London: In the first admission of its kind, Britain has admitted in the High Court that colonial forces in Kenya tortured and abused detainees during the Mau Mau rebellion.
The admission was made during the hearing of a case filed by three elderly Kenyans who are suing the British government for damages.
The court was told that the government did not dispute that "terrible things" had happened to them.
Lawyers for the litigants said it was the first ever official acknowledgement by the UK.
The revolt against British rule in Kenya in the 1950s and 1960s was marked by atrocities, with thousands killed, the BBC reported.
Before starting cross-examination of witnesses at the trial, the lawyer for the British government, Guy Mansfield, said he did not want to dispute that civilians had suffered torture and ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration.
He then directly spoke to each of the witnesses, telling them that he did "not want to dispute the fact that terrible things happened to you".
Papers in the test case were first served on the UK in 2009. In 2011, a High Court judge ruled the claimants - Paulo Muoka Nzili, Wambuga Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara - did have an arguable case.
The claimants' lawyers allege that Nzili was castrated, Nyingi severely beaten and Mara subjected to appalling sexual abuse in detention camps during the rebellion.
Their lawyers said they represent hundreds of Kenyans who were victims of brutality in the 1950s and 1960s.
The hearing will have access to an archive of 8,000 secret files that were sent back to Britain after Kenya gained its independence in 1963.
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has written to Prime Minister David Cameron accusing Britain of neglecting its human rights duties over the case.
First Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 23:06