Britain pays £20m bribe to save war criminals from justice

By Toyin Agbetu | Sat 15 June 2013

British War Criminals (Top): Gerald Lathbury, Ian Henderson, Terence Gavaghan, (Bottom) British terror camps, Foreign Secretary William Hague denies responsibility with ‘statement of regret’

The British government pays tax payer funded hush money allowing its war criminals to escape justice whilst denying responsibility for its colonial era ‘mau mau’ terror camp atrocities.

“[The British] Government has now reached an agreement with Leigh Day, the solicitors acting on behalf of the Claimants, in full and final settlement of their clients’ claims.”William Hague, British Foreign Secretary

A British law firm has settled a historic case against the British government for a £6 million fee. This agreement has meant that surviving Kenyan victims subjected to the illegal detainment and atrocities committed at the hands of government agents have been denied justice in exchange for a settlement bribe worth Sh367,780 (aprox £2600 once the law firm has removed its 30% commission). The combined payment from the British government is around Sh2.6 billion (or £20 million including legal fees).

The action which started with a letter to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown was brought by survivors Ndiku Mutua, Paulo Nzili, 85 Wambugu Wa Nyingi, 84, Jane Muthoni Mara, 73 and Susan Ngondi. The Kenyan veterans were represented by the law firm, Leigh Day & Co. By 2012, Susan Ngondi, one of the original claimants passed away with no personal representative substituted in her place.

For each of the 5,228 survivors this figure represents an amount woefully insufficient of paying for restorative medical bills or compensating for injuries inflicted during the British terror camps. There is also no mention of any attempt to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the heinous offences despite vast amounts of available evidence.

Indeed the claimants have already confirmed that “some of the principal actors responsible for the Colonial Office, the British Army and the Colonial Administration are.. still alive”.

During the 1950’s the Land & Freedom Army launched a popular liberation movement against the illegal military invasion, occupation and subsequent settlement by British troops and personnel in Kenya during its imperialist era some sixty years ago. Evidence backs claims that British soldiers mutilated and murdered an estimated 90,000 people and detained over 100,000 people from the Kikuyu community.

The British government of the day authorised the use of lethal force and inhumane treatment against innocent Africans as it sought to quell the freedom fighting movement it had dubbed ‘mau mau’ to remove the focus from Land and Freedom as the movement was named.

With names like Operation Gimlet and Operation Anvil, the British government spent over £50 million oppressing the uprising (Source: A History of Africa: African nationalism and the de-colonisation).

Lawyers representing the British government tried many defences to escape prosecution.

First they argued that the Kenyans should be suing the Kenyan authorities and not the British government, as they claimed it had ‘inherited’ the colonialists legal responsibilities on independence, under the principle of states succession.

When this strategy failed they then proposed that although they conceded allegations of murder and torture were true, too much time had elapsed for there to be a fair trial.

This tactic also failed in October 2012, when a high court ruling rejected that position.

Justice McCombe ruled that a fair trial was possible adding “The governments and military commanders seem to have been meticulous record keepers.”

This was confirmed when historians Professor David Anderson, Professor Caroline Elkins, and Dr Huw Bennett gave evidence as expert witnesses, exposing the government's wilful disclosure of an secret archive containing more than 8,000 files from officers involved in 37 of its illegal colonial occupations. The records verified alleged account of innocent Africans being roasted alive, sexually assaulted, manacled, buggered and bludgeoned to death by British officers.

Indeed, Onyango Obama, the grandfather of Barack Obama had pins forced into his fingernails and buttocks and had his testicles squeezed between metal rods. The African American President has so far made no comment on this matter.

In his ground breaking ruling Justice McCombe also stated that “The failure to take any step to interview Mr Cowan is, I think, telling.”

John Cowan, was a senior official in Kenya during 1957 to 1963. In the Channel 4 Programme “Secret History—Mau Mau” he confessed to his role in incidents like the brutal Hola massacre of LFA freedom fighters. Speaking to camera on the wanton use of violence and torture he declared;

“I think that Christianity had been tried and hadn't succeeded with them... We had to coerce them into confessing. We used a little bit of force on them.... I never saw a man, in all the time I was there, having had force used on him in any worse condition than an amateur boxer getting out of a ring.”

On June 2013, William Hague, British Foreign Secretary announced;
“[The British] Government has now reached an agreement with Leigh Day, the solicitors acting on behalf of the Claimants, in full and final settlement of their clients’ claims.”

He continued;

“We continue to deny liability on behalf of the Government and British taxpayers today for the actions of the colonial administration in respect of the claims, and indeed the courts have made no finding of liability against the Government in this case. We do not believe that claims relating to events that occurred overseas outside direct British jurisdiction more than fifty years ago can be resolved satisfactorily through the courts without the testimony of key witnesses that is no longer available.”

Martyn Day, Senior Partner at law firm Leigh Day, who representing the 5,200 Kenyan victims of colonial torture, responded saying:

“I take my hat off to Mr Hague for having the courage to make today's statement and to announce this settlement with our clients. Albeit he was looking down the barrel of the gun in terms of a court process which he had a strong chance of losing, it takes courage to publically acknowledge for the first time the terrible nature of Britain's past in Kenya.”

Toyin Agbetu of the Ligali Organisation disagrees and challenges the moral integrity of the announcement and cash deal. He said;

“I find it reprehensible that neither Prime Minister David Cameron nor Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg felt the matter important enough to personally offer an apology to the victims and survivors of British imperialism. The measly ‘statement of regret’ issued by William Hague, the UK’s foreign secretary not only highlights the arrogance of Parliament in refusing to accept responsibilities carried out under its sovereignty but also the utter contempt that so many British politicians have for African people and the inhumane treatment meted out to them during Britain’s era of transatlantic and colonial enslavement.”

Heroic Land & Freedom Army Survivors: Wambugu Wa Nyingi, Jane Muthoni Mara, Paulo Nzili and Ndiku Mutua, outside the Royal Courts of Justice

Documented War Crimes and Human Right Abuses

In his written evidence, Land & Freedom Army survivor Wabbugu Wa Nyingi said the British “...did many bad things. The settlers took our land, they killed our people and they burnt down our houses,” he added.

“In the years before independence people were beaten, their land was stolen, women were raped, men were castrated and their children were killed.”

Whilst the British government still refuses to accept responsibility it has agreed to fund the construction of a memorial in Nairobi to Kenya’s victims of colonial-era torture.

Speaking on the compensation payment, Mathenge Wa Ireri, a veteran of the Land & Freedom Army said “it is not quite enough because of the punishment we had”.

Toyin Agbetu said;

“This case was supposed to be about justice but it ended up being about cold cash. Reparations were not made as the British government refused to recognise, apologise and make amends for its crimes. I am disappointed that many of those claiming to seek justice instead accepted dirty blood money enabling the state to escape a punishing trial that would have exposed its direct culpability for historic atrocities and thus set a legal precedent for other victims of Maafa and imperialism. We cannot heal with this result nor can we face our Ancestors with pride. Despite the very useful work done by the lawyers and witnesses, this settlement is ultimately a step backwards for reparative justice and a betrayal of all those who passed ways fighting for African freedom”

Many believe the stalling tactics of the UK government has enabled several of the British war criminals directly responsible to escape justice by living a full life without facing trial for their nefarious deeds.

People such as;

- Major-General Ian Stuart McWalter Henderson aka the ‘Butcher of Bahrain’ who was as a colonial enforcer during the atrocities and awarded several times with honours by the British monarch Queen Elizabeth II with the CBE , CBE GM. Hendersob died on 13 April 2013. In January 2000, Amnesty International called for an investigation into Henderson’s role in the use of torture during his Bahrain deployment after Kenya’s independence.

- Lieutenant General Sir Gerald Lathbury who made a name for himself for his use of brutal tactics against African citizens. He too was rewarded by the British queen made KCB (Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Bath). He died,16 May 1978 at the age of 71.

- John Cowan, the sadistic senior superintendent of prisons in Kenya from 1957 to 1963. Cowan attempted to justify his abhorrent behaviour by stating “there was no other way, the men were obdurate and dangerous... you had to knock the evil out of a person”

- Second Lieutenant David Larder, who quit after admitting killing an African when nineteen and was reported by journalists at the Daily Worker as stating what was going on in Kenya under British occupation was “Hitlerism”.

- Terence Gavaghan, 91, was awarded the MBE for his barbaric assault of innocent Africans whilst in Kenya. Gavaghan explains what was done to suspected freedom fighters; a “resistor... was put on the ground, a foot placed on his throat and mud stuffed in his mouth; and that a man whose resistance could not be broken down was in the last resort knocked unconscious.”

Toyin Agbetu continued;

“Does it really make sense that the individual lawyers involved in this case will benefit financially from the suffering of the actual victims. Is that natural justice? I believe that the settlement proposed by the British government was about perverting the course of justice and protecting British institutions and their war criminals from prosecution. With the amount of evidence that had been uncovered, living witnesses and colonial ‘administrators’ still alive to give testimony, this case had a solid chance of succeeding. This capitulation at the last hurdle is unforgivable”

The Ligali Organisation is amongst one of many Pan African organisations that believe despite the cash payout, true justice and reparation for heroic Ancestors like Dedan Kimathi and the thousands of victims of British barbarism and torture remains denied.

Kimathi who was captured, put on trial in Nyeri whilst medically unfit and suffering from gunshot wounds, found guilty of being “a member of a terrorist organisation -Mau Mau” in a kangaroo show trial that flaunted the rule of law was subsequently hanged by the British in 1957.

Lawyer, Martyn Day of Leigh Day & Co said;

“These crimes were committed by British colonial officials and have gone unrecognised and unpunished for decades. They included castration, rape and repeated violence of the worst kind. Although they occurred many years ago, the physical and mental scars remain.”

However Apollo Mboya, chief executive of the The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) is reported as having said that “Some members of the Mau Mau War Veterans Association (MMWVA) have rejected the compensation having been reached without their consent and authority,”

Toyin Agbetu agrees adding;

“I am angry that this settlement was reached and a legal finding was not made in a court of law against the government forcing them to accept their responsibilities for atrocities carried out and sanctioned by parliament. Two of the original claimants passed away before this settlement was reached, what use is money to them now. It would have been far better if this had gone to trial and the Truth shared in public. Now Britain’s dirty crimes and secrets can be archived and left unpunished until someone else with stronger moral fibre and with sufficient resources can successfully challenge this decision to show that some things cannot and should not be resolved with money.”

With Leigh Day & Co pocketing 30 per cent of the money awarded a ‘dash for cash’ has started amongst British law firms with Tandem Law and GR Law now claiming they intend to press for compensation for other victims of British colonial rule.

Westminster Parliament (UK) ratified the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in 1951 at the same time as it was carrying out these abuses and horrendous atrocities in Kenya and other nations where African people were being oppressed by Europeans. It would appear that as late as 1953 when the Convention came into force, the British politicians and lawyers instrumental in drafting the ECHR did not consider African people ‘human’ enough to be deserving of the dignity enshrined by their own laws.

It’s 2013 and many would argue that so little seems to have changed.

(Top) Freedom Fighter: Dedan Kimathi (Bottom) British occupiers terrorise innocent Africans with stop and search operations at gunpoint in Nairobi, throughout 1950’s

External Links
Kenya: UK expresses regret over abuse as Mau Mau promised payout
Kenyan torture victims give evidence in high court compensation case
Statement to Parliament on settlement of Mau Mau claims
Kenya: confusion follows Mau Mau compensation deal
Shameful legacy

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Does William Hague’s ‘statement of regret’ like Tony Blairs’ on the issue of British slavery in 2007 represent justice for Africans?
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This case had a solid chance of succeeding so the settlement was about perverting the course of justice & protecting British institutions & their war criminals from prosecution. The individual lawyers involved will benefit more than the victims.

Toyin Agbetu, Ligali Organisation

See Related:

Amnesty International welcomes investigation into Henderson’s role in torture

General Gerald William Lathbury

Regina v Dedan Kimathi S/o Wachiuri [1956]

How Britain crushed the Mau Mau rebellion

The Putney pensioner named in court papers as a Mau Mau torturer

OLIVERS ARMY - The Myth of Mau Mau

Kenyan Mau Mau: official policy was to cover up brutal mistreatment

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