The delegation of three men and two women veterans presented their case to the high court in London at the end of June.
These five test cases are the first of 40 that the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) is preparing. All the cases include details of torture. Some involve castration, sexual abuse and unlawful detention.
One of the women involved in the current cases was 15 when she was imprisoned in a detention camp for four years for supplying food to Mau Mau fighters. Two of the five say they were wrongfully imprisoned for years.
George Morara of the KHRC said, “It has taken a long time to find survivors and thread the links between the British government and the Kenyan colonial government.”
The British government has stated that the claim is invalid because so much time has elapsed. It added that any liability resulting from the colonial rule had passed on to the Kenyan government at independence in 1963.
The KHRC is looking to precedents such as the recent agreement by Italy to compensate Libyans for suffering under colonialism. The New Zealand government has also offered compensation to some 100,000 Maoris.
George says the British military took direct control of many operations in the Emergency: “They brought in the RAF with its bombers. That means that this was something that the British government took very seriously, so it cannot say it was not complicit.
“We have spoken with people who were officials in the Kenyan government at the time who claim they were ordered to destroy many documents shortly before the colonial government departed.
“But we feel that we have enough evidence to show that the killings went far beyond what is in the official records.”
Muthoni Wanyeki from KHRC said, “This is not a case about the individual perpetrators of torture.
“Our veterans want something very small – an acknowledgement of what was done to them. They want compensation, often for small things – to get crutches that fit or medical attention.”