Britain is to pay £20 million in compensation to Kenyans tortured by its colonial forces for alleged role in the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s and 1960s opening the door for similar payouts to victims of the “raj”.

It has also acknowledged for the first time that Kenyans were “subject to torture, and other forms of ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration”, and apologised for the abuses.

The move, announced by Foreign Secretary William Hague on Thursday, follows a High Court verdict allowing three elderly Kenyans to go ahead with legal action demanding compensation. The verdict led to a settlement between the government and the victims’ lawyers.

Describing it as a “significant” moment, the legal team for the three claimants — Paulo Muoka Nzili, Wambuga Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara — said they had got “justice they have sought for many years”.

“For them the significance of this moment cannot be over emphasised,” said their spokesman Martyn Day.

Announcing the settlement in the House of Commons, Mr. Hague said 5,228 victims would receive £19.9 million. But he insisted that Britain was not legally liable for the actions of the local colonial administration.

“I would like to make clear now, and for the first time, on behalf of Her Majesty’s government, that we understand the pain and grievance felt by those who were involved in the events of the emergency in Kenya….The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place and that they marred Kenya’s progress towards independence.” Thousands were killed during the Mau Mau revolt.

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