British veterans could face allegations of wrongdoing from operations during the EOKA struggle in the 1950s, the UK’s Ministry of Defence’s former legal chief told the Times.
Soldiers who served in Malaysia and Cyprus more than half a century ago could be tried if the government “fails to introduce curbs,” Jonathan Duke-Evans who ran the MoD’s litigation policy unit until 2017 said.
The legal action could be launched after an attempt by 40,000 Kenyans to sue the government for alleged maltreatment, during the Kenyan Emergency between 1952-1960.
The case was dismissed by the High Court last week, however Duke-Evans said that more allegations of abuse could rise from other former British colonies.
The Daily Mail writes that the veterans that would be tried could now be in their 80’s and that the process would be “immensely stressful to the former soldiers involved.”
Duke-Evans 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.
“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.”
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, 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 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.”