ICTJ talked to Kenyan youth leader Carine Umutoniwase to know how learning from a violent past...
The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) strongly welcomes the decision of the UK High Court ordering the British government to pay damages to a group of Kenyans who were imprisoned and tortured by colonial authorities following the Mau Mau Rebellion of the 1950s.
“The UK has the opportunity to set right an old injustice, as well as the possibility of strengthening the right to remedy and reparations that continue to be relevant in the present,” said David Tolbert, president of ICTJ. “The British Government should embrace the opportunity to make meaningful reparations not only to the individual claimants but to the hundreds of other surviving victims who are also likely to seek damages before the courts.”
The lawyers representing the UK government accepted that the three plaintiffs were tortured by the colonial authorities. While imprisoned, they suffered what their lawyers described as "unspeakable acts of brutality," including castration, beatings, and severe sexual assaults.
“Any settlement with the victims in this case should focus on the recognition of the individual and collective suffering inflicted upon Mau Mau veterans, including those who have passed away,” said Ruben Carranza, director of ICTJ’s Reparative Justice Program.
In addition to redressing the suffering endured by Mau Mau veterans, the decision will help address the marginalization and ostracism that they endured. “The UK High Court’s decision is a real opportunity to set an example for other states on how to deal with legacies of massive human rights abuses arising from colonial and occupation-related conflict,” said Carranza.
In a 2010 ICTJ report, “To Live as Other Kenyans Do,” the interviewed veterans of the Mau Mau insurgency felt that their story had “never been told,” and sought to ensure that their experiences were recorded before it was too late for the old people involved.
They pointed out that “not only has the Mau Mau story not been told, but the organization remained formally illegal until 2003. While veterans also seek support to counter the poverty experienced by many Kenyan victims of other periods, seeing their story told in Kenya’s schools is a priority, as is seeing the heroes of that resistance celebrated. The first ’Heroes’ Day’ in 2010 was a start, but it remains insufficient for those who fought.”
The International Center for Transitional Justice works to redress and prevent the most severe violations of human rights by confronting legacies of mass abuse. ICTJ seeks holistic solutions to promote accountability and create just and peaceful societies. For more information, visit www.ictj.org.
New York: Refik Hodzic, Director of Communications
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*Photo: Oxfam Italia