THERE was jubilation among a group of fifty former Mau Mau freedom fighters in Nairobi yesterday as news broke that a torture victims compensation trial had been given the go-ahead.
In an historic judgment, the UK High Court yesterday rejected the British government’s attempt to strike out the claims of three Kenyan victims of British Colonial torture on the grounds that the claims were time-barred.
A statement by their lawyers Leigh Day and Co said: ‘The judgment means the government will now have to face potentially thousands of claims from Kenyans who suffered similar torture.
‘The government will now face a full trial or seek settlement with those which it accepts have been tortured by the British colony.
‘The Judge, Mr Justice McCombe ruled that “…a fair trial on this part of the case does remain possible and that the evidence on both sides remains significantly cogent for the Court to complete its task satisfactorily”.
‘He held: “The documentation is voluminous…and the governments and military commanders seem to have been meticulous record keepers”.
‘The Judge also made reference to the “Hanslope archive” of secret documents, stating that the “lost” archive of some 8,800 files “filled in the gaps” in the knowledge of both parties making a fair trial possible.
‘This is the second time in two years that the British government has lost in its efforts to use legal technicalities to have the case against it thrown out.
‘During the latest two-week hearing in the High Court, in July 2012, leading Counsel for the British government conceded the claimants had been tortured by British officials.
‘This is the first time the British government has accepted that the colonial regime in Kenya was responsible for torture of Kenyans prior to independence.
‘Despite this admission, the government continued to deny legal responsibility by claiming that the case was out of time. They argued that it was impossible to have a fair trial after more than fifty years, primarily because so many witnesses had died.
‘This argument was rejected today by Mr Justice McCombe.’
Martyn Day, Senior Partner at Leigh Day & Co, said: ‘This is an historic judgment which will reverberate around the world and will have repercussions for years to come.
‘There will undoubtedly be victims of colonial torture from Malaya to the Yemen, from Cyprus to Palestine, who will be reading this judgment with great care.’