LONDON, Jul 21 – Four elderly Mau Mau war veterans have been given permission to sue over alleged British colonial atrocities committed during the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya more than 50 years.
The ruling issued by a High Court in the UK Thursday granted the war veterans permission to sue for compensation for the atrocities including torture that was meted on them by the British authorities between the 1950s and 1960s.
Mr Justice Richard McCombe ruled that the claimants had an “arguable case” but it would be for a full trial to decide, the AFP reported.
The ruling comes as Foreign Office documents released in May showed that the alleged abuse was “sort of a guilty secret”.
The documents give further details of what ministers in London knew about how the colony was attempting to crush the rebellion that paved the way to independence.
They contain reports of British officers implicated in atrocities, including the murder of suspected Mau Mau rebels.
In court documents, the Foreign Office contends Britain is not legally liable for the alleged abuses, which include castration and torture, saying responsibility was transferred to the Kenyan government upon independence in 1963.
But at the High Court, judge Richard McCombe rejected their request to throw out the claims, saying: “I have not found that there was systematic torture nor, if there was, the UK government is liable.
“I have simply decided that these claimants have arguable cases in law.”
The test case could open the door for claims from around 1,000 others still alive who survived the detention camps during the bloody Mau Mau rebellion against British colonial rule.
The test case claimants, Ndiku Mutwiwa Mutua, Paulo Muoka Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara, who are in their 70s and 80s, flew into London for the beginning of the court proceedings in April.
But they were not in court for the hearing.
Nyingi, 83 this year, told AFP in April that he had been detained without charge for nine years, subjected to forced labour and beaten daily with sticks.
Talking through a Kikuyu-speaking interpreter, he said: “I am here to get justice for the many of my colleagues who have since died, and others who are still alive but living in abject poverty because of the injustices that were committed by the British colonial government.
“It’s their responsibility to own up and pay us back now, compensate us, so that when I die, I do not have to keep telling my grandchildren of the injustices that were done. I need justice so that I can die a happy man.”
More than 10,000 people were killed during the 1952-1960 Mau Mau uprising, with some figures going much higher.
Tens of thousands were detained, including US President Barack Obama’s grandfather.
When the claimants filed the case, they were represented by a team of lawyers including Paul Muite and Martin Day.