Britain has bowed to legal moves and agreed to compensate 5,228 elderly Kenyans tortured during the Mau Mau uprising from 1952 until 1961. The deal follows a London court ruling last year that victims could sue.
Foreign Secretary William Hague stopped short of delivering a full apology in parliament on Thursday but offered Britain's "sincere regrets" for abuses committed by the former colonial British administration in Kenya.
Kenya's Mau Mau movement sought in the 1950s to end British rule. Tens of thousands of rebels were killed by colonial forces. An estimated 150,000 people were detained in camps, including the Kenyan grandfather of US President Barack Obama.
Out of court settlement
Three elderly Kenyans represented by a British law firm ended a four-year legal battle by settling with Britain out of court. Britain is to pay 20 million pounds (23.5 million euros, $30.9 million) in total.
If divided equally, each of the 5,228 Kenyan victims would receive about 2,600 pounds; about five times the annually salary of a low-level Kenyan civil servant. London will also pay for a new memorial in Nairobi.
Britain's Foreign Office had previously argued that all liability was transferred to the Kenyan state when it became independent in 1963.
Mix reactions in Kenya
In Nairobi, the secretary general of the Mau Mau War Veterans Association, Gitu Wa Kahengeri, said Britain's response confirmed that "we were freedom fighters and not terrorists."
However, one claimant, Mwai Wanughigi, said the compensation offered was not enough: "These people were relocated, deprived of everything," he said.
A lawyer for the three main claimants, Martin Day, praised Hague for recognizing abuses of thousands of Kenyans, many of whom were not directly associated with the Mau Mau insurgency.
"It takes courage to publicly acknowledge for the first time the terrible nature of Britain's past in Kenya," Day said.
"These crimes were committed by British colonial officials," he said. "They included castration, rape and repeated violence of the worst kind."
"The elderly victims of torture now at last have the recognition and justice they have sought for many years."
Deal after court ruling
Last October, the High Court in London ruled that the three Kenyan claimants - Paulo Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara – could sue the British government.
They were all survivors of the detention camps. Nzili was castrated while in detention; Nyingi suffered severe beatings over nine years while being held without charge. Mara suffered sexual abuse, including rape.
The compensation package for Kenyan victims is likely to be examined closely in other former British-ruled countries.
One case concerns the 1948 killing of 24 unarmed Malayan civilians in the rubber plantation village of Batang Kali in what was then the British protectorate of Selangor.
ipj/dr (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)