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Kenyan torture victims can sue UK

 Independence movement veterans hailed the ruling.
Independence movement veterans hailed the ruling.FLORA BAGENAL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

LONDON — The High Court ruled Friday that three elderly Kenyans tortured during a rebellion against British colonial rule can proceed with compensation claims against the United Kingdom government.

The case has potentially broad implications for thousands of others who claim similar abuse.

The case involves Kenyans who say they were beaten and sexually assaulted by officers acting for the British administration trying to suppress the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s. Groups of Kenyans had attacked British officials and white farmers who had settled in some of Kenya’s most fertile lands.

The British government expressed disappointment with the decision and said it would appeal. But it did ‘‘not dispute that each of the claimants in this case suffered torture and other ill treatment at the hands of the colonial administration.’’

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The government had sought to have the case dismissed, arguing that it could not be held legally responsible for the abuses.

The book ‘‘Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya’’ helped spearhead the legal ­action. The author, Caroline ­Elkins, called Friday’s ruling ‘‘seismic’’ and said Britain will now have to answer for injustices in all its former colonies.

The case could be problematic for Britain, which fears similar claims of citizens of other former colonies who also hold grievances over how they were treated under British rule. A lawyer for the ­­­Ken­yans­ suggested that the British government could potentially face thousands of claims.

Associated Press