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Settlement reached in Cyprus Emergency torture claims

24/01/19

The Rt Hon Sir Alan Duncan MP, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs informed the House of Commons yesterday evening that a settlement has been reached in 33 linked claims alleging assaults committed by members of the security forces during the Cyprus Emergency between 1956 and 1958.

The claims, commenced in July 2015, were brought against the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Secretary of State for Defence as successors to the Secretaries of State for the Colonial Office and the War Office. The claimants alleged they were detained and subjected to assaults, beatings, rape and other acts of violence by agents of the United Kingdom government and of the then Colonial Administration of Cyprus (for which the UK Government was alleged to be responsible).

Pursuant to the agreement reached by the parties, the UK Government will pay a settlement sum of £1,000,000 in damages together with the Claimants’ legal costs. The settlement does not entail an admission of liability by the Government, which has maintained throughout proceedings that the passage of time means that it is now no longer possible to establish all of the facts with certainty.

The matter had been set down for trial in late 2019 with a time estimate of up to 115 days. In October 2018 the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal from an order of Kerr J sitting in the High Court on a preliminary issue, with the Court of Appeal determining that the issue of limitation fell to be determined by reference to both Cyprus and English law in accordance with the common law rule of double actionability.

A copy of Sir Alan Duncan’s statement to the House of Commons is available here.

Malcolm Birdling acted for the Claimants and Martin Chamberlain QC for the Defendants. Marie Demetriou QC acted for the Claimants at an earlier stage in proceedings.