Home > Centre for the Study of Human Rights > Events > 2011 > The Mau Mau Case: Abuse, Torture and Cover up under British Colonial Rule?

The Mau Mau Case: Abuse, Torture and Cover up under British Colonial Rule?

  • Thursday 20 October 2011
  • Speakers: Professor David Anderson, Mr Daniel Leader
  • Chair: Professor Chetan Bhatt


Daniel LeaderDuring the Emergency of the 1950s, hundreds of Kenyans suspected of being Mau Mau supporters suffered unspeakable acts of brutality, including castrations and severe sexual assaults, at the hands of British colonial officials.

On 21 July 2011 the High Court rejected the British Government's attempt to strike out the claims of Kenyan victims of British Colonial torture. The Judge labelled the British Government's efforts to avoid responsibility as "dishonourable".

The Kenya Human Rights Commission and the Kenyan Government are supporting the claims, and leading academic experts on the Kenya Emergency have submitted lengthy statements in support. The case has lead to the discovery of the "Hanslope" archive of thousands of secret documents which were spirited out of 37 colonies prior to independence and which have been locked away ever since. 

The case is changing public understanding of the Kenya Emergency and the discovery of the Hanslope archive is likely to change the history of the end of empire.  In this event, the lawyer for the four claimants and leading academic experts on Kenya and the Mau Mau insurgency will discuss the evidence in the case and its implications.


David Anderson is Professor of African Politics and a Fellow of St Cross College at the University of Oxford. He is a leading expert on the history and politics of eastern Africa, and particularly Kenya. His Histories of the Hanged: Britain's Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire, is the first full history of the Mau Mau rebellion and its brutal suppression in 1950s Kenya.

Daniel Leader is a barrister at Leigh, Day and Co., and represents four Kenyans who were victims of torture at the hands of British Officials during the Kenya Emergency. Prior to joining Leigh, Day and Co., Dan was a barrister specialising in personal injury, employment law and human rights. Before joining the Bar, Dan worked on human rights and public interest law in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.   

Further Reading

The Judgment - Mutua and Others v the FCO, 21 July 2011 (PDF, 59 pages)

Summary of the Judgment (PDF, 3 pages)

Kenyan victims of colonial torture to give evidence at the High Court in London Press release from March 2011 (Leigh Day and Co) containing further information and links