LONDON (Reuters) - Bahrain has hired John Yates, who resigned from his senior post at the Metropolitan Police Service earlier this year over a newspaper phone hacking scandal, to oversee reform of the Gulf Arab state’s police force, the Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday.
Bahrain appointed the former Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, the force’s top counter-terrorism officer, after an independent inquiry found evidence of systematic rights abuses during a crackdown on pro-democracy protests earlier this year.
“Bahrain’s police have some big challenges ahead, not dissimilar to those the UK itself faced only a couple of decades ago,” Yates was quoted by the paper as saying.
Members of the kingdom’s Shi’ite Muslim majority have staged numerous demonstrations against alleged discrimination by their Sunni rulers.
The tiny island state was the target of international criticism for imposing martial law during a violent crackdown on protests.
The Bahraini government said earlier this week it planned to hire John Timoney, a former police chief in the U.S. state of Florida, as part of a reform drive it says is aimed at protecting rights and freedoms while enforcing order.
Bahrain has said it will comply with the findings of the inquiry and plans to develop a code of conduct for police. It is under pressure from its ally the United States to improve its rights record in order to secure an arms sale.
Rights activists have said senior figures should be sacked over the abuses listed in the inquiry’s report, which appeared to be more hard-hitting than some in government had expected.
It said torture was used to extract confessions that were used to convict hundreds of people in military courts, mainly Shi’ites. It described the abuse as “systematic,” and said some 3,000 people were detained and 2,000 sacked from state jobs.
Yates resigned in July over his role in a police investigation into the alleged illegal accessing of voicemails by journalists at the now defunct News of the World newspaper.
He had in 2009 decided not to re-open investigations into the practice, but a new probe launched in January found police had 11,000 pages of evidence which had not been thoroughly examined by detectives.
Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by David Cowell