HC Deb 16 July 1957 vol 573 cc933-6
32 and 33. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) how many convictions there have been for assault on prisoners at Gathigiriri Works Camp, Kenya; how many prisoners have died as a consequence of ill-treatment; what members of the staff were involved in these convictions; and what was the sentence in each case;

(2) on whose authority orders were given by Jasiel Njau Kariuki, a rehabilitation assistant at Gathigiriri Works Camp, Kenya, for a detainee to be beaten and hung up by his wrists from a beam.

40 Mr. Paget

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) whether he will make a statement with regard to the death of Macheri Githuma, a detainee in Kenya;

(2) what action he proposes to take upon the judicial comment made by Mr. Justice Pelly Murphy in Kenya that he suspected that orders given by an African rehabilitation assistant for Macheri Githuma to be beaten and hung by his wrists from a beam were ordered and carried out with the tacit approval of his superior officer;

(3) whether he will place in the Library a transcript of the trial of five persons in Kenya resulting from the death of Macheri Githuma.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Macheri Githuma was one of fifty intractable detainees sent to Gathigiriri Camp for rehabilitation. Soon after arrival each man was placed separately in a hut with a small group of detainees under rehabilitation. Jasiel Njau Kariuki, an African rehabilitation assistant, led the men in his hut in an assault on Githuma, as a result of which he collapsed. He was taken outside the hut but died soon after.

The Attorney-General directed prosecution of Njau and five detainees for murder. Medical evidence at the trial showed that death could not be proved to have been due to the assault. Proceedings against one detainee were stopped; the other defendants were later acquitted of murder but convicted of assault causing actual bodily harm. Njau was sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment with hard labour and the remainder to three months. I will consider the question of placing a copy of the proceedings in the Library.

The Attorney-General decided that there was no evidence to support a criminal charge against the camp commandant and rehabilitation officer. The Governor ordered that their conduct should be the subject of a disciplinary inquiry, which is now taking place under the chairmanship of the Solicitor-General. I can, therefore, make no statement about their alleged part in this incident at present.

I am not in possession of details of any other convictions for assault at this camp, nor am I aware of other deaths of detainees there. I am consulting the Governor and will circulate any relevant information in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

As a result of this incident the Governor personally visited the camp in February and ordered measures for closer supervision designed to prevent any recurrence of incidents of this nature.

Mrs. Castle

Is not the Colonial Secretary aware that it is very unsatisfactory to have five Questions lumped together in this way, thus restricting the possibility of really elucidating the innumerable details which arise?

Will the right hon. Gentleman give two assurances? First, will he let us have a full report of the disciplinary inquiry so that we can be sure there is not in this case the same sort of evasion of responsibility as took place in the case of Kamau Kuchina? Is he also aware that the defending counsel of two of the detainees at the trial of Njau Kariuki made the statement that: We have evidence that there were other convictions in the camp for similar assaults and I am informed they numbered no less than 27. In view of the gravity of this statement, will the Colonial Secretary let the House have either a denial of this fact when he has authenticated the statement, or the full details of the twenty-seven convictions which throw a grave light on this question of the rehabilitation service?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I would suggest that it hardly helps in this case if the hon. Lady unjustly accuses me of evasion in a previous one. I am ready to consider laying any relevant papers before the House. When I last did so with regard to her other charges, the charges almost immediately dried up. The only correspondence in my office is from people who confessed themselves disillusioned at having listened to the hon. Lady, and naturally I am only too ready to follow the previous precedent.

I cannot agree with what the hon. Lady has said. If she cares to give me those details or come and see the Governor of Kenya, who is now in London, and give him personally the details, I shall be only too anxious, as is the Governor of Kenya, that nothing should be covered up.

Mr. Paget

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I believe that a wonderful job has been done by a great many people in connection with this rehabilitation project, but that nonetheless one is frightfully concerned when these horrible cases occur and even more concerned when the sentences appear to be so inadequate? Secondly, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there seems to be a certain delusion in Kenya that the offence of murder involves only killing whereas in fact it also involves acceleration of death? When a man is thrashed and hung up by his wrists and dies, it is a little odd to hold that he would not have died rather later if he had not been treated in that way.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am always prepared to listen to what the hon. and learned Gentleman has to say. He has had personal experience of what armed conflict means and he knows some of the difficulties under which the security forces have been operating in Kenya. In this case I think that if he reads my answer and my assurance, he will realise that I am only too anxious that all the facts should be known. I am ready to join him as well in any talks with the Governor, if the Governor is, as I do not doubt he would be, ready to discuss this case which I understand quite naturally has caused some anxiety to hon. Members on both sides of the House, and not least to those who have chosen to pursue the matter with me by correspondence and not necessarily in this way.

May I also ask hon. Members to view this matter in the light of the vast problem in Kenya and of the 45,000 people who have been released in order, one hopes, to start again a new and good life in Kenya?