Kenyan torture victims win compensation

by Simon Collings

The former Mau Mau detainees I have written about in previous posts have finally achieved a measure of justice. British Home Secretary William Hague announced yesterday (6 June) that the UK government has reached an out of court settlement with the claimants. Just under £20m will provide compensation to 5228 former detainees and pay for their legal cost. Britain will also fund the construction of a memorial in Nairobi.

In an historic statement Hague acknowledged publicly that torture had taken place under the colonial government and apologized to the victims. He said: “We understand the pain and the grief felt by those who were involved in the events of emergency in Kenya. The British government recognises that Kenyans were subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration. The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place and that they marred Kenya’s progress to independence. Torture and ill-treatment are abhorrent violations of human dignity which we unreservedly condemn.”

He stopped short of accepting liability. The government has consistently argued that it is not legally liable for what happened during the colonial period. Each of the claimants will receive around £3000 – a paltry sum considering what many of these people suffered. But the moral victory of having the UK government acknowledge the wrong done to them is more important.

A further 8000 Kenyan former detainees not included in the action settled yesterday are now preparing to pursue a separate claim for compensation.