A new government strategy aiming to increase military ties with Libya, Somalia and Burma must include "comprehensive safeguards" against human rights abuses, Amnesty warned today.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond unveiled an International Defence Engagement Strategy today outlining a 20-year "non-combat" strategy with the three countries.
Mr Hammond said examples of the new strategy included establishing a defence attache and defence section in the British embassy in Burma, closer work with Libya including advice to train its military, especially its navy and air force, and plans to open a new defence section in the new British embassy in Mogadishu, Somalia.
The minister said: "This strategy is welcome at a time of limited financial resources, providing a means to focus our assets and activities such that we can make an even greater contribution to securing a safe and prosperous future for the UK."
But Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen pointed out that military forces in Libya, Somalia and Burma have all been linked with serious human rights abuses.
The NGO said Britain's closeness to them must not come at the cost of turning a blind eye to potential future abuses.
"Comprehensive human rights safeguards should be built into the International Defence Engagement Strategy so that the UK does not become complicit in the wrongdoing of overseas armies," she said.
"The UK should treat the link-ups as opportunities to help improve human rights in these countries, and not just as trading or strategic ventures."