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The High Court has ruled that four Kenyans can pursue claims against the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) over allegations that they were victims of British atrocities committed during the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s.
Mr Justice McCombe rejected a counter strike-out bid put forward by the FCO, which argued that actions could only be brought against the perpetrators of the alleged assaults or their employers at the time.
Leigh Day & Co partner Martyn Day instructed Doughty Street’s Richard Hermer QC and Phillippa Kaufmann QC for claimants Ndiku Mutua, Paulo Nzili, Wambugu Nyingi and Jane Mara. A fifth claimant, Susan NGondi, has died since the action began.
The Doughty Street silks went up against 39 Essex Street’s Robert Jay QC, who was instructed by the Treasury Solicitor for the FCO.
It was argued that the British Government should be held liable for the claimants mistreatment because it instigated, through the army and the Colonial Office, a system of torture and ill-treatment of detainees as part of a common design shared with the Colonial Government in Kenya.
The claimants also argued that in 1957 the British Government expressly instructed, authorised or approved a policy of mistreatment of detainees, as shown by a series of exchanges between the Governor of the colony and the Colonial Office in London.
The judge said it was not for him to decide whether such claims were true, only to determine whether they should be heard by a full court.
The matter will now proceed to full trial.
Claimants: Leigh Day & Co partner Martyn Day instructed Doughty Street’s Richard Hermer QC and Phillippa Kaufmann QC to lead Alex Gask, also of Doughty Street Chambers, Zachary Douglas of Matrix Chambers and barrister Daniel Leader of Leigh Day.
Defendants: The Treasury Solicitor instructed 39 Essex Street’s Robert Jay QC to lead Alex Ruck Keen and Jack Holborn of the same set.