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UK/Kenya: Kenyans can sue British government over torture

last updated Oct 08, 2012

The High Court has ruled that three Kenyans are permitted to claim damages from the British government for suffering what their lawyers described as “unspeakable acts of brutality” during Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion. The three elderly plaintiffs were subjected to castration, beatings and rape in detention in the 1950s when British forces and their Kenyan allies violently suppressed the Mau Mau movement fighting for land and freedom.

The ruling is likely to cause a series of lawsuits – an estimated 2,000 Kenyans are expected to claim damages – and to have far reaching legal implications on other alleged abuses by British forces in various countries in the colonial era.


The British government, while acknowledging the abuses and apologising for the torture suffered by the trio, has long tried to avert a trial by claiming that the legal time limit for a fair trial has long expired and that the responsibility had passed to Kenya upon its independence in 1963. Both arguments were rejected. The government’s lawyers will appeal the judgement due to its “potentially significant and far reaching legal implications”.


The judge has decided that a fair trial remains possible and that enough evidence has been collected; in particular, the thousands of documents found in a secret Foreign Office archive containing files from dozens of former colonies.


ICTJ: Decision in Mau Mau Case Strengthens the Right to Reparations of All Victims of Torture


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


Mau Mau torture case: Kenyans win ruling against UK


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