Four Kenyans who allege they were tortured during the suppression of the Mau Mau uprising are starting legal proceedings against the UK government.
The group, seeking compensation at the High Court, allege they were assaulted between 1952 and 1961 by British colonial administration officials.
“The treatment they endured has left them all with devastating and lifelong injuries,” said solicitor Martyn Day.
The government says it cannot be held liable for the alleged abuse.
The legal action is being brought by three Kenyan men and one woman – Wambugu Wa Nyingi, Paulo Nzili, Ndiku Mutua and Jane Muthoni – all in their 70s and 80s.
Their lawyers say that the four represent the wider community of Kenyans abused during the rebellion against colonial rule in the 1950s.
A guerrilla group known as Mau Mau began a violent campaign against white settlers in 1952
The uprising had been put down by the British colonial government by 1960
The Kenya Human Rights Commission says 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed during the crackdown
It says 160,000 people were detained in appalling conditions
Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1963
The movement is widely thought to have helped Kenya achieve that independence
However, it says the UK intends to fully defend the cases.
Robert Jay QC, for the foreign secretary, said there was no way that London could be held legally liable for the abuse in the 1950s.
He said that Kenya had its own legal colonial government which was clearly responsible for the detention camps where Mau Mau supporters were taken. London’s role, he said, had been to supply soldiers to crush the rebellion under legitimate military law.
Those military officials could not be held responsible for the actions of Kenyan officials in the camps, he added.
Archive searches connected with the case have led to the discovery of thousands of files from former British administrations, including some about the Mau Mau uprising, which are to be made public by the Foreign Office.
The armed movement began in central Kenya during the 1950s with the aim of getting back land seized by British colonial authorities.
Historians say the Mau Mau movement helped Kenya achieve independence.
Mau Mau fighters have been blamed for crimes against white farmers and bloody clashes with British forces throughout the 1950s.
Tim Symonds, who joined the Kenyan police reserve as a tracker shortly after settling in the country in 1954, says the Mau Mau fighters should also be asked to apologise.
“Why isn’t someone saying to these Mau Mau, you want compensation from the British government, OK fine, but why don’t you apologise to the 10,000 of your own tribe, the Kikuyu, that you slaughtered?” he said while being interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission has said 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed during the crackdown, and 160,000 were detained in appalling conditions.