THREE victims of alleged torture at the hands of the British government during the Kenya Emergency in the 1950s and 1960s give evidence in person at the High Court today.
In 2011 a High Court judge ruled that claimants Paulo Muoka Nzili, Wambuga Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara, had an arguable case, and it opened in London yesterday.
The men’s lawyers allege that Mr Nzili was castrated, Mr Nyingi was severely beaten and Mr Mara was subjected to appalling sexual abuse in detention camps during the rebellion.
A fourth claimant, Ndiku Mutwiwa Mutua, has died since the High Court ruling that the test case could go ahead.
The hearing has access to an archive of 8,000 secret files that were sent back to Britain after Kenya gained its independence in 1963.
The three Kenyans represent a wider community of hundreds of elderly Kenyans who are still alive and were the victims of grave acts of brutality, including castrations, systematic beatings and severe sexual assaults at the hands of British officials during the Emergency.
President Obama’s grandfather was among those who were detained and abused at the time of the so-called Mau Mau uprising against the British colonial administration.
The claims are being brought with the support of the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the Kenya government.
Last year, in an historic judgment, the High Court rejected the British government’s first attempt to strike out the Kenyans’ claims.
The British government argued that all liabilities were transferred to the Kenyan Republic upon independence in 1963 and that in no way could the British government be held liable today.
In his judgment in July 2011, Mr Justice McCombe held that there was ample evidence to support the Claimants’ case: ‘There is ample evidence even in the few papers that I have seen suggesting that there may have been systematic torture of detainees during the Emergency . . .
‘The materials evidencing the continuing abuses in the detention camps in subsequent years are substantial, as is the evidence of the knowledge of both governments that they were happening and of the failure to take effective action to stop them.’
The British government is now relying on another technicality and arguing that the claims were brought out of time by the Limitation Act 1980.
The victims will be arguing that this is an exceptional case in which the Judge should exercise his discretion to allow the claims to proceed.
The hearing will have full access to the ‘Hanslope archive’ of secret documents which had been sent back to the UK upon independence.
The Hanslope documents which will be referred to in this case, are yet to be made public.