HC Deb 26 March 1959 vol 602 cc1502-3
44. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the deaths on 3rd March of the 11 detainees from the Hola Irrigation Scheme Camp, Kenya.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I regret to say that 11 detainees, who were members of a working party from Hola detention camp on 3rd March, have died at Hola. A full investigation was undertaken by the C.I.D., autopsies have been carried out on the bodies, and an inquest was opened at Mombasa by a senior resident magistrate on 18th March to determine causes of deaths. As the inquest is still being held I cannot anticipate the magistrate's findings of fact. The Kenya Government and the Attorney-General of Kenya will consider whether any further action is necessary in the light of the magistrate's findings.

Mrs. Castle

Is not it a fact that the Kenya police authorities have testified that the deaths of these 11 men were caused by violence? Is not it also a fact that local officials attempted to cover this up by saying that the men died from drinking poisoned water? Is not it also a fact that the camp commander, Mr. Sullivan, has revealed that there always has been a prison circular in existence from the Prison Department in Kenya authorising African warders to use physical violence to compel detainees to do forced labour? In view of this, is not it time to take the inquiries out of the hands of the Kenya Government, and to establish an independent judicial inquiry sent from this country to inquire into the whole detention camp situation in Kenya?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

As I have said, this was a very distressing and grave case, the gravity of which neither I nor the Kenya Government would attempt to minimise. It is now the subject of an inquest, and it would be improper of me to attempt to anticipate the magistrate's findings, but I think that the Kenya Government have throughout taken prompt and proper action to deal with this matter. Any suggestion that they tried to cover it up is very untrue.

Mr. Callaghan

That being so, and while no one on either side of this House would begin to defend what has happened in this case, does not the Colonial Secretary realise that there is merit in my hon. Friend's suggestion, which has been made from this side of the House more than once, that the accumulation of these incidents points to the need for an independent commission of inquiry to find out what has been happening in these detention camps?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

No, Sir. I do not think that is so. I am very ready to debate the matter in the House when I am able to give the information after the magistrate has reported.

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