I would like to update Parliament on a legal settlement that the UK Government has reached concerning civil law claims arising from the Emergency Period in Cyprus from 1955-1959 ("the Emergency").
During the Emergency, Greek Cypriot paramilitaries fought an armed guerrilla campaign to try to bring to an end British rule in Cyprus and establish a union between Cyprus and Greece. As part of the response to this campaign, the Governor of Cyprus instituted emergency measures which included the deployment of UK military and police personnel.
In July 2015, 35 individuals (since reduced to 33) brought claims against the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Secretary of State for Defence regarding their treatment in detention during the Emergency.
The Government has now reached an agreement with the claimants, in full and final settlement of those claims. The UK Government has agreed to pay a settlement sum of £1,000,000 in damages with an amount in legal costs to be determined by the court in due course. The settlement does not constitute any admission of liability and is not a precedent in respect of any potential future claims against the Government. Indeed, the Government 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. However, the Government has settled the case in order to draw a line under this litigation and to avoid the further escalation of costs, which would ultimately be borne by the taxpayer.
In reaching this settlement, the UK Government reaffirms its highest respect for the memory and sacrifice of British and Cypriot service personnel and employees of the Crown who gave their lives, who lost family members or loved ones, or whose lives suffered permanent disruption as a result of the Emergency.
The UK Government acknowledges the strongly held views of many Cypriots about the Emergency. 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.
We must not forget the past – and indeed we must learn from it. But it is most important to look to the future. Today, the bilateral relationship that the UK shares with Cyprus is one of friendship and close partnership; spanning a broad network of security, personal, business, administrative, cultural and educational ties. The Government reaffirms its commitment to building a modern, forward-looking relationship between the UK and Cyprus, built on shared values of mutual respect and full equality.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords