[caption id="attachment_220" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Retired Gurkha soldiers lost their fight at the Court of Appeal last year"]Retired Gurkha soldiers lost their fight at the Court of Appeal last year[/caption]

Gurkha soldiers fighting for equal British Army pension rights are taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Actress Joanna Lumley helped them win equal rights of UK residence, but veterans are still challenging the Ministry of Defence over pensions.

After a defeat in the High Court, the British Gurkhas Welfare Society is taking the case to Strasbourg.

BGWS chairman Tikendra Dal Dewan said: "We have taken this step reluctantly."

But he added: "Not pursuing legal options further would effectively put a nail in the coffins of many veterans."

Gurkhas who retired before 1997 still get only a third of the pensions received by their British and Commonwealth former comrades, despite winning the right to live in Britain.

Around 25,000 veterans are affected.

Last year the Court of Appeal rejected the Gurkhas' claim after they lost at the High Court, and the Supreme Court refused them leave to appeal against that decision.

'Desperate poverty'

So they are now taking the case to Strasbourg, claiming their human rights have been breached.

Mr Dewan, a former Army major, said: "It is desperately sad that, after many years of committed and courageous service, these old soldiers cannot find justice within the UK's borders - and it should be to the government's shame that the continuing poverty they face goes uncorrected."

The Ministry of Defence argued the pension cut-off date was "justified and proportionate".

The BGWS said many elderly veterans faced "desperate poverty".

The ECHR judges are not expected to consider the claim until late 2012 at the earliest, with no verdict until 2013 or 2014.

In May 2009 the then Labour government announced all Gurkha veterans who had served four years or more in the British Army before 1997 would be allowed to settle in Britain.

Source: BBC