MoD 'Warned' Over Bassingbourn Cadets

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) was warned of security risks surrounding an agreement to train Libyan soldiers, who underwent training in Cambridgeshire, in the UK, say newly released documents.

About 300 soldiers arrived in the UK in June to undergo training at Bassingbourn Barracks as part of an effort to support Libya's beleagured new government.

But their training was cut short after five were charged with sexual assaults and other concerns were raised about the conduct of the cadets.

It has thrown into doubt plans to train 2,000 soldiers under an agreement reached at the 2013 G8 summit.

In a response to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act, the MoD refused to comment on 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 document prepared before the troops' arrival warned of immigration, security and reputational risks.

Acknowledging problems surrounding cultural attitudes to sexual violence in Libya, the report reads: "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."

Despite agreements that the soldiers would not leave camp unsupervised, the report shows the MoD was aware of three occasions when small groups were seen outside camp attempting to buy alcohol.

Asked about specific incidents involving Libyan cadets off base, the MoD said that sightings of them in local villages were reported on August 8, 9 and 10. All of the recruits were located and returned to camp.

Before arriving in the UK, all cadets were vetted by both Libyan and British authorities.

However, the report said "full background information" on trainees was unlikely to be available.

The recruits were made up of established members of the Libyan armed forces, new recruits and revolutionaries from across Libya, it added.

The report 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 this risk could be managed and should not be regarded as "significant".

"The political and security instability, risks of unsuccessful integration in the Libyan Armed Forces and of trainees committing crime, terrorism or human rights offences amount to significant reputational risk,'' the authors wrote.

They add: "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 sex attacks, while 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.