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UK helped train Saudi unit accused of whitewashing Yemen war crimes

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The British military has provided training to a Saudi war crimes investigations unit headed by a Bahraini judge accused of sentencing peaceful protesters to lengthy jail terms, where they were often tortured.

Campaigners say the training, which was detailed in Foreign Office documents released on Monday, make the British government complicit in both whitewashing abuses in Bahrain and the failure to properly investigate potential war crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

The appointment last year of Colonel Mansour al-Mansour, a military lawyer, as a legal adviser to the Saudi-led Joint Incident Assessments Team (JIAT) was heavily criticised by human rights groups at the time, who said the military judge was complicit in torture in the wake of pro-democracy protests in 2011. 

Colonel Mansour was the presiding judge of the National Security Court, which activists claim, oversaw the lengthy detention of more than 300 protesters in what amounted to military trials. 

Many of the protesters went on to claim they were tortured while in custody. The court also oversaw the trial of the so-called “Bahrain 13”, a group of leading human rights defenders and politicians who were arrested from March to May 2011 and subjected to torture while in custody.

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