British veterans in their 80s could be tried over allegations of abuse, ex MoD legal chief warns

British veterans could face allegations of wrongdoing from operations in the 1950s, the Ministry of Defence’s  former legal chief has warned.

Soldiers who served in Malaysia and Cyprus more than half a century ago could be tried if the government fails to introduce curbs, it is claimed.

The legal action could be launched after an attempt by 40,000 Kenyans to sue the government for alleged maltreatment.

The Mau Mau uprising, also called the Kenyan Emergency, was a military conflict which took place in British Kenya between 1952 and 1960. 

The case was dismissed by the High Court last week, but critics have raised concerns after one of the longest civil trials in legal history that cost the taxpayer millions of pounds.

The legal action could be launched after an attempt by 40,000 Kenyans to sue the government for alleged maltreatment during the Kenyan Emergency. Pictured: Members of the Devon Regiment pictured in 1954 as they search home looking for Mau Mau soldiers during the conflict

The legal action could be launched after an attempt by 40,000 Kenyans to sue the government for alleged maltreatment during the Kenyan Emergency. Pictured: Members of the Devon Regiment pictured in 1954 as they search home looking for Mau Mau soldiers during the conflict

The legal action could be launched after an attempt by 40,000 Kenyans to sue the government for alleged maltreatment during the Kenyan Emergency. Pictured: Members of the Devon Regiment pictured in 1954 as they search home looking for Mau Mau soldiers during the conflict

The veterans that would be tried could now be in their 80’s and experts say the process would be ‘immensely stressful to the former soldiers involved.’

Jonathan Duke-Evans, who ran the MoD’s litigation policy unit until last year said the Kenya case had raised concerns.

He told The Times that he feared ‘large numbers of new claims from other end-of-empire operations many decades ago would suddenly emerge from places like Cyprus and Malaysia, and that the evidence to defend the cases would no longer exist.’    

He added: ‘It’s almost impossible to guarantee fair outcomes in cases which arose out of military operations so many years ago, and the process can be immensely stressful to the former soldiers involved. 

Jonathan Duke-Evans, who ran the MoD's litigation policy unit until last year said the Kenya case had raised concerns, and could trigger more maltreatment claims from other conflicts. Pictured: British police examine suspects for the seven initiation cuts on the body that mark a member of the Mau Mau secret society, on November 24, 1952

Jonathan Duke-Evans, who ran the MoD's litigation policy unit until last year said the Kenya case had raised concerns, and could trigger more maltreatment claims from other conflicts. Pictured: British police examine suspects for the seven initiation cuts on the body that mark a member of the Mau Mau secret society, on November 24, 1952

Jonathan Duke-Evans, who ran the MoD’s litigation policy unit until last year said the Kenya case had raised concerns, and could trigger more maltreatment claims from other conflicts. Pictured: British police examine suspects for the seven initiation cuts on the body that mark a member of the Mau Mau secret society, on November 24, 1952

‘I would like to see steps taken to prevent this kind of legal harassment of veterans decades after the events concerned when it is so difficult to establish the truth.’

Veterans of campaigns in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan are already facing criminal allegations.

The head of the military General Sir Nick Carter, vowed to clamp down on claims. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has also set up a task force to protect veterans from historical allegations.

Military chiefs have called on Prime Minister Theresa May to introduce a statute of limitations to prevent prosecutions for crimes committed

Writing in the Times, Mr Duke-Evans, along with chairman of the foreign affairs committee Tom Tugendhat, and Richard Ekins and Julie Marionneau of centre-right think tank the Policy Exchange, said that the pursuit of allegations against UK forces ‘represents a failure on the part of the British state to protect those it asks to serve.’

They welcomed the decision by the High Court to dismiss the group litigation over allegations of abuse during the Kenya Emergency in the 1950s.

They wrote: ‘While some abuses undoubtedly took place [by Britons during the Kenya Emergency], the UK has always denied legal liability for wrongdoing. 

‘In view of the scale of the litigation, if the claims had been successful, damages against the government might have run to hundreds of millions of pounds.’ 

KENYA’S BLOODY CONFLICT: THE MAU MAU UPRISING

Home Guard and a police officer escort four captured Mau Mau. The Mau Mau had suffered badly from the introduction of British colonialism in the late 19th Century and had lost grazing grounds and homesteads to white farmers, many from the British upper classes

Home Guard and a police officer escort four captured Mau Mau. The Mau Mau had suffered badly from the introduction of British colonialism in the late 19th Century and had lost grazing grounds and homesteads to white farmers, many from the British upper classes

Home Guard and a police officer escort four captured Mau Mau. The Mau Mau had suffered badly from the introduction of British colonialism in the late 19th Century and had lost grazing grounds and homesteads to white farmers, many from the British upper classes

The Mau Mau was a secret society confined almost entirely to the Kikuyu tribe who inhabited parts of the Central Highlands.

The Mau Mau uprising, also called the Kenyan Emergency, was a military conflict which took place in British Kenya between 1952 and 1960.  

Kikuyu hostility first emerged after the First World War and developed into a political movement that was first proscribed for subversive activities in 1940.

They had suffered badly from the introduction of British colonialism in the late 19th Century and had lost grazing grounds and homesteads to white farmers, many from the British upper classes. 

Independence was not widely supported by other Africans, many of whom retained loyalty to the colonial authorities. So extremists formed the Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA), which became known as the Mau Mau.

As tension increased in 1952, the State of Emergency was declared in 20 October and the 1st Lancashire Battalion was sent from Egypt.

Britain dealt with the Mau Mau by seeking to confine them to the Prohibited Areas around Mount Kenya.

Various war crimes took place on both sides including the Chuka Massacre where members of King’s African Rifles B Company killed unarmed people suspected of being Mau Mau fighters. The people executed belonged to the Kikuyu Home Guard — a loyalist militia recruited by the British to fight the guerrillas.

British interrogation techniques also involved torture while Mau Mau militants carried out the Lari massacre where they herded Kikuyu men, women and children into huts and set fire to them.

According to David Anderson in Histories of the Hanged (2005), Mau Mau attacks were mostly well organised and planned – contrary to British propaganda. 

He wrote: ‘the insurgents’ lack of heavy weaponry and the heavily entrenched police and Home Guard positions meant that Mau Mau attacks were restricted to nighttime and where loyalist positions were weak. When attacks did commence they were fast and brutal, as insurgents were easily able to identify loyalists because they were often local to those communities themselves. 

‘The Lari massacre was by comparison rather outstanding and in contrast to regular Mau Mau strikes which more often than not targeted only loyalists without such massive civilian casualties. “Even the attack upon Lari, in the view of the rebel commanders was strategic and specific.’

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