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Wednesday 24 September 2014

Settlement talks in torture case

Published 06/05/2013 | 13:31

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The High Court ruled in Octber that three elderly Kenyans could pursue claims for compensation over torture claims

Lawyers acting for Kenyans suing Britain over alleged torture during an anti-colonial uprising have said they are negotiating with the British government over a possible settlement.

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Law firm Leigh Day confirmed talks were taking place but gave no other details "due to the nature of the negotiations". The Foreign Office declined to comment on an ongoing legal case.

The case involves Kenyans who say they were beaten and sexually assaulted by officers acting for the British administration trying to suppress the "Mau Mau" rebellion in the 1950s.

In October, Britain's High Court ruled that three elderly Kenyans could pursue claims for compensation. The Government launched an appeal, although it did not dispute the claims of torture.

A settlement could bring payouts to thousands who allege similar abuse.

In 1952, then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared a state of emergency in Kenya and sent British and African soldiers to help colonial administrators capture fighters in the uprising and send them to detention camps. Thousands of Kenyans were detained, including US President Barack Obama's grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama.

In October, the High Court ruled Wambugu Wa Nyingi, Paulo Muoka Nzili and Jane Muthoni Mara could pursue claims for compensation.

The Government had sought to have the case dismissed, saying it could not be held legally responsible for long-ago abuses. It argued that the liabilities of the colonial administration passed to the Kenyan government when the country gained independence from Britain in 1963.

The government launched an appeal against the October ruling, although it did not dispute "that each of the claimants in this case suffered torture and other ill treatment at the hands of the colonial administration."

While not commenting directly on the case, the Foreign Office said in a statement that "it is an enduring feature of our democracy that we are willing to learn from our history". It added: "Our relationship with Kenya and its people has moved on and is characterised by close co-operation and partnership, building on the many positives from our shared history."

Press Association

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