UK court allows Kenya torture lawsuit
LONDON - Four elderly Kenyans who said they were tortured during an anticolonial rebellion in the 1950s can sue the British government, a judge ruled yesterday.
The Kenyans say they were beaten and sexually assaulted by officers acting for the British administration who were trying to suppress the “Mau Mau’’ rebellion, in which groups of Kenyans attacked British officials and white farmers who had settled in some of Kenya’s most fertile lands.
They say British administrators were aware they were being mistreated and want an apology and compensation.
The British government tried to have the case dismissed, saying it could not be held legally responsible for the long-ago abuses. It argues that all the powers and liabilities of the colonial administration passed to the Kenyan government on independence in 1963.
But High Court judge Richard McCombe ruled that the claimants “have arguable cases in law,’’ and the suit can go ahead.
In 1952, Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared a state of emergency in the country and sent British soldiers to help colonial administrators capture the fighters and send them to detention camps. African soldiers under the King’s African Rifles regiment also took part in the assault on the Mau Mau and their supporters.
President Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was one of thousands of Kenyans detained.
The four Kenyan claimants, now in their 70s and 80s, say they were abused by European and African soldiers, officers, and prison guards in the detention camps. Two male claimants - Ndiku Mutua and Paolo Nzili - say they were castrated, and Jane Muthoni Mara says she was violently sexually assaulted.
Judge McCombe said he had “not found that there was systematic torture nor, if there was, the UK government is liable’’ - but ruled that the case should go to court.