Soldiers in the court room: the British Army's part in the Kenya Emergency under the legal spotlight

Huw Charles Bennett

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24 Citations (SciVal)


In April 2011, civil proceedings were launched in the High Court in London concerning alleged torture during the Mau Mau Emergency in Kenya, from 1952 to 1960. In this on-going case, the claimants allege that torture was widespread in Kenya, and that it was condoned by the British state. This article explains the background to the case and describes the expert evidence given by the author on the British Army's role in the Emergency. The historical evidence on five issues is summarised: the command and control arrangements for the security forces, the nature of the intelligence system, the relationships between British and local security forces, the army's knowledge of human rights abuses and whether efforts were made to stop them, and army participation in screening and interrogation. In each case, it is shown how the British Army was deeply implicated in a system of mass repression of the civilian Kikuyu, Embu and Meru populations. Finally, the article examines the discovery of a vast cache of documents at Hanslope Park, which covers 37 territories during the decolonisation period. The discovery of some 8,800 files is likely to have a significant impact on the understanding of post-war decolonisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-730
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 08 Nov 2011


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