Foreign Office attempts to throw out a claim for compensation for torture by a group of Kenyans were rejected by a high court judge in London today.
Five veterans of Kenya's Mau Mau independence war in the 1950s brought the case in 2009. They said they were tortured on the orders of the colonial authorities during the conflict. The Foreign Office has argued that the British government is not responsible for any torture that may have been committed by the authorities in the colony of Kenya during the 1950s. The judge, Mr Justice McCombe, said that the claimants had 'arguable cases in law'.
One of the five, most of whom are in their 80s, has died since the case started. Unfortunately, there will be a further delay before the case comes to court.
The judge supported the Foreign Office's request that there should be a preliminary limitations hearing to decide whether the events happened too long ago for the case to proceed.
This hearing could take four weeks. But, assuming that the full case is allowed to proceed, it is now likely to be delayed until after Easter next year.
Martyn Day of the veterans' lawyers Leigh, Day and Co said after the ruling, '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.'
Fred Oula of the Mau Mau Justice Network in London told Socialist Worker, 'The preliminary trial is not something we expected, but we are not downhearted.
'We were convinced from day one that the veterans had a case against the British government, notwithstanding the legal hurdles we suspected might be put in front of them.'
Since the case started the British government has admitted that it has 300 boxes of files relating to the colonial period in Kenya. These were removed at the time of independence in 1963 and Britain has since denied holding them.
The veterans' lawyers have seen many of the documents and say they significantly strengthen the case.
Martyn Day stated, 'Mr Justice McCombe today described the government's tactics as 'dishonourable'. He is quite right. It is time we faced up to the past and recognised that our army and government did not live up to the standards we would expect even 50 years ago.
'Just as it was wrong for the Japanese to torture our POWs in the Second World War equally we cannot hide from the fact it was wrong what we did to the Kenyan freedom fighters in the 1950s.'
Two of the claimants were castrated, one was beaten unconscious during an attack which left 11 other prisoners dead, another was sexually abused.
When the government admitted it had the documents relating to Kenya it said it also has documents removed from 36 other colonies during decolonisation.
For the campaign go to www.facebook.com/maumaujustice