'Historic ruling' as judge rules Mau Mau can
sue Britain for colonial-era 'torture'

Government branded ‘morally repugnant’ after attempting to block Kenyans’ claims

Three Kenyans tortured at the hands of the British authorities during Kenya's Mau Mau rebellion have won the right to a High Court trial in a landmark ruling that paves the way for thousands of legal claims arising from brutality during the colonial era.

A judge today threw out the Government's claim that the beatings and assaults suffered by the now elderly Kenyans during the 1950s uprising took place too long ago for a fair trial, saying there was a substantial body of evidence - including thousands of secret documents - which made a full hearing possible.

In a judgment which lawyers described as "historic", Mr Justice McCombe criticised the Foreign Office for its failure to interview in depth surviving British witnesses about how far knowledge of the torture of thousands of prisoners had extended in the upper echelons of Whitehall and the Army.

The judge wrote: "A fair trial for the Kenyans does remain possible and the evidence on both sides does remain significantly cogent for the court to complete its task satisfactorily."

The three victims - Paolo Muoka Nzili, 85, Wambugu Wa Nyingi, 84, and 73-year-old Jane Muthoni Mara  - suffered what their lawyers described as "unspeakable acts of brutality", including forcible castration with pliers used on cattle, repeated beatings and sexual assault including rape with a bottle containing scalding water.

Kenyan campaigners called for the British government, which has already acknowledged and apologised for the torture suffered by the trio, to no longer contest the case and set up a compensation fund for the claimants and the estimated 2,000 other surviving former Mau Mau suspects imprisoned during the seven-year insurgency.

Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, Ditobu  Imanyara, a Kenyan MP and member of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission, said: "It does not serve any useful purpose for the British Government to further resist this claim - their case has no chance in heaven or hell. We would like them to take immediate steps to apologise and ensure the victims who are increasingly frail can live out what remains of their lives in comfort."

But the Foreign Office, which had previously lost a claim that responsibility for the case lay with the Kenyan authorities following independence in 1963, showed no sign of caving in, saying it was "disappointed" with the judgment and will appeal - a move which is likely to further delay a trial.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We have always said that we understand the pain and grievance felt by those, on all sides, who were involved in the divisive and bloody events of the emergency period in Kenya."

At the heart of the Whitehall deliberations is the potential for today's ruling, which came after a three-year legal battle, to open a path for claimants from around the globe who allege post-war atrocities committed by British colonial authorities.

The Mau Mau case is being watched in particular by former members of the Cypriot paramilitary group EOKA who allege torture during their 1950s insurgency, including the deaths in custody of two 17-year-olds.

Martyn Day, the solicitor who brought the Mau Mau claim, accused the Government of "morally repugnant" behaviour by hiding behind "technical defences" which had now been thrown out by the court.

He said: "Following this judgment, we can but hope that our government will at last do the honourable thing and sit down and resolve these claims. There will undoubtedly be victims of colonial torture from Malaya to the Yemen, from Cyprus to Palestine, who will be reading this judgment with great care."

Arising from longstanding tribal and social grievances, the Mau Mau rebellion was of the most violent of the colonial period with atrocities committed on both sides. About 70,000 suspected Mau Mau rebels were rounded up and imprisoned.

The response of Kenya's British administration, long a taboo subject in the country, has come under scrutiny in recent years and a previously secret cache of documents discovered in Britain has suggested that the illegal torture of detainees was effectively sanctioned by senior officials in London.

Mr Nyingi, who gave evidence in London earlier this year, described how he was arrested on Christmas Eve in 1952 and detained for nine years, during which time he was beaten unconscious in an incident at one camp - Hola - where 11 men were clubbed to death.

He said: "I feel I was robbed of my youth and that I did not get to do the things I should have done as a young man.  There is a saying in Gikuyu that old age lives off the years of youth but I have nothing to live off because my youth was taken from me."

The ruling, which could see a trial begin in 12 months, was greeted with jubilation in Kenya where about 150 veterans gathered outside the country's Human Rights Commission. A group broke into song and performed a celebration dance.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker