Page last updated at 17:24 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 18:24 UK

British torture in Kenya alleged

The claimants deliver a letter to 10 Downing Street
The claimants appealed to the prime minister over their case

Evidence allegedly showing government knowledge and authorisation of torture of Kenyans in the 1950s and 60s has been presented in a compensation claim.

Five Kenyans suing the government have also served evidence allegedly detailing torture they suffered, including castrations and sexual abuse.

British authorities rounded up thousands of people into camps during the Mau Mau uprising for independence.

The Foreign Office said it could not comment on particulars of the case.

Leigh, Day & Co, solicitors for the five men and women veterans of the Mau Mau movement, served the government with a 45-page Particulars of Claim on Thursday.

The lawyers say the documents show:

  • Systematic use of violence and "violent shocks" on detainees authorised in correspondence between then secretary of state for the colonies and the governor of Kenya
  • Widespread interference by British authorities in criminal investigations into allegations of abuse and torture of Kenyans
  • London ignored detailed reports of widespread and systematic violence by security forces

A Leigh, Day & Co statement said: "Far from being the acts of a few rogue soldiers, the torture and inhuman and degrading treatment of Kenyans during this period was systemic and resulted from policies which were sanctioned at the highest levels of the British government by the then colonial secretary."

Above all else the claimants are seeking an official apology for the torture that they and so many others were subjected to
Leigh, Day & Co solicitors

If these test cases are successful, it could lead to "community reparations for the wider group of Kenyan torture victims", the lawyers say.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission has said 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed during the crackdown, and 160,000 were detained in appalling conditions.

The lawyers' statement added: "Above all else the claimants are seeking an official apology for the torture that they and so many others were subjected to."

Claimant Ndiku Mutua, who says he was castrated and tortured by British prison guards, said: "I was robbed of my dignity and of a family and those scars have never healed.

"This wrong must be recognised, I and many others deserve an apology and justice at long last."

Contesting cases

The government has previously suggested that the claim is invalid due to the time that has passed and that any liability transferred to the Kenyan authorities after independence in 1963.

In a statement on Thursday, the Foreign Office said: "We understand the strong feelings that the Mau Mau issue still creates in Kenya and elsewhere. It remains a deeply divisive issue within Kenya and which historians continue to debate.

Mau Mau captives
An estimated 160,000 people were detained during the insurgency

"The emergency period caused a great deal of pain for many on all sides, and marred progress towards independence. It is regrettable this was not achieved without violence.

"It is right that there should be open debate about the past and one which we are prepared to contribute to."

The statement added: "It is of course right that those who feel they have a case are free to take it to the courts. But as we have previously indicated to the solicitors, we expect to contest the cases on questions around liability and limitations.

"Because of the prospect of legal action, it would not be right to comment further on the particular aspects of this case."

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