UK court allows Kenya citizens to sue UK government for torture

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[JURIST] A UK court on Thursday ruled [text, PDF] that four elderly Kenyans could sue Britain’s government on claims related to torture that took place during a 1950s anti-colonial rebellion. The Kenyans, who are now over 70 years old, allege that they were beaten and sexually assaulted [AP report] by British administration officers attempting to quell the Mau Mau uprising [advocacy backgrounder, DOC]. High Court Judge Richard McCombe said the case could proceed despite the government’s argument that the alleged abuses occurred too long ago and that all liability of the colonial administration passed to the Kenyan government upon gaining independence in 1963. McCombe said there was “voluminous” evidence suggesting the UK government may be liable to the plaintiffs, but refrained from reaching a judgment on the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims. The law firm representing the four Kenyans welcomed the ruling [press release]:

Our clients are delighted that the High Court has rejected the British Government’s arguments so emphatically. It is an outrage that the British Government is dealing with victims of torture so callously. We call on the British Government to deal with these victims of torture with the dignity and respect they deserve and to meet with them and their representatives in order to resolve the case amicably.

The claimants are seeking an apology and compensation for the alleged beatings, sexual abuse, and unlawful detention.

The group of four Kenyans [advocacy profiles, DOC], originally five, involved in the country’s Mau Mau uprising sued the British government [JURIST report] in June 2009, alleging that they were abused in British prison camps. The Mau Mau rebellion was led by members of the largely impoverished Kikuyu tribe [backgrounder] and lasted from 1952-1960. The uprising was notorious for atrocities committed by both the rebels and British colonial forces. Official casualty figures eventually set the number of European deaths at 32 and the number of Kenyans killed at just over 11,000. Unofficial estimates have put the latter number as high as 50,000 [Guardian report]. Onyango Obama, the Kenyan grandfather of US President Barack Obama, is said to have been detained and tortured during the British government’s suppression of the insurgents. Kenya became officially independent from Britain in 1963.

Read more detail on JURIST – Paper Chase

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