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Detained Persons

Volume 531: debated on Wednesday 28 July 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many persons are now detained without trial in Kenya; and in what places and conditions they are detained.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many Africans are held in concentration camps, or villages behind barbed wire, in Kenya; and how many of them are used as labour for public and private employers.

About 40,000 persons are at present detained under Emergency Regulations. Of these, 10,000 are in Works Camps in the Central Province, Rift Valley and Narok, 7,000 are in detention camps at Mackinnon Road, Athi River and Manda Island, and 23,000 are in Anvil reception centres at Mackinnon Road, Manyani and Langata.

Conditions in the camps are governed by the Emergency (Detained Persons) Regulations, 1953. Accommodation is in huts or tents, piped water is laid on and hospital accommodation is provided. Those held in works camps are voluntarily employed at local market rates on public projects such as irrigation, bush clearing and agricultural betterment.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his very full reply, but I am shocked to learn that so many people are under detention. Will he be good enough to look into the third part of my Question—which concerns the conditions under which so many people are detained, and which I have learned are very unsatisfactory?

Our information regarding these conditions does not tally with that of the hon. Member. As a matter of fact, as my right hon. Friend said in his speech in the Kenya debate last week, a great deal of money has been spent on these camps and great care has been taken to ensure that they are well run. We have a good testimonial from the Church Missionary Society in regard to these conditions.

Can the Minister say how many of those 40,000 people have been detained without trial for a long period, or is he not aware that it is very disturbing and certainly not in harmony with what he called British ideas in the last Question?

There is another Question which is down to be asked on that point, and which I shall answer if it is reached. Briefly, the position is that these persons are held either under detention orders, in which case they have the right of appeal to an advisory committee which is, in effect, a trial—

At any rate, they have access to an appeal committee or, alternatively, they are in process of being screened and will subsequently either be released or detained.

Will the right hon. Gentleman state how long it is intended to keep these men in detention before bringing them to trial? Have the Government set any time limit in this question?

The work of screening is going forward extremely quickly, as the House was informed during the debate on Kenya.

Does not the Minister remember that not many weeks ago I was told—I think by him—that the whole screening process would be through in about four months? I did not believe it; I told him that at the rate it was going when I was there it would take about nine years. What does he really mean now? It is no use saying that the process is going on; we know it is. How quickly is it proceeding?

It is going on faster than was expected, and a great deal faster than the right hon. Gentleman suggested.

Will it be finished in three months? A few weeks ago the Minister told us that it would be completed in four months. He now says that it is going to be finished quicker than he expected. Are we to understand, therefore, that the screening is to be finished in three months? Surely I am entitled to an answer to that question?

If the right hon. Gentleman cares to put down a Question on that point—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] This Question deals with the conditions in the camps, which is quite a different question from that raised by the right hon. Gentleman. If he cares to put down a Question on the subject, I shall be prepared to answer it.

Owing to the unsatisfactory answers which have been given, I beg to give notice that I shall take the earliest opportunity of raising the matter on the Adjournment.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what form of legal aid is given in Kenya to parties charged with serious offences which carry a penalty less than the death penalty.

There is no established practice in this matter, which is dealt with administratively, but in difficult or complex cases the trial judge may require counsel to be assigned to the accused.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that this should be put upon a satisfactory basis, so that these indigenous people can have representation, which at least gives them justice?

We must remember that a large number of persons are involved. When I said that it is dealt with administratively, I meant that it is done with the help of district officers or district commissioners, who in many cases are men whom the accused persons know and trust and who are able to help them.

Am I to understand from the Minister's reply that the Charter of Human Rights does not apply to these people? Are we to understand that coloured people can be treated in any fashion? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Did hon. Members listen to the Minister's reply?

It the hon. Member will read my original reply, together with the supplementary. I think that he will see that that is not so.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many Europeans, Asians, Africans and persons of other races, respectively, have died in Kenya while under arrest in Her Majesty's prisons or in places of detention during the last two years.

In the period 1952, 1953 and the first half of 1954: 402 Africans; no Europeans or Asians.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that conditions under which so many people die ought to be improved? Will he kindly give further attention to this matter?

I do not think there is any reason to believe that the number of deaths is in any way out of proportion to the number of persons detained.

Can the Minister state the principal cause of death? Can he say whether a great many died from tuberculosis contracted while they were under arrest?

We have asked the Governor by telegram to let us have that information. Certainly a number of cases are due to tuberculosis and malaria.

Will the right hon. Gentleman pursue this investigation quickly, as there is evidence that the incidence of tuberculosis is growing? Will he look at that matter in relation to the conditions existing in these camps?

We are watching the position very carefully, and we shall continue to do so.