News / Africa

Court Rules Kenyans Can Sue Britain for Colonial-Era Abuses

Supporters cheer outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London following a verdict in the Mau Mau torture compensation claim case, October 5, 2012.
Supporters cheer outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London following a verdict in the Mau Mau torture compensation claim case, October 5, 2012.
Jill Craig
Britain’s High Court today has ruled that three elderly Kenyans can sue the British government for compensation in response to colonial-era abuses suffered during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s. The British government says it intends to appeal the ruling. 

Kenyans Paulo Nzili, Wambugu wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara, all now in their 70s and 80s, were granted permission by Britain’s High Court on Friday to pursue claims for compensation for torture carried out by the British colonial-era government.  A fourth claimant, Ndiku Mutwiwa Mutua, has died since the legal action commenced.

While in British detention, the Kenyans say they underwent castration, rape and beatings during the so-called Kenyan “Emergency” of 1952 to 1960, when British forces and their Kenyan allies cracked down on Mau Mau guerillas fighting for land and freedom.

The Mau Mau fighters were attacking British targets, panicking settlers and worrying the British government.

At least 10,000 people died during the so-called Emergency, with some sources citing much higher figures. Tens of thousands of Kenyans, many unconnected to the Mau Mau movement, were held in detention camps.  

Gitu Wa Kahengeri, spokesman of the Mau Mau War Veterans Association, was in London for the hearing.  He was pleased by the court’s decision.

"It's a great day for the Mau Mau war veterans association, heroes organization, that took the case to England for compensation.  Don't forget that the British colonial association did a great deal of atrocities to the people of Kenya," Kahengeri explained. "When they administered our country without our consent."

The British Foreign Office today released a statement of dissatisfaction with the verdict.  It emphasized that the judgment was “not a finding of liability but rather, a procedural decision following a preliminary hearing on limitation, which allows the cases to go to a full trial.”

The statement acknowledged “the claimants in this case suffered torture and other ill treatment at the hands of the Colonial Administration,” but also recognized that “it is right that those who feel they have a case are free to take it to the courts.”

The Mau Mau War Veterans Association is anxious for compensation to be paid.

"Now that we have defeated them in this case, we want them to pay us compensation and indeed to apologize to the people of Kenya and indeed the people they imprisoned, put in the detention for seven years, losing a generation," said Kahengeri.

Citing far-reaching legal implications, the British government intends to appeal.  It says that the normal time limit for bringing a civil action is three to six years but in this case, the period has been extended to over 50 years and key witnesses are dead and unable to share their account of the events.

This verdict will likely encourage other claimants of torture worldwide from the colonial period to bring forth their own cases.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs