Capital FM (Nairobi)

22 January 2013

Kenya: Miller's Firm Takes Role in Mau Mau Case

Nairobi — A local law firm is in the process of conducting interviews for Mau Mau veterans to ensure that eligible claimants access justice against the British government.

Miller and Co Advocates together with Tandem Law and Griffin legal (K) Ltd said on Tuesday that arrangements were in place to conduct the interviews for those who were incarcerated during the emergency period in 1952.

Tandem Law is a UK firm of solicitors that is representing over 3,500 Mau Mau claimants in the ongoing reparations case.

Representatives of the two law firms held a closed-door meeting with Chief Justice Willy Mutunga at the Supreme Court Building on Tuesday. The widow of the late Dedan Kimathi was also present.

Lawyer Cecil Miller who attended the talks stated that they were in the process of collecting evidence for the case.

"The purpose of this meeting was to inform the CJ on the progress so far. We also want to see whether the Mau Mau victims can get reparation but we appreciate the support the government is giving us," Miller said after the meeting.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) which took the lead in seeking justice for the Mau Mau, estimates more than 5,000 of the 70,000-plus people detained by British colonial authorities are still alive. Many may bring claims against the British government. The ruling may also make it possible for victims of colonial atrocities in other parts of the world to sue.

The British government in December last year appealed a High Court decision that allowed the Mau Mau torture victims to pursue compensation for abuses committed during the 1952-1960 insurgency.

The UK Foreign Office lawyers noted in their appeal that if the verdict obtained by Paulo Muoka Nzili, 85, Wambugu wa Nyingi, 84, and Ms Jane Muthoni Mara, 73, was upheld, another 2,000 claimants could arise in the coming days since interviews were going on in Kenya.

But the lawyers termed the appeal disgraceful and a ploy by the UK government to delay the cases until the remaining survivors die.

A ruling from the appeal is slated for May .

The claim arises from events that followed the declaration of a state of emergency in Kenya in October 1952-following the Mau Mau uprising.

The Governor of Kenya at the time, Sir Evelyn Baring promulgated the emergency regulations 1952, which conferred wide powers of arrest and detention of those suspected of involvement with activities that threatened public safety and security.

In 1954, the colonial administration under the command of Sir George Erskine, deployed security forces to round up and detain suspected Mau Mau adherents.

Many Kenyans were unlawfully detained in camps in which mistreatment was routine. Detention was accompanied by three strategies deployed by the security forces 'screening', 'vigilisation' and 'dilution'.

The UK government had accepted the colonial administration tortured detainees but denies liability and will appeal.

The UK government had initially argued that all liabilities for the torture by colonial authorities were transferred to the Kenyan Republic upon independence in 1963 and that it could not be held liable now.

But in 2011, a court ruled that three Kenyans who were tortured by British colonial authorities can proceed with their legal claims against the UK government.

The High Court ruled that Nzili, Nyingi and Mara had "arguable cases in law."

Their lawyers alleged that Nzili was castrated, Nyingi severely beaten and Mara subjected to appalling sexual abuse in detention camps during the rebellion. A fourth claimant, Ndiku Mutwiwa Mutua, has since died.

After the 2011 ruling, the case went back to the High Court in July to consider a claim by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) that the actions had been brought outside the legal time limit.

The FCO said it faced "irredeemable difficulties" in relation to the availability of witnesses and documents.

The government's lawyers that too much time had elapsed since the seven-year insurgency in the 1950s, and it was no longer possible to hold a fair trial.

Last year the UK High Court judge, Justice McCombe, rejected the government's claim that the three claimants should be suing the Kenyan government as it had inherited Britain's legal responsibilities on independence in 1963.

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