23 June 2009
On 23rd June 2009, Leigh Day & Co issued a claim for compensation for alleged torture against the British Government on behalf of five Kenyans. The claims are being supported by the Nairobi-based Kenyan Human Rights Commission and the Mau Mau War Veterans Association. Our clients are now in their 70’s and 80’s and have travelled to London from rural Kenya in order to issue the claims in person. Above all the claimants are seeking an official apology for the torture they were subjected to.
The Kenyan clients allege that they were assaulted, tortured and unlawfully imprisoned for a number of years during the brutal repression of the Kenyan independence movement by the British Colonial Government in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Our five clients are veterans of the Mau Mau movement and the Kenyan African Union. They are men and women from different Kenyan communities who are representative of the wider community of thousands of Kenyans who were detained and tortured during the fight for independence. They have each suffered unspeakable injuries, including castrations and severe sexual assaults. These claims are test cases and it is anticipated that, if successful, they will result in community reparations for the wider group of Kenyan torture victims.
Ndiku Mutua, one of the five claimants, said: “I live with the physical and mental scars of what happened to me. Not a day goes by when I do not think of these terrible events. At last I can tell my story and at last I can hope for justice from the British Courts.”
The Kenyan Human Rights Commission has now documented over 40 cases of castration, severe sexual abuse and unlawful detention. In all the documented cases the acts of torture were carried out directly by officers of the British Colonial Government.
In recent years, following detailed archival research by historians1, it has become clear that far from being the acts of a few rogue soldiers, the torture and inhuman and degrading treatment of Kenyans during this period resulted from policies which were sanctioned at the highest levels of the British Government by the then Colonial Secretary.
It was only after the tireless work of campaigners over a number of years that Britain was forced to close its detention camps. In particular, the revelation of the massacre of 11 Kenyans at the Hola Camp in March 1959 made it impossible for the British Government to continue the unlawful practices it had been employing with impunity for so many years.
Martyn Day, Senior Partner at Leigh, Day & Co said today: “Although these events took place 50 years ago, the repercussions of what happened have stayed with the victims and Kenyan society to this day. By bringing these claims we hope to obtain justice for these Kenyans. However, it is also time for us Britons to come to terms with this historic wrong which is a stain on British history.”
It is ironic that, at the time Britain was instrumental in the creation of the post war human rights treaties, conventions and institutions, it was violating fundamental human rights in Kenya on a breathtaking scale2.
At a recent press conference President Barack Obama recalled Winston Churchill’s stance on torture, its corrosive moral effect and that Britain did not torture, even when it seemed expedient to do so. He said:
“I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day, talking about the fact that the British during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, we don't torture -- when the entire British -- all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat. And the reason was that Churchill understood you start taking shortcuts, and over time that corrodes what's best in a people. It corrodes the character of a country3.”
Indeed, Barack Obama’s own grandfather, Onyango Obama, was detained and tortured for months as part of the British Government’s crackdown on the Kenyan independence movement.
It is hoped that this will be an opportunity for the British Government to apologise to the Kenyan people for this historic wrong. Unless this happens, the sense of injustice arising out of Britain’s brutal response to the independence movement will continue to be deeply felt among all Kenyans for generations to come.
For further information, please contact Daniel Leader on 020 7650 1247/07870 206727 or email email@example.com
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