Victims of British torture still waiting for justice

by Simon Collings

Three elderly Kenyans are waiting for justice. The British government admits they were tortured in the 1950s when the country was a British colony, but is resisting paying compensation. You could help them by writing to the prime minister today.

 Wambugu Wa Nyingi, 84, was arrested in 1952 and detained for about nine years. In one incident in 1959 he claims he was beaten unconscious, and he still bears the marks from leg manacles, whipping and caning. Paulo Muoka Nzili, 85, alleges he was stripped, chained and castrated shortly after being arrested in 1957. Jane Muthoni Mara, 73, says she was 15 when she was raped at a detention camp.

In October 2011 the High Court accepted that the claimants had a case, rejecting the British government’s argument that responsibility passed to the Kenyan authorities at independence. The government appealed, on the grounds that the case was being brought ‘outside the legal time limit’. In October 2012 the High Court rejected this plea. Rather than seek a settlement the government announced it was preparing a further appeal. This is due to be heard in May.

 The discovery in 2011 of a hidden cache of Foreign Office documents at Hanslope Park in Buckinghamshire bolstered the ex-detainees’ case. The cache was found by historians working for lawyers representing the Kenyans. The documents, dating from the time of the Kenya ‘Emergency’, provide ample evidence of the widespread and deliberate abuse of human rights.

 Five appellants originally brought their case before the courts. Two have since died. There are fears the government is trying to delay the case until the remaining three are dead.

 Between 80 and 100,000 Kenyans were held without trial in the 1950s and subjected to systematic torture as the authorities cracked down on the anti-colonial movement. More than a million people were detained in ‘protected villages’ – effectively concentration camps – and forced to labour on public works projects. No one knows how many died. Harvard Historian Caroline Elkins has estimated the figure could be as high as 300,000.

Please write to the prime minister and foreign secretary William Hague urging them to do the honourable thing and reach a settlement. On what basis do we lecture others about the rule of law, human rights and corruption? These old people have suffered enough.

 For more background see my earlier posts Britain’s bloody exit from Kenya and Kenya: white terror