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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 July, 2003, 18:28 GMT 19:28 UK
'Raped' Kenyans win legal aid
Margaret is one of alleged victims
Margaret says she was raped by three Ghurkhas
Hundreds of Kenyan tribeswomen who say they were raped by UK soldiers have been granted British legal aid to sue the Ministry of Defence.

They allege they were raped as a matter of routine by British troops on exercise in Kenya between 1983 and last year.

The claimants, most of them from the Masai ethnic group, allege that many soldiers hunted in packs and many victims were gang raped.

Despite the stigma of admitting being a rape victim in rural Kenya, 650 women, many from the eastern town of Isiolo, have now joined the action.

One of them, called Margaret, claims she was raped by three Ghurkhas.

Mixed race children

Returning to the location of the alleged rape, she told the BBC: "It pains me to come back here.

"It's like digging up a grave. It happened four years ago. Three of them attacked me."

The British Army has a training base in the region, near Mount Kenya.

About 100 women have documentary evidence such as police or clinic reports.

The stigma attached to an admission of rape is very high

And they have been asked to produce letters from their local chiefs confirming their whereabouts at the time of the alleged rapes.

Forty have mixed-race children they say were born as a result of the rapes.

The MoD thus failed to exercise proper control, their lawyer has said.

Lawyer Martin Day claimed that despite repeated complaints by Kenyan officials and tribal leaders, British officers had turned a blind eye.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme contemporaneous documentary evidence showed the women had been complaining of the rapes over a 30-year period.

"On many occasions this information was passed on to the British officers, and yet absolutely nothing seems to have been done," he said.

He admitted that some of the 650 women involved in the claim may be "jumping on the bandwagon" in the hope of gaining compensation, but said the stigma attached to an admission of rape was very high.

"One women was thrown out of her house after telling her husband that she had been raped," he told the programme.

The granting of legal aid means that legal action will now proceed.

The MoD said it could not comment because the rapes were also under criminal investigation by the Royal Military Police.

This is not the first time the MoD has been taken to court by Mr Day.

Last year his firm won a 4.5m (7.5m) settlement for Masai people killed and injured by mines left on their land by the British Army.

The BBC's Andrew Harding
"The British military are now taking this evidence very seriously"

Masai fight Army over mines
18 Jul 02  |  UK News
UK army denies Kenya cover-up
04 May 01  |  Africa
'Raped' Kenyans prepare case
10 Jun 03  |  Africa

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