Nairobi — The British government on Friday expressed its disappointment following a court ruling that allowed three Mau Mau veterans to sue the UK for crimes committed during the colonial era.
The head of communications at the British High Commission in Nairobi, John Bradshaw, says Britain was unhappy that the case is for offences dating back over 50 years, contrary to the limit of between three to six years allowed when filing civil action.
"The British Government is disappointed with today's judgment on the Mau Mau case. The judgment was not a finding of liability but a procedural decision following a preliminary hearing on limitation, which allows the cases to go to a full trial. The judgement has potentially significant and far reaching legal implications. The normal time limit for bringing a civil action is three to six years. In this case, that period has been extended to over 50 years despite the fact that the key decision makers are dead and unable to give their account of what happened," Bradshaw indicated.
He further said that the British government was in agreement that the Mau Mau fighters were tortured by the colonialists giving them the go ahead to take legal action against the government.
"We do not dispute that each of the claimants in this case suffered torture and other ill treatment at the hands of the colonial administration. We have always said that we understand the pain and grievance felt by those, on all sides, who were involved in the divisive and bloody events of the emergency period in Kenya, and it is right that those who feel they have a case are free to take it to the courts," his statement read.
He added: "Since this is an important legal issue, we have taken the decision to appeal."
Bradshaw further said it was important for Kenya and Britain to continue their bilateral and mutual relationship that has continued to flourish bringing the two countries even to closer ties.
“Our relationship with Kenya and its people has moved on since the emergency period. We are now partners and the UK is not only one of the largest bilateral donors in Kenya, but also Kenya’s biggest cumulative investor, and a key partner on security and other issues of benefit to both countries. Our people to people ties are and will remain strong and deep,” the statement pointed out.
The stand comes after three elderly Kenyans who claim they were victims of torture and sexual abuse at the hands of British colonial rulers during the 1950s Mau Mau uprising were given the right to sue Britain.
The judgment came after a two-week hearing in July heard allegations that Jane Muthoni, Paulo Muoka Nzili and Wambugu Wa Nyingi were subjected to torture and sexual mutilation.
The trio’s lawyers said Nzili was castrated, Nyingi severely beaten and Muthoni subjected to appalling sexual abuse in detention camps during the Mau Mau rebellion.
High Court Judge Richard McCombe ruled that “a fair trial on this part of the case does remain possible and that the evidence on both sides remains significantly cogent for the Court to complete its task satisfactorily”.
The statement indicated that if “permission to appeal is granted, and an appeal is unsuccessful, the case would then proceed to full trial.”