The British government and the EOKA fighters, who were seeking damages related to torture claims back in the 1950’s, have reached a settlement out of court.
Initially 35 and then reduced to 33, the Greek Cypriot claimants, all in their 80’s, wanted from the beginning the UK government to settle out of court, following similar cases in Kenya.
The claimants alleged they were tortured by British soldiers and security services when they were youngsters during the EOKA uprising when guerrilla groups took up arms between 1955 and 1959. One of the claimants was beaten so severely by British soldiers that he lost a kidney, while two women claimed they were ‘brutally treated’ at the hands of British colonial forces with human rights violations including rape, beatings and water boarding.
In an official statement, the British government said it chose to settle out of court with the 33 claimants to avoid further costs with a trial.
The British government said the agreement did not constitute an admission of liability
“The UK government has agreed to pay a settlement sum of £1m in damages with an amount in legal costs to be determined by the court in due course,” the statement said.
Last year, the Royal Courts of Justice rejected an attempt by the British government to try the case under Cypriot law, with observers saying this had to do with statutes of limitations.
The EOKA veterans, who fought for union with Greece during the uprising, said money was never a motivation in the lawsuit. But the Birmingham-based law firm representing the Greek Cypriots said that the claimants would not be able to enjoy their settlement payments due to their very old age. The firm also said the case aimed to right a wrong and ultimately it should be left to the judgment of historians, not the court.
The UK paid out nearly £20 million in costs and compensation to more than 5,000 victims of colonial rule in Kenya during the Mau Mau revolt in the 1950s and 1960s.
But the British government said the agreement did not constitute an admission of liability.
Minister of State, Sir Alan Duncan, expressed regret over the violence during the EOKA fighting on the island.
“It is a matter of regret for the UK government that the transition of Cyprus from British administration to independence should have been preceded by five years of violence and loss of life, affecting all residents of the island,” Duncan said.