British governments blocked two police investigations into the covering up of the killing by British troops of 24 unarmed rubber plantation workers during counterinsurgency operations in Malaysia nearly 65 years ago, the appeal court in London heard on Tuesday.
Relatives of victims who died in the Batang Kali massacre in December 1948 were in court to hear how soldiers of the Scots Guards had admitted murdering the workers.
The government intervened to stop a Scotland Yard investigation in 1970 after the soldiers’ confession. The police officer in charge subsequently complained that the issue was “politically flavored from the outset.” The investigation was stopped because of a “political change of view” when the Conservatives came to power in 1970, the officer said.
An investigation by the Malaysian police in the 1990s, after fresh evidence emerged, was also blocked following intervention by the British government, the appeal court heard.
Lim Kok, the son of one of those killed — Lim Tian Shui — who was in court on Tuesday, said in a written statement: “The British soldiers committed a great wrong. The British authorities committed another [wrong] in the weeks that followed by branding those killed ‘bandits’ and ‘terrorists.’”
He said it was at least as great a wrong to maintain that “untruth” for over 60 years.
Relatives of the victims are seeking a public inquiry into the shootings.
The British government argues that the UK has no legal responsibility for the acts of the soldiers at Batang Kali.
Scotland Yard files record summary execution by British soldiers in full view of the villagers, Michael Fordham QC, counsel for the victims’ relatives told the appeal court.
“There was available evidence both from the Metropolitan police file and from the Malaysian police investigation, and a combination of both, and witness statements,” he said.
The government’s refusal to hold an inquiry places it in breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights enshrining the right to life and of “customary international law,” Fordham said.