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Kenyans given right to sue UK over torture

A British court has granted three elderly Kenyan veterans the right to sue the UK for damages over torture, which took place under British rule of Kenya in the 1950s. The UK Foreign Office will appeal the verdict.

Wambugu Wa Nyingi, Paulo Muoka Nzilil and Jane Muthoni Mara, now aged in their 70s and 80s, were veterans of the pre-independence Mau Mau uprising in Kenya in the 1950s which fought for land and freedom.

The three suffered castration, rape and beatings while in detention from British forces and their Kenyan allies. They are asking Britain to apologize, and for the government to pay compensation into a fund for victims of colonial-era torture.

The British government had argued that too much time had passed to allow a fair trial over the claims. It had tried for three years to block the legal action.

Friday's ruling means the case can go to a full trial.

"I have reached the conclusion ... that a fair trial on this part of the case does remain possible and that the evidence on both sides remains significantly cogent for the court to complete its task satisfactorily," said Judge Richard McCombe.

"The documentation is voluminous ... and the government and the military commanders seem to have been meticulous record-keepers."

Supporters wept and hugged each other following the ruling. Martyn Day, a lawyer representing the victims, said his clients, who were not in court, were "delighted".

"Following this judgement we can but hope that our government will at last do the honourable thing and sit down and resolve these claims," said Mr Day.

"There will undoubtedly be victims of colonial torture from Malaya to the Yemen from Cyprus to Palestine who will be reading this judgement with great care."

Britain's Foreign Office said it will appeal the ruling. "The British Government is disappointed with today's judgement," it said in a statement.

"The judgment has potentially significant and far reaching legal implications. The normal time limit for bringing a civil action is three to six years. Since this is an important legal issue, we have taken the decision to appeal."

The Foreign Office said in July the British government did not dispute the claimants suffered "torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration."

jr/rg (Reuters, dpa)