UK court allows Kenya ex-prisoners to sue for colonial-era torture

[JURIST] The Queen's Bench Division [official website] on the High Court of England and Wales ruled Friday that three elderly Kenyans can sue the British government for torture they suffered while in detention under the British Colonial Administration in the 1950s. Judge Richard McCombe ruled that the three Kenyans could claim damages against the British government [Guardian report] for the harm they sustained at the hands of their captors during the Mau Mau uprising [Leigh Day & Co. backgrounder] in the days of the British Empire. The three claimants, who were not in court to hear the ruling, seek apologies from the British government and reparations in the form of welfare benefit funding for other Kenyan victims of colonial torture.

The three Kenyans suffered horrific ordeals [Reuters report]. Paulo Nzili, 85, was captured on his way home from defecting from the Mau Mau and castrated by in British custody. Wambugu Wa Nyingi, 84, was never a member of Mau Mau but spent nine years in detention without charge, suffering severe beatings that often killed his fellow detainees. Jane Muthoni Mara, 73, was sexually abused and raped while in detention when she was only about 15 years old. There had also been a fourth claimant, Susan Ciong'ombe Ngondi, but she died two years ago at the age of 71.

The government had argued that too much time had passed for there to be a fair trial, but in July 2011 McCombe rejected the contention [JURIST report] that the alleged abuses occurred too long ago and that all liability of the colonial administration passed to the Kenyan government upon gaining independence in 1963. The Kenyans first sued the British government [JURIST report] in June 2009 to bring to court their allegations that they were abused in British Colonial prison camps. The Mau Mau rebellion was led by members of the largely impoverished Kikuyu tribe [Africa Guide 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. Approximately 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed during the crackdown [AP report] against the Mau Mau, according to the Kenya Human Rights Commission [advocacy website].

 

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