British soldiers accused of starting a bushfire in a village in Nanyuki, Laikipia County will now face charges after they lost their diplomatic immunity against lawsuits in Kenya.
The British soldiers were accused of starting a wildfire at Lolldaiga Hills Ranch, a 49,000 acre sanctuary where they train, risking the lives of over 1,000 locals in March 2021.
In a landmark ruling delivered on Wednesday, April 13, High Court Judge Antonina Bore argued that the United Kingdom government waived diplomatic immunity to legal action through an agreement that was signed in 2015.
The Judge noted that as a unit of the British Army, BATUK has no legal entity separate from the UK government.
"It is evident that Kenya would have jurisdiction for civil claims and liabilities arising from activities in its territory under the agreement while the UK would have jurisdiction for civil claims and liabilities arising from activities in its territory," Justice Bore stated.
"The allegation in the petition is that British soldiers caused a huge fire in the military training grounds in Lolldaiga, which is in Kenya. Kenya, therefore, has jurisdiction."
The judgment explained that the British soldiers are required to be sensitive to the traditions, customs, and culture of the people.
"In the court's view this clause anticipated the kind of claim brought by the petitioners," concluded Justice Bore.
The Judge ordered that The African Centre for Corrective and Preventive Action (ACCPA) and the local people must now go through a dispute resolution process in a bid to agree on terms with the UK government.
The case was filed by ACCPA against BATUK seeking compensation and reparations noting that the fire was caused by British soldiers.
However, BATUK denied being behind the fire and maintained that its soldiers were protected from prosecution by diplomatic immunity.
UK government on the other hand, has not issued a statement following the landmark ruling.
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