Victims of British torture win right to seek damages

Submitted by Matthew on 10 October, 2012 - 8:59

The High Court has ruled that Kenyans tortured by the British empire in the 1950's can seek damages from the British government.

During and after the Mau Mau uprising which began in 1952, the British empire interned, tortured and murdered many tens of thousands of activists fighting for Kenyan independence. Rape, maiming including castration, and severe beatings were common; in some cases prisoners were simply beaten to death.

There is now so much evidence of what happened that the Coalition government is in no position to deny it. Instead, it argued that since the Kenyan government is the legitimate successor to the British administration, Britain is no longer responsible. The government is appealing against the High Court ruling.

In the 1950's and 60's, the UK combined a gradual and targeted withdrawal from most of its colonies with severe repression in those it maintained. The ruling that Kenyan survivors can sue for damages is likely to spark many other similar cases from around the globe – and a good thing too.

Britain no longer has a colonial empire, but British forces have been involved in similar repression on a smaller scale much more recently.

A decision which might make British imperialism more cautious, in addition to bringing justice for some of its victims, is to be welcomed.

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