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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid