“Ian Henderson is a British citizen known for his alleged use of torture to put down the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya, and later the 1990s Uprising in Bahrain as an employee of the Bahrain government. Some journalists have referred to Mr Henderson as the “Butcher of Bahrain” due to the allegations of torture”.
Ian Henderson was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, but lived most of his life as a Colonial Police Officer overseas. He grew up on a coffee plantation and had one sister, Joy. He married Marie in his twenties and had two children. Today, he is a grandfather of nine children. Henderson currently resides in Bahrain as a guest of the Al Khalifa royal family. He owns a £250,000 home named “Stoke Shallows” in Holne, Devon in the United Kingdom.
Ian Henderson was employed as the head of state of security in Bahrain for some 30 years. He retired from his position in February 1998. Despite some unproven allegations of abuse throughout his job, both Mr Henderson and the Bahraini Government has always denied his, and its own, involvement in such torture.
Prior to working in Bahrain, Ian Henderson served as a Colonial Police Officer in Kenya during the 1950s. Mr Henderson was awarded the George Medal, the highest award for bravery to non military personnel, and later the Bar to the George Medal, for suppressing the Mau Mau Uprising. ‘Ian Henderson has probably done more than any single individual to bring the Emergency to an end’ wrote General Sir Gerald Lathbury when he left Kenya in 1957.
Henderson was honoured by HM Queen Elizabeth II with the CBE 1986, George Medal 1954 (and Bar 1955), Queen Elizabeth Coronation Medal 1953, Mentioned in Despatches 1955 and Kenya Police Medal for Distinguished Services 1952. Honoured by Government of Bahrain with Order of Bahrain 1st Class and Bahrain Meritorious Service Medal 1st Class.
Ian Henderson was the author of “The Hunt for Kimathi”, also published under the title “Man Hunt in Kenya” by Doubleday.
A cartoon from an underground Bahraini opposition publication showing Henderson as the genie of the Bahraini ruler Shaikh Isa ibn Salman Al Khalifah.
Main article: Torture in Bahrain
Ian Henderson has been accused by political dissidents and international human rights agencies (including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch) of torturing Bahrainis while being employed as the head of state of security in Bahrain for some 30 years. The political dissidents alleged that the torture was committed as a means to stamp out the opposition movement in Bahrain that called for the restoration of democracy. Ian Henderson retired from his position in February 1998 and these allegations were the subject of an investigation by the UK government. The Bahrain Government has always denied his, and its own, involvement in the torture allegations and as a result, Ian Henderson has never been charged of these allegations. The Bahrain Government, because of Royal Decree 56 of 2002, an edict issued by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa grants amnesty to human rights abuses committed by any Government officials prior to 2001.
The question of the British Foreign Office’s complicity in the torture has been raised in the UK Parliament several times. At a parliamentary session on 3 June 1997, MP George Galloway described Ian Henderson as “Britain’s Klaus Barbie”:
Henderson might have walked from the fevered pages of a Graham Greene novel. He was an interrogator of the Mau Mau during colonial rule in Kenya in the bitter struggle for independence. So brutally efficient were his methods that, on obtaining independence for Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta tried to re-engage him in his own security apparatus. So notorious was Henderson that a demonstration was mounted by his victims and the whole affair became so scandalous that Kenyatta was forced to deport him. Via Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, he ended up as the right hand man of the Al-Khalifa.
In the Gulf, Henderson is known as the butcher of Bahrain. He is the head of the security services and director of intelligence and has gathered around him the kind of British dogs of war, mercenaries, whose guns and electric shock equipment are for hire to anyone who will pay the price.
In September 1997, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the use of torture in Bahrain, and called on Britain to order Henderson to leave the country.
In an interview published in the Sunday Herald on 21 November 1999, a Bahraini claiming to have been tortured by Henderson described the encounter:
“My first experience of Henderson took place in 1982 when I was hanged like a chicken at the office of Adel Flaifel, one of Henderson’s henchmen.
“I was hanged by my arms and legs when Henderson entered the room and said: ‘Do you want to confess?’. He immediately assaulted me in an immoral way and after a while he left the room.”
Hassan said he was naked at the time and Henderson beat him over the buttocks. He went on: “The encounter lasted about 10 minutes during which I was in severe pain. The three torturers – Flaifel, Abdulla Al Tanak and Abdulla Al Dowsari – stopped when he entered the room awaiting further instructions from him, but upon receiving satisfactory approval from him, they resumed their beating.
In Kenya, Henderson was known as the “torturer-in chief” and “was the prime mover in the preparation of bogus evidence in the 1953 trial at Kapenguria” during the Mau Mau uprising.