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Kenyan Victims of Colonial Torture to give evidence at the High Court

Kenyan victims of alleged torture at the hands of the British Government during the Kenya Emergency in the 1950s and 1960s will be in London to give evidence at the High Court.

11 July 2012

The Kenyan victims of alleged torture at the hands of the British Government during the Kenya Emergency in the 1950s and 1960s will be in London from 16th to 27th July 2012 to give evidence in person at the High Court.

It is the culmination of their legal battle against the British Government. The Government will be arguing that the claims are time barred and should be struck out.

The three Kenyans represent the wider community of hundreds of elderly Kenyans who are still alive and were the victims of grave acts of brutality, including castrations, systematic beatings and severe sexual assaults at the hands of British officials during the Emergency.

President Obama’s grandfather was among those who were detained and abused at the time of the so-called Mau Mau uprising against the British colonial administration.

The claims are being brought with the support of the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the Kenya Government. The three leading academic experts on the Kenya Emergency have all put in lengthy statements in support of the claimants.

Last year, in an historic judgment, the High Court rejected the British Government’s first attempt to strike out the Kenyan’s claims.

The British Government argued that all liabilities were transferred to the Kenyan Republic upon independence in 1963 and that in no way could the British Government be held liable today.

In his judgment in July 2011, Mr Justice McCombe held that there was ample evidence to support the Claimants’ case:

“There is ample evidence even in the few papers that I have seen suggesting that there may have been systematic torture of detainees during the Emergency.” (Paragraph 125)…. “The materials evidencing the continuing abuses in the detention camps in subsequent years are substantial, as is the evidence of the knowledge of both governments that they were happening and of the failure to take effective action to stop them.” (Paragraph 128)

The Government is now relying on another technicality and arguing that the claims were brought out of time by the Limitation Act 1980. The victims will be arguing that this is an exceptional case in which the Judge should exercise his discretion to allow the claims to proceed.

The hearing will have full access to the ‘Hanslope archive’ of secret documents which had been sent back to the UK upon independence. The Hanslope documents which will be referred to in this case are yet to be made public. The ‘lost’ archive of some secret 8,800 files only came to light after Leigh Day & Co brought this case against the British Government. Files relating to 36 other colonies have also been discovered.

Martyn Day, Senior Partner at Leigh Day & Co who is representing the Kenyan victims said:

“We are pleased that finally our clients will be able to tell the Court their story. The British Government has thrown everything at these claims in an effort to derail them on technicalities. We are confident that justice will be done.”

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