The solicitor representing 650 Kenyan tribeswomen who allege they have been raped by British soldiers called for a public inquiry yesterday. He also claimed that children were among the victims.
Martyn Day said: "We have examples of children as young or seven or eight who have been raped and boys who have been sodomised - right up to women in their 50s. I am convinced they are genuine. It is quite horrendous." He claimed there has been a "culture" of raping tribe women among British soldiers training in rural Kenya over the past 30 years.
His call for a public inquiry followed conflicting reports yesterday over the authenticity of records documenting 37 cases of rape being investigated by the Royal Military Police. A spokesman for the British High Commission in Nairobi was reported as saying the police records detailing the rapes were forgeries.
But other reports indicated that military police were preparing charges against two serving soldiers and that they believed the 37 women had been raped. "I am keen that we should have some sort of public inquiry beyond this Army investigating the Army which we are currently seeing," Mr Day said. "All the indications that we have had from the people in Nairobi is that the military police believe these cases to be genuine. But we have had no contact with them. We have asked for progress reports on six occasions and have heard nothing. We are continuing our investigations and intend to commence legal action next month. We will be suing the Army for negligence."
One of Britain's leading human rights lawyers, Mr Day has specialised in multiple claims, successfully winning a £4.5m pay out last year for Kenyan tribesmen who said they had been injured by mines left by the British Army. He also won payouts for thousands of former Far East PoWs.
His earlier success in Kenya has led to allegations that the 650 women who have approached him claiming rape are jumping on the litigation bandwagon. Some tribespeople received payouts of between £150,000 and £200,000 from the earlier action, a fabulous amount of money in the area, and more than enough to corrupt local officials into forging records, critics say.
Mr Day accepts that some of the women will inevitably be jumping on a bandwagon, but believes that the majority of cases are genuine. "I have interviewed between 100 and 120 of them and I'm convinced they are telling the truth. When you hear their stories you realise they would have to be Shakespearean actresses not to be telling the truth. Added to that are supporting documents, such as hospital records, and other witnesses, such as tribal elders."
He added: "There are also at least 60 mixed race children in a proud rural area where sex outside your community, especially with a white man, can see you shunned by your community." The shame of rape in this context would make it unlikely women would make false claims, he suggested.
"I believe at least 80 per cent of the cases are genuine. This is a massive big deal, if there have been hundreds of rapes taking place over 30 years - and we know that all parts of the Army have been going out over the years, so it's not just bad apples. On 12 occasions British Army officers were told but did nothing.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence refused to comment further on the investigation. "As yet no one has been charged and there are no plans to charge people imminently," she said. "The investigation has not been completed."
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