Mau Mau torture court ruling awaited by Kenyans

British soldiers quizzing Kenyan men British soldiers are seen here checking the identification of Kenyan men suspected of being involved in the Mau Mau uprising

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Three Kenyans once tortured by British colonial authorities are to learn if they can proceed with their legal claims against the British government.

The High Court in London is to decide whether the case should be dropped because of the time elapsed since the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s.

The government has already accepted its colonial forces tortured detainees.

But it says a fair trial is no longer possible because the events occurred too long ago.

One possible outcome of this landmark case is an out-of-court settlement and the negotiation of a welfare scheme to help the elderly Kenyans. However, it could also mean a full trial takes place in the future.

Analysis

A frequent question about the Kenyan Mau Mau case is why the claims of torture have taken so long to emerge. The uprising in Kenya began in the early 1950s when the British colonial authorities imposed a state of emergency.

The Mau Mau movement remained banned in Kenya until 2003, 40 years after independence. Lawyers for the veterans say this made the Mau Mau a taboo subject in Kenya until President Mwai Kibaki came to power and allowed former Mau Mau fighters to register as a legal society.

Also, the history of the Kenyan Emergency was further revealed by academic research conducted as recently as 2005.

Even now, the "Hanslope Archive" of some 8,800 secret files, sent back to the UK at the time of independence, has yet to be made public although the documents have been referred to in the current case at the High Court in London.

The government had initially argued that all liabilities were transferred to the Kenyan Republic upon independence in 1963 and that it could not be held liable now.

But in 2011, a High Court judge ruled the claimants - Paulo Muoka Nzili, Wambuga Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara - did have an arguable case.

The claimants' lawyers allege that Mr Nzili was castrated, Mr Nyingi was severely beaten and Mrs 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 three Kenyans want an official apology and damages to set up a Mau Mau welfare fund for the hundreds of Kenyans their lawyers say also suffered.

The hearing will have access to an archive of 8,800 secret files that were sent back to Britain after Kenya gained its independence in 1963.

Earlier this year, the South African Nobel peace prize laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron, accusing Britain of trying to evade legal responsibility for colonial-era crimes.

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