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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid