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World News

Kenyans to sue British government over torture

LONDON (Reuters) - Five Kenyans began legal action against the British government on Tuesday, accusing the former colonial power of torture during Kenya’s fight for independence more than half a century ago.

The five -- three men and two women, all in their 70s and 80s -- say they suffered castration, sexual abuse and severe beatings in detention camps administered by the British government and now want an apology and financial compensation.

The suit was filed on their behalf by the law firm Leigh Day & Co at the High Court in London on Tuesday.

Historians estimate as many as 150,000 suspected members of the Mau Mau, a resistance movement launched by Kenyan tribes, were detained without trial between 1952 and 1960 and placed in British administrated camps.

Ndiku Mutua, one of the claimants, was a cattle herder who provided four cows to the resistance movement. He said he was caught, arrested and taken to a detention centre where he had his jaw broken and was castrated with pliers.

He said he thinks about that moment every day.

“We were beaten everywhere,” Mutua told Reuters through an interpreter after a news conference to announce the suit, pointing to his jaw and legs. “I was disabled for a month.”

He was clear about who he blamed for his injuries.

“The problem lies with the British administration that ordered it,” he said.

Lawyers for the five Kenyans hope the suit, if it is successful, will lead to a programme of reparations for thousands of others who human rights officials believe were victims of British torture during colonial rule.

The British Foreign Office said it was aware of the action and that it welcomed an open debate but did not accept the compensation claims.

“The emergency (rebellion) period caused a great deal of pain for many on all sides, and marred progress towards independence,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.

“It is regrettable this was not achieved without violence ... We expect to contest the cases on questions around liability and limitations.”

Martyn Day of Leigh, Day & Co said the government could not argue it all happened too long ago, saying Mau Mau organisations that might have brought lawsuits were illegal in Kenya until 2002, making gathering testimony for the case difficult. (Editing by Alison Williams)

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