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Britain fights ruling on Mau Mau victims

Thursday December 27 2012

By JAMES KARIUKI [email protected]

The British government has moved to contest a recent ruling allowing Mau Mau torture victims to pursue compensation in London.

The appeal follows the High Court ruling that three former freedom fighters had the right to claim damages for abuses suffered during the 1952-1960 insurgency.

The UK Foreign Office lawyers noted that if the verdict obtained by Mr Paulo Muoka Nzili, 85, Mr Wambugu Wa Nyingi, 84, and Ms Jane Muthoni Mara, 73, was upheld, another 2,000 claimants could arise in the coming days since interviews were going on in Kenya.

In a state published in the Guardian on Wednesday, the British government expressed fears that the ruling allowing the claims could open floodgates the world over with victims of British rule during the colonial period suing for damages for the torture sustained.

UK based firm of solicitors, Leigh Day and Company, has set camp in Kenya and has so far interviewed 6,000 potential claimants from various parts of the country that were hotbeds for the Mau Mau uprising notably, Murang’a, Ukambani, Meru, Nyeri, Nyandarua, Nakuru and Laikipia.

The Foreign Office acknowledged that the recent court verdict in favour of the Mau Mau veterans had “potentially significant and far-reaching legal implications” and officials feared that some of the survivors of the more than 70,000 Mau Mau suspects imprisoned during the insurgency would also attempt to sue.

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The solicitors’ move was emboldened by the ruling which said the torture victims had a right to seek redress in court for the ills suffered when the British government ruled Kenya with an iron fist that saw many people imprisoned in detention camps where they were subjected to gruesome torture.

The British government’s move is seen as a ploy to delay the cases until the remaining survivors die, thereby defeating the claims.

The solicitors have, however, expressed their reservation saying the UK would be acting in sheer hypocrisy despite its stand against torture.

Despite Foreign Office lawyers admitting all three were tortured by British colonial authorities, the government has decided to pursue a route that could deny compensation to torture victims.

Mr Dan Leader of Leigh Day and Company, which is representing the three Kenyans, accused the Foreign Office of being “morally repugnant” in its move that exposes the government to allegations of hypocrisy over its denouncing of regimes such as Syria and Zimbabwe that use torture.