UK-Saudi ‘target training’ revealed amid concerns over Yemen

By agency reporter
April 18, 2016

UK military personnel have provided nearly 400 hours of targeting training to Saudi forces since the start of a Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen, it has emerged.. 
 
A response to an FOI request submitted by the human rights organisation Reprieve details a variety of training courses given by UK personnel to Saudi air and land forces since March 2015, which saw the start of the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. According to the response, the support has included ‘targeting courses’ for the Saudi Air Force by RAF specialists in artillery, targeting, and 'weaponeering', as well as training in the ‘better employment’ of the UK cruise missile Storm Shadow. 
 
Details of the support come amid concerns over the UK’s role in the Saudi-led coalition (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22615). Saudi airstrikes have hit hospitals, schools and weddings since the start of the campaign, and Saudi Arabia has been accused by the UN of “widespread and systematic” attacks on civilians in Yemen.
 
In July 2015, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told Parliament that the UK provided “no aircraft or training in direct support of Saudi operations.” It later emerged, in January this year, that British advisers were present in Saudi military 'control rooms'.
 
Speaking at the time, a Ministry of Defence spokesperson told the Daily Telegraph that “the purpose of [UK-Saudi] training was to ensure ‘best practice’ and compliance with international humanitarian law.” However, the response obtained by Reprieve does not mention specific courses in international humanitarian law.
 
Omran Belhadi, a caseworker at international human rights organisation Reprieve, said: “Claims by ministers that Britain is helping the Saudi government abide by the law are disingenuous. Extensive British ‘targeting training’ has done nothing to prevent the bombing of schools, hospitals, and weddings, and the deaths of thousands of Yemeni civilians. The UK claims its support to the Saudi-led campaign is necessary to combat terrorism – but killing innocents doesn’t make us safer. Ministers must urgently reconsider the UK’s support for these abuses.”

* Reprieve http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

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