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Kenyans win torture legal fight

Three elderly Kenyan victims of torture during the Mau Mau uprising can pursue their compensation claims against the Government.

The trio won a ruling from Mr Justice McCombe last year that they had "arguable cases in law".

But the case came back to London's High Court in July to consider a claim by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) that the actions were brought outside the legal time limit. It said it faced "irredeemable difficulties" in relation to the availability of witnesses and documents.

Lawyers for Wambugu Wa Nyingi, Paulo Muoka Nzili and Jane Muthoni Mara argued that it was an exceptional case in which the judge should exercise his discretion in their favour.

Mr Justice McCombe said they had established a proper case for the court to exercise its discretion and allowed their claims to proceed to trial.

In July, each of the three was told in turn by Guy Mansfield QC for the FCO that the Government did not dispute that they suffered "torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration".

In his written evidence, Mr Nyingi, 84, a father of 16 who still works as a casual labourer, said he was arrested on Christmas Eve 1952 and detained for about nine years. During that time, he was beaten unconscious in an incident in 1959 at Hola camp in which 11 men were clubbed to death, and he still bears marks from leg manacles, whipping and caning.

When Mr Justice McCombe gave his ruling last year, he emphasised he had not found there was systematic torture in the Kenyan camps nor that, if there was, the UK Government was liable to detainees, such as the claimants, for what happened.

An FCO spokesman said: "The British Government is disappointed with today's judgment. The judgment was not a finding of liability but a procedural decision following a preliminary hearing on limitation, which allows the cases to go to a full trial.

"The judgment has potentially significant and far-reaching legal implications. The normal time limit for bringing a civil action is three to six years. In this case, that period has been extended to over 50 years despite the fact that the key decision makers are dead and unable to give their account of what happened. Since this is an important legal issue, we have taken the decision to appeal."


From Belfast Telegraph