A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

Mau Mau torture claim Kenyans win right to sue British government – The Guardian

In News on April 24, 2012 at 18:16

Mau Mau

Mau Mau torture claim Kenyans win right to sue British government 

Four elderly Kenyans who claim they were tortured by colonial officials and soldiers during the Mau Mau insurgency in the 1950s have won the right to sue the British government for compensation.

Without deciding whether there had been systematic torture of detainees, the judge, Mr Justice McCombe, ruled they have “arguable cases in law”.

The decision is a setback for the Foreign Office, which has argued that the UK government should not be answerable for any abuses committed by the former British colony and that liability had devolved to the present Kenyan government.

Of the five original claimants, one has already died. The remaining four – Wambugu Wa Nyingi, Paulo Muoka Nzili, Ndiku Mutwiwa Mutua and Jane Muthoni Mara – are mostly in their 80s.

They allege brutal treatment in detention camps, including castration and sexual assaults at the hands of British colonial officials and soldiers. Other detainees interned during the Mau Mau uprising, it is alleged, were murdered, forced into labour, starved and subjected to violence from guards. Among those allegedly abused was Barack Obama’s grandfather.

Previously unseen evidence of atrocities emerged during the case when colonial-era files withheld from the National Archives were discovered by historians working with the claimants’ lawyers.

In dismissing a Foreign Office application to strike out the legal action, McCombe said: “I have decided that these five claimants have arguable cases in law and on the facts as presently known, that there was such systematic torture and the UK government is so liable.”

He described the UK authorities’ attempts to avoid responsibility as “dishonourable” but accepted that before a full trial, the issue of whether the injuries were sustained too long ago – beyond any legal time limit – would have to be argued at a separate hearing.

“It may well be thought strange, or perhaps even ‘dishonourable’, that a legal system which will not in any circumstances admit evidence obtained by torture should yet refuse to entertain a claim against the government … for that government’s allegedly negligent failure to prevent torture which it had the means to prevent, on the basis of a supposed absence of a duty of care.”

Elsewhere in the judgment he said: “There is ample evidence in the few papers that I have seen suggesting that there may have been systematic torture of detainees during the [Mau Mau] emergency.


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