[JURIST] A group of five Kenyans [advocacy profiles, DOC] involved in the country's Mau Mau uprising [advocacy backgrounder, DOC] during the 1950s sued the British government [press release] on Tuesday, alleging that they were abused in British prison camps. The five filed a claim in the High Court in London seeking a public apology and compensation for alleged beatings, sexual abuse, and unlawful detention. Lawyers representing the five said that the lawsuit was being brought as a test case for thousands of other Kenyans who endured similar conditions, and said that the abuse "resulted from policies which were sanctioned at the highest levels of the British Government by the then Colonial Secretary." A spokeswoman for the UK Foreign Office [official website] expressed regret for any violence [Reuters report] during the uprising, but said the government intended to contest the lawsuit on the grounds that the claims were too old, or in the alternative, that the Kenyan government would now be liable for any claims.
The Mau Mau rebellion was led by members of the largely impoverished Kikuyu tribe [backgrounder] and lasted from 1952-1960. The uprising was notorious for atrocities committed by both the rebels and British colonial forces. Official casualty figures eventually set the number of European deaths at 32, and the number of Kenyans killed at just over 11,000. Unofficial estimates have put the latter number as high as 50,000 [Guardian report]. Onyango Obama, the Kenyan grandfather of US President Barack Obama, is said to have been detained and tortured during the British government's suppression of the insurgents. Kenya became officially independent from Britain in 1963.