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Where’s the outrage over Britain providing training on ‘how to be a better despot’ for some of the world’s dodgiest regimes?

Chris Sweeney
Chris Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

Where’s the outrage over Britain providing training on ‘how to be a better despot’ for some of the world’s dodgiest regimes?
New evidence shows that the UK is hosting intelligence training for some of the world’s most oppressive regimes, which have been involved in numerous atrocities. Why is it not being held to account for this?

The news that Britain is once again knee-deep in some seriously sordid affairs is disappointing, but hardly a surprise. In today’s increasingly globalized world, it’s nigh-on impossible to remain free from any connection to questionable regimes.

But the Queen’s government has sunk even further, as it’s reportedly been actively reaching out to despots, dictators and democracy deniers, according to documents obtained by Declassified UK.

It’s been sending out a glossy sales brochure to entice the world’s rogues to sign up and learn how to abuse their power more efficiently.

It’s all part of the 11-day International Intelligence Directors Course, which resembles the shadiest corporate getaway known to man. And it’s operated by the finest of Britain’s domestic security service, MI5, and its external spy agency, MI6.

The spooks flashed their wares in a cheap and tacky way, hoping to catch the eye of megalomaniacs across the globe. Why they wanted to train them so badly is an uncomfortably puzzling thought.

Yet only a few weeks ago, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab triumphantly announced a sanctions list for a collection of people and organizations guilty of human rights abuses.

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Six of those individuals were lieutenants in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s inner sanctum and linked to the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

He was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, killed and dismembered, before his body parts left the building in different suitcases.

So now Britain could quite feasibly be in the situation of sanctioning individuals for a heinous crime for which its own spymasters may have provided the training.

Yes, those same people could very possibly have gone through the British Army intelligence base in Bedfordshire, home of the Joint Intelligence Training Group, which operates the course.

Along with Saudi’s spies, its neighbor, the United Arab Emirates, has graduated with a diploma in destruction too.

Did James Bond’s colleagues pass on advice on how to manage its funding of Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar?

The UAE’s gifts include $15 million worth of South African Super Puma Helicopters, Soviet-made Antonov An-26 and Ilyushin IL-76 cargo aircraft, plus Blue Arrow BA-7 and GP6 missiles.

The circle of darkness was completed when British academic Matthew Hedges was arrested while in the UAE. After finally leaving prison, he revealed how Emirati intelligence officials subjected him to psychological torture and repeated physical threats. 

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They’ve also hacked mobile phones using surveillance software, like in the case of UAE human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor, who ended up with 10 years in the slammer.

This all took place before the JITC course, but rather than take the moral high ground, Britain opted to make them even more dangerous.

Africa’s cast of rogues has also been part of the gallery of dishonor. Cameroon’s intelligence agents were there, so they could continue to do the bidding for President Paul Biya, who’s been in power since 1982, with the last election in 2018 being marred by voter intimidation.

Despite his elderly appearance, Biya is no gentleman – his forces massacred 23 people in February, and nine of them were under the age of five.

Cameroon claimed the deaths happened after an explosion of fuel containers, but was forced to eventually come clean.

The attack was part of an ongoing battle by the English-speaking regions in Cameroon for greater rights. The army is reported to have carried out revenge attacks and even arms vigilante groups, with journalists also facing two-year jail sentences for propagating what is deemed “false information” about the situation.

It’s equally brutal in Nigeria, where the security services have killed more people than Covid-19. Anyone who didn’t comply with lockdown was deemed to be fair game in case the state’s authority waned as a result. And yes, Nigeria also attended the blood-thirsty training summit provided by the UK.

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Pakistan was there, too, and its own Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has long been accused of working hand-in-hand with Islamic terrorist groups.

Current Prime Minister Imran Khan even spoke of how it trained Al-Qaeda and hinted that it knew all along where Osama Bin Laden was hiding before American forces swooped.

Bangladesh is another which has taken the lessons and applied them to the max. It has conveniently created the Digital Security Act, which means anyone can be arrested without a warrant, then held for 15 days without a lawyer.

Investigators have discovered that torture is also routinely used.

Idris Ali, a local leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, which is Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, was witnessed being stopped on his motorbike and taken away by plain-clothed officers.

A week later, his family were informed he was dead. Evidence showed he had marks of being hit with a hammer on his head, his tendons were slashed, and there were signs of more torture over his entire corpse.

The list of grisly dealings is seemingly endless. Jordan, Oman, Egypt and Algeria have also been on the course and had their own indiscretions.

Since 2004, it’s been run annually and only one student per country is allowed each year. Its blurb states that “bids are invited, but places only offered following [an] allocation meeting.”

So, the British authorities actually pick who to train and share their expertise with.

Revelations which illustrate that governments deal in shadowy areas like this should always be encouraged. But it just feels like the British public is watching the same movie on repeat. It is no longer shocking to learn that our leaders have blood on their hands.

One day this cycle of destruction has to end, surely. But then again, maybe not.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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