April 23, 2014

Burma Campaign UK has filed an official complaint with the Information Commissioner regarding the failure of the British Ministry of Defence to properly respond to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request regarding training being given to the Burmese Army.

The Information Commissioner’s Office is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights.

Burma Campaign UK made a request in August 2013 for all course documents and materials used in the Managing Defence in the Wider Security Context course, which the British government has invited Burmese Army officers to join.

The Ministry of Defence turned down the request, citing commercial confidentiality. In October 2013 Burma Campaign UK appealed against the refusal to disclose the information. According to the Ministry of Defence’s own procedures, they should reply within 20 working days. In violation of their own rules, they took more than 30 working days just to acknowledge the appeal, and started the 20 day countdown from this time, also in violation of their own rules.

The Ministry of Defence then stated that appeals were taking between 30-50 days, rather than 20, and said that Burma Campaign UK should receive a response by 10th January 2014. No response came. On 6th February 2014 the Ministry of Defence said that there would be a further delay, but gave no estimated date for a reply.

“The Ministry of Defence have delayed and delayed responding to our appeal for information about exactly what kind of training they are giving the Burmese Army,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “It is seven months now since we first asked for this information. The delay is convenient for them, as the first round of training in Burma and in the UK has now taken place. If the training is just about human rights and governance, why won’t they release the coursework?”

The Burma Campaign UK briefing paper on the British training of the Burmese Army is available here.

The Information Commissioners website is available here.

The Ministry of Defence guidelines on responding to appeals to rejections of Freedom of Information requests are available here.


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