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A Peace News expose

Peace News played an important role in exposing British colonial torture in Kenya, publishing an expose by whistle-blower Eileen Fletcher on 4 May 1956.

Fletcher went to Kenya in December 1954 as a colonial social worker ‘rehabilitating’ women and girls in British detention camps and prisons for Mau Mau militants and sympathisers. She resigned in protest after trying to improve conditions for seven months.

Labour MP Fenner Brockway waved a copy of Peace News in a house of commons debate on Kenya on 6 June 1956, quoting Fletcher.

Fletcher had witnessed children of 11 and 12 being held in prisons in Kenya, and gave details, including prisoner numbers, to Brockway for him to substantiate this claim. A 12-year-old, prisoner number 7966/J, charged with consorting with armed persons, had been sentenced, like many others, at the ‘governor’s pleasure’. This was a rolling four-year sentence (effectively a life sentence) in a maximum security prison.

She documented cases of unaccompanied children – including a boy of four and a boy of seven – being held in adult detention camps.

Fletcher also recorded cases of children being put to hard labour (citing an official prison record of an 11-year-old sentenced to seven years’ hard labour) and being kept in solitary confinement. She knew of 14 girls (‘lifers’) kept in solitary confinement for 16 days for singing Mau Mau hymns. Brockway, who had experienced solitary confinement himself, observed: ‘I was not surprised to hear that Miss Fletcher said that, as they left those huts, she will never forget the expression of terror which was on their faces’.