VETERAN EOKA members are planning lawsuits against British authorities after the UK High Court revealed secret foreign office files detailing the systematic torture of Kenyans in the 1950s.
The court released the files after four elderly Kenyans sued the British government for their brutal suppression of Mau-Mau rebels, and after a Times investigation the EOKA Veteran’s Association is following suit.
The association claims 14 Cypriots died and hundreds more could have been tortured during interrogations by the British during the 1955-1959 armed struggle against colonial rule. Two of those who died during interrogation were 17.
It is understood that the British government has up to 9,000 documents from 37 colonial administrations, including Cyprus, and the veterans association’s lawyer is now in communication with a London law office.
Former EOKA leader and association head Thassos Sophocleus, 78, told the Times: “We will pursue cases for all those who were tortured. It could be hundreds.”
Sophocleus said: “The truth is we have a similar case to the Kenyans. We are not doing this for the money. It is for the satisfaction of presenting to the international community what the British did to us...instead of giving us our freedom, they tortured and killed us.”
The Times said the existence of Foreign Office files detailing Britain’s brutal response to anti-colonial struggles emerged this month, and that British and Cypriot accounts from the same time document numerous cases of torture on the island.
For example, the Times said, a post-mortem examination on one of the 14 who died in custody, Andreas Panayiotou, 26, found that he had been beaten to death. British police, however, claimed that he had died trying to escape custody: a common cover-up, EOKA veterans say.
Sophocleus, who led a contingent of guerrillas in the Pentadactylos mountains at the age of 24, told the Times that he was tortured for 16 days after his arrest in 1956.
He alleges that his back was flayed with a rope embedded with iron shards and that he was kicked in the head, body and testicles.
Sophocleus was sentenced to life imprisonment for possessing firearms but was released when Cyprus won independence in 1960.
Source: Cyprus Mail, 14 April 2011, Patrick Dewhurst
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Hiding behind legal contortions, the government is refusing to apologise or pay compensation for appalling abuses done in the name of and with the knowledge of the British state, with the intent of preserving a system of racist privilege for white settlers in the east African colony.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission says about 160,000 black people were held in dire conditions in camps run by the British colonial authorities and tens of thousands were tortured to get them to renounce their oath to the Mau Mau rebellion against British rule in the 1950s.
The Foreign Office doesn't deny there was torture and killings in the camps. How could it? Many of the abuses are documented in files discovered in its own archives. They including a telegram from the British governor of Kenya, Sir Evelyn Baring, documenting torture allegations against colonial district officers including "the burning alive of detainees".
Instead the Foreign Office is deploying an array of legal barriers to argue that it is not required to pay compensation. Among the arguments is that Britain's responsibility for its colonial crimes ceased to exist when Kenya became independent in 1963 – a legal convenience that apparently does not apply in Libya where Britain has willed it that responsibility for Gaddafi's crimes has been transferred to the people as a whole and their representatives in the struggle for freedom.
The Foreign Office also argues that these crimes are historic. But they are not history to those who live with the consequences, including the four claimants at the high court such as Ndiku Mutua and Paulo Nzili, who say they were castrated in a British camp. Or to Jane Muthoni Mara who I spoke to in Nairobi several years ago and who described to me how as a 15-year-old she was arrested as a Mau Mau spy and, among other things, tortured under the supervision of a British army officer by being raped with a bottle filled with hot water.
Other prisoners told of being beaten, starved, anally raped and flogged. The official documents found at the Foreign Office acknowledge that prisoners were used as forced labour. Some detainees were tortured so badly they died.
More than 1,000 Kenyan men met their death at the end of a hangman's noose, many after confessions they said were tortured from them.
All of this led a Kenyan colonial judge, Arthur Cram, who was appointed to examine the role of British officials in torture and killings, to draw comparisons with infamous Nazi camps.
"They [British colonial officials] not only knew of the shocking floggings that went on in this Kenya Nordhausen, or Mathausen [sic], but must be taken to be the men who were said to have carried them out. From the brutalising of flogging it is only a step to taking life without qualm," he said in his judgment.
Germany is still apologising and paying compensation for the crimes of the Nazi state in Nordhausen and Mauthausen. It has not tried to say that responsibility dissolved with the collapse of the Third Reich.
Full article: Guardian 08/04/2011 "Torture and killing in Kenya – Britain's double standards", Chris McGreal