RELATIVES of Malaysian rubber plantation workers killed by Scots Guards more than 60 years ago have taken their long-running quest for an official investigation to the UK’s highest court.
They want a independent inquiry into the shootings at Batang Kali, Malaya, in December 1948.
I have travelled here to stand before the most senior judges in the UK. I want to let them know the struggle and hardship that my beloved mother suffered after the death of my dad during the massacreMadam Lim Ah Yin
Supreme Court justices in London were told by therelatives’ QC that the “failure and refusal” of the foreign and defence secretaries to “take action to inquire further into the Batang Kali massacre are unlawful”.
Michael Fordham told the five judges, headed by president Lord Neuberger: “The Batang Kali massacre was and remains the responsibility of the UK.”
Lawyers say the case also has “huge ramifications” for Northern Ireland.
The latest proceedings follow a ruling by the Court of Appeal last year dismissing a challenge by the families.
They originally suffered a defeat at the High Court in September 2012, when they unsuccessfully tried to overturn the government decision not to hold an inquiry – two judges concluded then that decision was “not unreasonable”.
British troops were conducting operations against communist insurgents during the Malayan Emergency when the 24 plantation workers were killed.
The appellants in the case, Chong Nyok Keyu, Loh Ah Choi, Lim Kok and Wooi Kum Thai – two of whom were at Batang Kali as children – are supported by the action group Condemning The Batang Kali Massacre, a Malaysian group encompassing 568 civil society organisations.
Among those attending the Supreme Court proceedings is 78-year-old Madam Lim Ah Yin, who was aged 11 at the time of the killings.
She said: “I have travelled here to stand before the most senior judges in the UK. I want to let them know the struggle and hardship that my beloved mother suffered after the death of my dad during the massacre.”
The families’ solicitor John Halford, of law firm Bindmans, said: “Plainly the bullets that killed half the inhabitants of Batang Kali can never be returned to their barrels and the time has long since passed when any soldier who fired them might be prosecuted.
“But when six of them have confessed to murder, eyewitness remain alive and forensic tests can confirm the killings were close-range executions, the law should demand answers from the state.
“After all, those killed were British subjects living in a British Protected State. They and their families have a right to meaningful British justice.”
Relatives say the European Convention on Human Rights imposes a duty on the UK to commission an independent inquiry despite the killings occurring before the convention was drafted and signed.
The importance of the action to Northern Ireland is marked by the fact that Attorney General John Larkin has submitted written argument to the court, in an attempt to clarify the state’s human rights obligations.
The judges will also consider submissions from the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) and Rights Watch UK (RWUK), which represent and advise victims of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.