Batang Kali massacre: Justice delayed again

Communist prisoners are held during the Malaya emergency of the late 1940s. Photograph: Jack Birns/Time & Life Pictures - Guardian

Why is there a deafening silence on the part of the Malaysian government on this case, wonders Lim Teck Ghee.

Communist prisoners are held during the Malaya emergency of the late 1940s. Photograph: Jack Birns/Time & Life Pictures - Guardian
Communist prisoners are held during the Malaya emergency of the late 1940s. Photograph: Jack Birns/Time & Life Pictures – Guardian

Introduction by Dr Lim Teck Ghee

In an article posted nearly three years ago on the Batang Kali Massacre case, the CPI reproduced a report of an ongoing effort by the country’s former colonial ruler to prevent full disclosure of a massacre of 24 unarmed villagers in Batang Kali during the Emergency period.

Following up on the book, Slaughter and Deception at Batang Kali, written by Ian Ward, the story is especially notable in the way it reveals the conspiracy since the early 1990s between the Malaysian government and the British government – a conspiracy that is ongoing – to prevent a full and fair investigation of the killings (see Foreign Office intervened to halt an investigation in the 1990s by Malaysian authorities into the deaths of 24 unarmed villagers, by Mark Townsend,

The CPI had pointed to readers that the report was written by a British reporter and initially carried in a British newspaper. The questions posed in the report relate to the responsibility of British authorities for the incident; the nature of the cover up; and how to bring about closure and justice for the dead and their relatives.

It noted that Malaysian authorities have as many questions as their British counterparts to answer as to why they have gone along with the deceitful cover up of the incident by the British. Why did the Malaysian government support the move to have the initial inquiry prematurely concluded? Why is there a deafening silence on the part of the Malaysian government on this case?

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In the absence of any explanation from the Malaysian government, the public can only conclude that the authorities have no interest in the real history of the country.

Now, nearly three years later, there is further evidence of delayed justice. This delay will not only continue to put the spotlight unfavourably on the British government. It will also put the spotlight on the Malaysian authorities.

Reproduced below is the full press statement of the Action Committee Condemning the Batang Kali massacre. It is a statement apparently expurgated from the official media so as to ensure that a bastardised and bowdlerised history that serves the political and racist agenda of Umno and its supporters, including the sycophantic intellectual cronies in academia and the officially aligned mass media, will prevail.

Press Statement of the Action Committee Condemning the Batang Kali massacre

UK Court of Appeal: Massacre families would have won in European Court of Human Rights

In a landmark decision delivered on Wednesday, the UK Court of Appeal accepted that in light of the recent European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber decision in Janowiec (2013), the families of those killed in Batang Kali 1948 would be “likely to win if they took their case to that Court with the families showing the most important human right of all to life – has been breached.

The families’ appeal was heard last 26-28 November. They argue that the UK has a legal duty to properly investigate the Batang Kali massacre, given the 2012 Divisional Court ruling that the Scots Guards involved were acting within the normal British Army command structure and so the UK’S legal responsibility. This element of the Divisional Court judgment was upheld by the Appeal Court which could “see no basis upon that it can be said any such accountability, or liability, passed from the Crown upon the establishment of the independent Federation of Malaya in 1957”. UK government arguments that the Malaysia Government or the Selangor Sultan were somehow responsible for the killings were therefore roundly rejected.

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Delivering the appeal judgment three Lord Justices lead by Maurice Kay LJ, Vice President of the Court of Appeal, found that although the killings had happened before the European Human Right Convention even existed, there was a “genuine connection” between the deaths, the “woefully inadequate” failure to investigate them properly at the times and the new evidence coming to light, particularly in the 1970s and 1990s, which casts real doubt over the official account that the victims were killed when attempting to escape. That new evidence included confessions by several of the British soldiers to murder.

The Court of Appeal, however, ruled that it was bound by a Supreme Court precedent which predated recent European Court of Human Rights law, and hence, dismissed the appeal made by the families. This means that only the UK Supreme Court itself can bring UK law in line with what the European Court has decided and order an inquiry.

The three appellate judges reinforce the finding of facts made by the two judges below. These include those killed were civilians, unarmed, posed no threat to the soldiers, frightened with simulated execution, detained overnight, all were killed within minutes after being released, and their village was burned down. The judges criticised heavily the past investigations as “woefully inadequate”, “one-sided” and “unfinished”.

The families are represented by Michael Fordham QC, Danny Friedman QC, Zae Douglas, Stephen Grosz and John Halford of Bindmans LLP. John Halford said today:

“Some might think it remarkable that present-day human rights standards could create a duty to investigate wrongdoing by British troops in a colonial village six decades ago and its cover up in the years that followed. But those standards are rooted in far older British principles, specifically the right to life and to its protection by laws to be enforced on an equal basis. The Batang Kali massacre occurred because, in Britain’s Empire, its principles were sometimes abandoned. The question the Court of Appeal has had to grapple with is whether they could be abandoned with impunity. It clearly thought not, but felt constrained by precedent to withhold a remedy. The victims’ families will now follow the straightforward directions it has given them to seek a final, just outcome. They will ask the Supreme Court to call the state to account for the killings.”

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Families of 24 people killed by British troops in the British colony of Malaya in 1948 brought the case to the UK Divisional Court in May 2012. On 4 September 2012, the Court upheld a government decision not to hold a public hearing into the killing and also ruled that the British Government was responsible for the killing in Batang Kali. In its written judgement, it said, “There is evidence that supports a deliberate execution of the 24 civilians at Batang Kali.”

Quek Ngee Meng, the coordinator of the campaign group, Action Committee Condemning the Batang Kali Massacre, said, “Despite the dismissal of the families’ appeal, our journey to seek redress and justice has not come to an end. The destination is not too far off either. Either UK human rights law needs to catch up with Europe with the help of the UK Supreme Court or the families will need to go to Europe for satisfaction.”

Quek added, the families have given instruction to their London lawyers to appeal against the Court of Appeal decision.


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  1. However deceitful the British were or are at least they are trying to amend for their mistakes by sending their submarines to search for the missing MH370.
    Where else did we to date try to send the one submarine we paid dearly for not to mention that we have not even sent one of … our ships even though it is almost more than three weeks since MH370 has supposedly ended down in the Indian Ocean. Why are so many foreign nations having sent their planes or ships to search for the missing plane ? Or is the Malaysian authority afraid of the truth will be revealed if the missing plane is found and most of all it will then reveal who the real incompetents are ?
    Even Peter Jackson, the movie director from New Zealand, is sending his private plane to help in the search. What has Najib done with his private jet ?
    To cut a long story short Malaysia (does) not (appear) sincere to have the missing plane found even though they keep saying that they will never give up searching for MH370 ? Is that being sincere ? The truth will be revealed when all the foreign nations give up searching for MH370. It is now costing them hundred of millions just to look for the missing aircraft and this cannot continue indefinitely. We shall all see how resolve the Malaysians are in the search for MH370 when the foreign nations given up looking for the missing plane. Just remember even the French missing plane took more than two years to find the missing plane. What is there to impede Malaysia from spending more than two years in searching for MH370 ?
    This is especially so when the Malaysian home minister kept reminding the Malaysian people it took the French more than two years to find their missing aircraft. Therefore be prepared to wait for another to years to locate the missing MH370. Is the home minister, as usual, trying to say that two wrongs are making one right !
    Finally what will happen if the search is left to the Malaysian authority alone to do it ? Malaysia will never ever find the missing MH370, just like trying to search a nettle in the middle of the Indian Ocean especially with no help at all from Malaysia. Finally is Malaysia sincere to locate the missing aircraft and why is Malaysia not pro active in the search !


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