What an empty apology from Britain!

Friday June 14 2013


Sunday, January 30, 1972 is a day engraved in the memory of Irish people. On that day British paratrooper soldiers shot dead 14 unarmed human rights demonstrators and injured dozens others in Derry City.

It took two inquires and 38 years before the British government in the person of Prime Minister David Cameron apologised unambiguously for the ‘unjustified and unjustifiable killings’.

Early this year, compensation of $80,000 was offered to each victim’s family but that gesture has been rejected as inadequate.

Last week, Mr Cameron delegated his foreign secretary William Hague to announce that each of the 5,228 Kenyans enjoined to the KHRC case of torture and illegal detention from six decades ago would receive a paltry $4,000 each.

He proceeded to render a ‘sincere regret’ for those events. The out-of-court settlement was welcomed by the legal teams in Kenya and Britain and by many of the torture survivors.

But many found the announcement a distasteful and disgraceful ending to what had started out as a noble project by KHRC and the torture survivors. That Mr Cameron did not deem it necessary to take personal responsibility was telling in itself, while a ‘sincere regret’ is a long way short of an apology.

It seemed to me that Mr Hague was merely regretting having to use such excessive force rather that genuinely feeling shame and sorrow for the rape, detention and torture of Kenyans.

Paul Muite dismissed the payment grievances arguing that the public acknowledgment was the key element in the settlement. But when victims have been denied justice for 60 years, when they languish in poverty and carry the scars of torture, castration and rape in their bodies what sort of compensation is Sh300,000?

In 2003 Libya paid $10 million to each of the families of the Lockerbie plane bombing and more recently Britain paid a Libyan dissident $3.3 for rendition and torture. The High Court in Kenya granted survivors of Nyayo Chambers Sh2 million each. Monetary compensation is not everything but it is new beginning if you live in destitution.

Then there is the issue of the monument that Britain wants to erect in Nairobi. One would hope that the victims would be part of the design team and perhaps another monument might be erected in Trafalgar Square.

Kenyans hardly need reminding of the Emergency that resulted in the deaths of 50,000 Kenyans and 32 settlers. However, the British public need a monument of shame to the horrors of empire building and the price local communities paid.

The rushed out-of-court settlement was a prelude to the enactment of the Justice and Security Act, 2013 which comes into law next month in Britain. Among other things it permits secret courts ‘in the public interest’ which is clearly intended to conceal state responsibility for human rights violations of this nature.

Two weeks ago, the UN Committee against Torture reprimanded Britain for its failure to investigate historical torture in Northern Ireland and for its counter-terrorism methods of today.

Makes you think that there is a secret torture policy in Britain and that is why apologies are not forthcoming and compensation is paltry.