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Court Rules Kenyans Can Sue UK for Colonial-Era Abuses

  • VOA News

Wambugu Nyingi, Jane Muthoni, Paul Nzili and Ndiku Mutua (L-R) stand outside the High Court in London April 7, 2011.

Wambugu Nyingi, Jane Muthoni, Paul Nzili and Ndiku Mutua (L-R) stand outside the High Court in London April 7, 2011.

A court in Britain has ruled that three elderly Kenyans can proceed with their suit against the British government for alleged torture during the anti-colonial Mau Mau rebellion.

The three Kenyans, now in their 70s and 80s, say they were beaten and sexually assaulted by British colonial officers trying to suppress the rebellion during the 1950s.

London has tried to block the suit, saying responsibility for the alleged actions was transferred to the Kenyan government upon independence in 1963. After that claim was rejected in 2011, London then argued that too much time had passed to ensure a fair trial.

High Court judge Richard McCombe ruled Friday that a fair trial is possible, saying evidence on both sides is clear enough for the case to proceed.

Britain's Foreign Office said in a statement that it will appeal the ruling. The statement said the British government does not deny the claimants suffered "torture and other ill treatment" at the hands of colonial leaders. But it said those responsible for the abuse are dead and unable to give an account of what happened. It also said the case has "potentially significant and far reaching legal implications."

Observers say the ruling could pave the way for similar claims, not only from Kenya but also from other former British colonies.

Thousands of Kenyans were killed and thousands of others jailed - including U.S. President Barack Obama's paternal grandfather - during the Mau Mau rebellion against British colonial rule.

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