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Mau Mau Kenyans allowed to sue UK for 'colonial atrocities'

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, July 21, IRNA -- Four elderly Kenyans won a 'historic' ruling Thursday to take them one step nearer to winning damages from the UK government over alleged colonial atrocities during the Mau Mau uprising over 50 years ago.

Judge at the High Court in London, Mr Justice McCombe, said that the group had 'arguable cases in law' to sue Britain, setting in motion a month-long hearing that is expected to take place by Easter next year.

Their solicitor Martyn Day said that the ruling was a 'major victory' even though the British government is arguing that the claims cannot proceed because they have been brought outside the legal time limit.

'A lot of the evidence about what happened will be put into the public domain, and people will be able to judge for themselves. So, even if the judge rules that the trial cannot go ahead because of the time that has passed, just having that trial is a major victory,' Day said.

The UK Foreign Office had asked the judge to block the litigation now on the basis that any claim could only have been brought against the direct perpetrators of the alleged assaults or their employer at the time - the colonial government in Kenya - and not the British government.

The judge said the rival factual contentions are “hotly disputed” and that he had found it is impossible at this stage of the proceedings to decide whether the Foreign Office was correct in its factual assessments and arguments.

'It has been necessary, therefore, to consider the case on the basis that the claimants' version of the facts may prove at trial to be correct and to ask whether, on that basis, they have an arguable claim in law against the UK Government,' he said.

The claimants, Ndiku Mutwiwa Mutua, Paulo Muoka Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara flew 4,000 miles from their rural homes for the trial which concentrated on events in detention camps between 1954 and 1959.

At that hearing the judge was told that Mutua and Nzili had been castrated, Nyingi beaten unconscious in an incident in which 11 men were clubbed to death, and Mara had been subjected to appalling sexual abuse.

Despite the ruling, Foreign Office Minister for Africa Henry Bellingham said the government will “continue to defend fully these proceedings, given the length of time elapsed and the complex legal and constitutional questions the case raises.”

'Our relationship with Kenya and its people has moved on since the emergency period. We are now partners and the UK is one of the largest bilateral donors in Kenya,' Bellingham said.

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