UK pays out Kenyans

By David Blair, Mike Pflanz

Compensation for those tortured during the Mau Mau uprising.

A Kenyan man reads a copy of Kenya's The Standard newspaper as Mau-Mau veterans await a press conference about an announcement regarding their legal case for compensation. Photo / AP
A Kenyan man reads a copy of Kenya's The Standard newspaper as Mau-Mau veterans await a press conference about an announcement regarding their legal case for compensation. Photo / AP

Britain is to pay millions of pounds compensation to Kenyans who were tortured during the Mau Mau uprising six decades ago.

The out-of-court settlement is believed to be the first reached with people who suffered at the hands of British imperial officers.

Compensation for victims of Britain's suppression of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya between 1952 and 1960 could open the way to claims from other former colonies where allegations of torture have been made, notably in Cyprus, Malaysia and Aden.

The agreement follows a test case last year, when the High Court ruled that three Kenyans could sue the Government for compensation for beatings and sexual assault suffered during their detention by British troops.

The Foreign Office first said it would appeal, stressing the length of time since the crimes were committed. However, it later began talks for an out-of-court agreement. The settlement is expected to provide one-off payments to an agreed number of people.

"The agreement is that a little over 5200 Kenyans will be compensated for provable torture that they suffered during Britain's rule here," said Paul Muite, a legal adviser to the Mau Mau Veterans' Association.

He added: "Our discussions with Her Majesty's Government have proceeded for some time now. A team of British lawyers has been here talking with each claimant and verifying that their claims are true. It is unlikely that there will be more claims in this phase, but one thing not discussed here is all those people who did not survive to claim compensation. To bring this thing to a complete closure, I anticipate further discussions between the Kenyan and British governments."

Muite, who does not directly represent the three test case claimants, did not confirm the amount of compensation.

Geoffrey Robertson QC, a leading human rights lawyer, welcomed the settlement as an "exercise in decency", adding that it would not necessarily open the floodgates to other claims. "It can be contained because every case is evidence-specific and there was overwhelming evidence in this case," he said.

"I think it will enhance Britain's reputation because we are one of the few ex-colonial countries which is prepared to fess up. It may encourage claims against other countries which continue to deny the need to compensate."

- Daily Telegraph UK

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