Kenya Torture Victims Closer to Justice

A settlement for the group could impact the success of future claims from others who were abused.

Posted: 05/06/2013 11:30 AM EDT
Mau Mau veterans

(From left) Mau Mau veterans Ndiku Mutua, Paulo Nzili, Jane Muthoni Mara, General Secretary of the Mau Mau association Gitu Wa Kahengeri and Wambugu Wa Nyingi. (Photo: REUTERS/Nigel Roddis)

A group of three elderly Kenyans who were tortured by British forces during an uprising in the 1950s may soon receive compensation for their injuries and resulting distress.  

Although no specific details were released, lawyers for the group say that they are currently in settlement negotiations with the British government. If the group is compensated, it would be the first time a government has paid for wrongs committed during colonial rule of a country. The potential settlement would be historic in scope and may pave the way for a wave of claims coming from others in Kenya who were abused and possibly from all corners of the former British Empire.

"Symbolically, a payout by the British government might provide further validation for the younger generation of the role the Mau Mau played in the struggle for independence in this country,” Tom Mboya, a former political adviser to the British high commission in Nairobi told The Guardian newspaper.

The abuses occurred after a 1952 uprising led by an anti-colonial militia group called the Mau Mau. In retaliation for the uprising, British officials rounded up Kenyans believed to be involved and held them in detention camps as the country remained under a British-imposed state of emergency until 1959.

According to the Kenya Human Rights Commission, nearly 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed during this period, and 160,000 faced detention in appalling conditions.

Two of the original five veterans who originally brought the case against the British government were castrated by British forces. Among the victims was the grandfather of President Barack Obama, Hussein Onyango Obama, whose widow says British soldiers forced pins into his fingernails and buttocks and squeezed his testicles between metal rods.

A British High Court ruling in October cleared the three men at the center of this case, Wambugu Wa Nyingi, Paulo Muoka Nzili and Jane Muthoni Mara, to pursue claims for compensation after the British government argued that it should not be held responsible for colonial-era abuses.

The British government did not dispute the men’s claims that each had "suffered torture and other ill treatment at the hands of the colonial administration.”

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