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International response to the Mau Mau claims

Since the claimants began their case against the British Government in June 2009 they have received generous support in their pursuit of justice from the Kenyan Government and many leading figures from Africa and elsewhere.

In 2010, the Kenyan Government, in a statement made by its Minister for Foreign Affairs, gave its “full support” to the claimants’ case. It strongly refuted the suggestions that the Kenyan Republic was legally liable for the atrocities: “ The Kenyan Government does not accept liability for the torture of Kenyans by the British colonial regime. In no way can the Kenyan Republic inherit the criminal acts and excesses of the British colony and then the British Government.”

A further letter was sent to David Cameron by the then Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, in October 2012, urging him to resolve this issue which had become “a stain in our long and strong relationship”. Britain has been a "vocal advocate of respect of human rights in Kenya", he added: "The people of Kenya would like to see a similar approach by your government towards accusations of torture against its own officials."

In February 2012, the African members of the “Elders”, namely Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Lakhdar Brahimi, and Graça Machel submitted a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron urging a fair resolution of the claims. They expressed their concern that “the British Government’s repeated reliance on legal technicality in response to allegations of torture of the worst kind will undermine Britain’s reputation and authority as a champion for human rights. Our concern is that this, in turn, will have a damaging effect on the fight against impunity across Africa.”

In March 2013, United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, spoke out in favour of the claimants. He called on the British Government to fully investigate the allegations made and provide “full redress to the victims, including fair and adequate compensation, and as full rehabilitation as possible in accordance with international law.”

Most recently, in April 2013, Liberty submitted a letter to the Prime Minister which was signed by the current and three former UN Special Rapporteurs for Torture, and other notable human rights figures. They wrote:

“The stance the British Government has taken to these issues is entirely inconsistent with the spirit of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, our international legal obligations and the ethical values to which Government Ministers frequently lay claim. Britain’s complete unwillingness to deal honourably with victims of its own breaches of human rights in Kenya undermines Britain’s moral authority in the world.”

Finally, the REDRESS Trust, as interveners in the case, made written and oral submissions to the High Court on the issue of limitation periods under English and international law.

REDRESS instructed leading silk Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel QC who argued that statutes of limitation to certain categories of international crimes are inapplicable. Further, international criminal forums such as the International Criminal Court allow for reparations to be made to victims without the applicability of any statutes of limitation and there are numerous declaratory statements of UN human rights mechanisms that civil claims for violations such as torture should not be subject to time limitations.

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