Claims of mistreatment of Mau Mau rebels “cannot be fairly tried”: U.K. government

The British government told a court in London that claims from 40,000 Kenyans that they were beaten, raped, and mistreated during the British campaign against the Mau Mau rebellion cannot be fairly tried sixty years later. Responding to a lawsuit which opened at the high court in London this week, and which is expected to go on continue for more than a year, Guy Mansfield QC, representing the Foreign Office, said those accused of having inflicted the violence are now dead or untraceable.

The British government told a court in London that claims from 40,000 Kenyans that they were beaten, raped, and mistreated during the British campaign against the Mau Mau rebellion cannot be fairly tried sixty years later.

Responding to a lawsuit which opened at the high court in London this week, and which is expected to go on continue for more than a year, Guy Mansfield QC, representing the Foreign Office, said those accused of having inflicted the violence are now dead or untraceable.

He stressed that litigation on such a scale should not be “a historical inquiry into the events that occurred in Kenya at the end of the colonial era,” but required “each of the claimants [to] prove their claims to the satisfaction of the court.”

Mansfield added: “All of the alleged perpetrators of the mistreatment are untraceable or – it must be presumed – dead. They are unable to answer the allegations made against them.

“The U.K. government is unable to put forward a positive account of what is said to have happened to the individual test claimants. It is also unable to say which of the many regulations that were brought into force in response to the Mau Mau insurgency bear directly upon each claimant’s case.

“All of the senior politicians and civil servants who worked in the colonial office in the U.K. or the colonial government in Kenya are now dead. The British army generals who advised and assisted the colonial government are all dead. None of them can explain what happened during the emergency. They too cannot now answer the grave allegations made against them.”

Without their testimony, Mansfield added, there is no “safe foundation for judgment.” “These cases have simply been brought too late and it is now impossible for them to be determined fairly.”

ENCA reports that the government, however, withdrew an application for proceedings to be adjourned so that officials could examine the means by which witness statements have been recorded and assess their veracity.

Peter Skelton QC, also for the Foreign Office, earlier told the court: “As this litigation has progressed, the [government] has become more and more troubled by the way the claimants’ evidence has been produced. There’s a risk that the test case evidence has been irremediably tainted by the way they were [questioned].

“The translation process may have resulted in written accounts which may not represent the claimant’s evidence in their own words.” Many of claimants are elderly as well as “physically and mentally infirm”, he added. “They are vulnerable witnesses and many do not speak English.

“We will not have the countervailing argument. We will not be hearing from the perpetrators. It’s not a Machiavellian tactic to prevent them giving evidence. If the claimant’s written evidence has been tainted then it will not be possible for justice to be done.”

Next month, the first witnesses are scheduled to begin their testimony – brought into the courtroom by videolink from Nairobi – in a series of test cases.

Source: Homeland Security News Wire