Human Rights Watch welcomed reports that British authorities are investigating torture allegations against a U.K. national who for many years was head of Bahrain's Security Intelligence Service. The organization urged the government to allow investigators access to relevant reports compiled by British foreign office and intelligence agencies.
"We have reported extensively on the routine use of torture during Ian Henderson's tenure as head of Bahrain's security services," said Hanny Megally, the executive director of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. "The Bahraini government has consistently denied torture takes place, but it has not undertaken any real investigations."
Henderson was originally recruited by high-level British officials in 1966 to run Bahrain's security services at a time when the Persian Gulf emirate was under British sovereignty. He served in that capacity until he retired in February 1998. He continues to serve as a senior advisor to Bahrain's ministry of the interior.
Human Rights Watch, in a 96-page report issued in July 1997, concluded that accounts of torture by former detainees "were consistent with each other, and with the patterns described by defense lawyers."* The report also noted that Bahrain's State Security Courts routinely convict on the basis of uncorroborated confessions, secured during extensive periods of incommunicado detention.
Human Rights Watch also urged the British government to request the cooperation of the United States and Bahraini governments in pursuing the investigation. Megally noted that the U.S. State Department's annual human rights reports have found allegations that Bahrain uses torture to be "credible," including cases where individuals have died in custody.
"Neither London nor Washington should allow their long military and security relationship with Bahrain to impede this inquiry," Megally said. "If the investigation uncovers admissible evidence of Henderson's participation in or responsibility for these heinous crimes, then the U.K. should seek his return for trial."