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MoD was warned of security risks in training Libyan soldiers in UK

By DPF Admin6th January 2015August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

The Ministry of Defence was warned of security risks surrounding an agreement to train Libyan soldiers in the UK, according to newly released documents.

About 300 soldiers arrived in June for training at Bassingbourn barracks, Cambridgeshire, in the effort to support Libya’s beleaguered new government. Training was cut short after five cadets were charged with sexual assault and concerns were raised about the conduct of others.

Plans to train 2,000 soldiers under an agreement reached at the 2013 G8 summit have been thrown into doubt as a result.

In response to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act, the MoD refused to disclose how many of the recruits stayed in the UK and are now claiming asylum after the majority were sent home in November. But a security and risk assessment before the troops’ arrival warned of immigration, security and reputational risks.

Acknowledging problems over cultural attitudes to sexual violence in Libya, the report said: “There were reports of widespread sexual and gender-based violence during the conflict and there is some evidence that serious human rights abuses involving sexual violence took place.

“A UN mission in 2012 found incidents of rape perpetrated against both women and men. This is likely to represent significant under-reporting, at least in part due to the sensitivity of sexual violence and reticence to discuss these issues outside the home or family.

“Despite the lack of clarity regarding the extent of war-related sexual violence, there is some evidence that it is a significant domestic problem which could be reinforced by cultural attitudes and entrenched by a lack of justice for those affected and for perpetrators.”

ll cadets were vetted by both Libyan and British authorities. The report, however, said “full background information” on trainees was unlikely to be available.

They members of the Libyan armed forces, new recruits and revolutionaries from across the country, it added.

“The risk of bad behaviour of trainees outside Bassingbourn camp is mitigated by the provisions of their visas, the supervisory measures in place for limited excursions and the security arrangements between the MoD, police and the Home Office.”

It also assessed the danger of soldiers trained in the UK defecting to rebel forces and committing human rights abuses, but judged that the risk could be managed and should not be regarded as significant.

“There is some risk that UK training could contribute to trained recruits committing human rights or international humanitarian law violations in Libya [and a to a lesser extent in the UK], regardless of whether under Libyan government control.

“Some elements of training could contribute to the abuses below, including employment of riot control techniques, platoon ambushes, building and street clearance, company attack and marksmanship skills.”

Two of the arrested soldiers are awaiting sentencing after admitting their part in sexual assaults. Three others are yet to enter pleas.

The government is now reviewing whether it will be possible to train further batches of recruits on British soil.

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