In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Bahraini ex-prisoners expose UK role

Posted by seumasach on March 14, 2011


13th March, 2011

Bahraini ruler King Hamad al-Khalifa freed more than 300 political prisoners, recently, in a concession to protesters who are fed up with his 40-years brutal rule in the tiny Persian Gulf island state.

Released political prisoners include academics, human rights activists, bloggers and clerics, according to Bahraini news report.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has affirmed the former prisoners’ claims that they have been subjected to “extreme systematic torture”.

“The British government bears a heavy responsibility for the repression in Bahrain. What we have here is an apparatus of torture that was formed and instructed by British security personnel”, said one of the released detainees, Abduljalil al-Singace, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Bahrain.

Many detainees and opposition figures believe that British personnel continue to be involved in the policies and practices of Bahrain’s secret police, the Security and Intelligence Service.

They point out that the methods of interrogation are “identical” to those used during the 1970s, 80s and 90s when the SIS was headed by Ian Henderson, a British police officer, who is believed to still reside in and act as a personal advisor to the king of Bahrain.

Bahraini opposition groups recognize the notorious Henderson, now in his late eighties, as the “torturer-in-chief”.

British parliamentarians, including Lord Avebury, George Galloway and Jeremy Corbyn have previously called on the British government to prosecute him over personal involvement in gross maltreatment of Bahraini prisoners, some of whom died in custody.

Another released prisoner, Professor al-Singace was imprisoned last August in the run-up to general elections in the country.

“We are calling on the European Court of Human Rights to hold the British government to account for the inhumane repression in Bahrain. British citizens have been involved in the most barbaric treatment of innocent civilians with the knowledge and consent of the British government”, said Professor al-Singace.

The former detainees, over and over again, invoked the name of the former head of state security, Henderson, as the ultimate author of their torturous conditions.
They were electrocuted on the genitals, while others were raped by the guards with glass bottles, as evidenced by the former prisoners. Others said they were hung by the hands and feet “like animals” and beaten with hard rubber hoses.

One Shia political activist, aged 58, who gave his name only as Mohammed, said he had personally encountered Henderson.

“The repression and torture used by the Bahraini regime is largely the work of Ian Henderson. But it wasn’t just Henderson. The entire security apparatus of this country was commanded by Henderson and British officers. The Bahraini regime inherited the torture apparatus from the British who continued to run it after independence. The people who are doing the torture now were instructed and trained by British officers and their system of torture is very much in practice today”, said Mohammed, who was detained without trial for nearly five years during the 1970s.

Henderson, who was awarded the George Cross for quashing the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya during the 1950s, was installed by the UK government as head of security in Bahrain in 1968 when the country was a British protectorate and at the same time it was challenged by a mainly Shia independence movement.
Older Bahraini activists recalled that there was a sharp spike in repression and maltreatment of prisoners in the years following Henderson’s appointment – a role he held for 30 years.

In 1986 – after tens of thousands of Bahrainis had been through the prison system, many claiming horrific maltreatment – Henderson was awarded the CBE in the UK’s honors list.

“Britain imposed the al-Khalifa regime on the people of Bahrain and schooled these rulers in how to suppress our people trying to achieve democracy and freedom. The British and the monarchy here enjoyed the oil wealth of this country, while we have been treated like slaves – and to keep us like slaves, our rulers have relied on British repressive know-how. They have used British divide-and-rule sectarian policies between Shia and Sunni and they have criminalized Shia people who have simply been demanding their democratic rights for many decades”, said Mohammed.

Mohammed noted that Bahrain was just another example of how “Western governments have employed dictators throughout the Middle East to crush people”. These Westerners are now being exposed for their “criminal use of dictators”.

“Everywhere the British and American governments have been involved, we see the same torture methods, including in Northern Ireland, Bahrain, Iraq, Afghanistan,” he said. “This is the reality behind their claims of supporting democracy and human rights.”

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