise
awareness of human rights.”
Bahrain, home of the US Fifth Fleet, faced a wave of
Shi’ite-led protests in February and March that left at least 29 people dead,
including four policemen, and dozens more injured.
Bahrain's rulers imposed emergency law and called in troops
from neighbouring Gulf countries in March to quash the protests, including
1,200 Saudi soldiers.
Britain revoked dozens of licences for the export of weapons
to Bahrain in February, amid fears weapons would be used to repress anti-government
protests. In March, the country said it was “deeply concerned” over reports of
human rights abuses in the Gulf island kingdom.
Human rights groups
and opposition parties have spoken out over the news, questioning Britain’s
military support for revolts in Libya and elsewhere, while indirectly aiding
the suppression of protests in the Gulf.
“It is intensely
hypocritical of our leadership in the UK – Labour or Conservative – to talk of
supporting freedoms in the Middle East and elsewhere while at the same time
training crack troops of dictatorships,” said British MP Jonathan Edwards.
US-based New York-based Human Rights Watch this weekend asked the ruling body
for Formula One to consider alleged human rights abuses in Bahrain when
deciding whether to reinstate its Grand Prix this year.
Foreign military forces are used to train in countries all over the world including Oman and the UAE. What a nonsense article pointing the finger anywhere but at the actual country involved. Again it seems to be a case of blaming anyone and everybody and normally the west.
An important thing that needs to be made clear is that Saudi troops came to Bahrain as part of the 'Arabian Peninsula Shield' that is comprised of troops from all G.C.C member states, which the Bahraini government actually requested for its deployment as a premptive measure to protect itself from any foreign threat (possibly from Iran). So I wonder why fingers get pointed to Saudi troops whereas it was not only them that came into Bahrain?!
Anyways, the words 'crackdown on protests' are harsh and sound very weird to the ears of most local Bahrainies as me. Bahraini offcials continuously announced that G.C.C troops were postioned in senstive locations for protection and had nothing to do with local protests. Any sincere person would have to admit that G.C.C troops were never seen in the streets of Bahrain and were in their camps all the time.