Kenyans taking UK to EU human rights court over colonial-era abuses

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Kenyans forced off their land by British settlers during colonial rule are taking their case against the UK to the European Court of Human Rights, their supporters said on Tuesday.

Lawyers for those evicted from Kenya’s Rift Valley say that by ignoring the victims and their complaints, the UK government has violated the European Convention of Human Rights to which it is a signatory.

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“The UK Government has ducked and dived, and sadly avoided every possible avenue of redress,” said Joel Kimutai Bosek, who is representing the Kipsigis and Talai peoples.

“We have no choice but to proceed to court for our clients so that history can be righted.”

The Kipsigis and Talai were evicted in the early 20th century from ancestral lands around Kericho, a major tea-growing region today farmed by large multinationals including Unilever, Finlay’s and Lipton.

They took their case to the UN, where a panel of special investigators in 2021 expressed “serious concern” at the UK’s failure to offer a public apology or acknowledge their share of responsibility for these colonial-era abuses.

Lawyers for the Kipsigis and Talai argued that the British army and colonial administrators had used rape, murder and arson to seize swathes of arable land in Kericho from its traditional owners.

The victims – more than 100,000 were signatories to the UN complaint filed in 2019 – demanded an apology, and reparations for their homeland being usurped and reallocated to white settlers, who used the fertile soil to cultivate tea.

But lawyers for the Kipsigis and Talai said the British government had refused to meet with the victims or their representatives.

The victims’ legal team said it had made a submission to the EU court, which had yet to receive the application as of Tuesday afternoon.

Once the case is filed, a decision could be months or even years away.

“This is a historic day,” said Paul Chepkwony, the outgoing governor of Kericho County, who has fought for reparations for years.

“We have taken all reasonable and dignified steps. But the UK Government has given us the cold shoulder... we hope for those who have suffered for too long that their dignity will be restored.”

In June, the EU court issued an interim ruling blocking the UK from deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.

London has since introduced legislation that would allow it to override rulings by the court in Strasbourg, but denied it intends to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.

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