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Massacre relatives launch legal bid

Relatives of unarmed Malaysian rubber plantation workers shot dead by British troops in 1948 will this week make a High Court bid for a public inquiry into the killings.

The Government's refusal to hold a formal investigation into the Batang Kali massacre will be challenged during a two-day judicial review hearing.

Family members of the victims will ask the court to quash the 2010 decision against an inquiry by the Defence and Foreign Secretaries. But the relatives are not asking the court to award them compensation, it is understood.

The massacre, involving a platoon of Scots Guards, occurred on December 12, 1948 while British troops were conducting military operations to combat the post-Second World War Communist insurgency of the Malayan Emergency.

Soldiers surrounded the rubber estate at Sungai Rimoh in Batang Kali and shot dead 24 villagers before setting light to the village. Commentators have described it as one of the most controversial incidents in British military history. It has also been referred to as "Britain's My Lai massacre".

Former British Defence Secretary Denis Healey instructed Scotland Yard to set up a special task team to investigate the matter while Labour was in power, but an incoming Conservative government dropped it in 1970 due to an ostensible lack of evidence.

The case will be heard by Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen's Bench Division, sitting with Mr Justice Treacy on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) spokeswoman said: "This event happened over 60 years ago. Accounts of what happened conflict and virtually all the witnesses are dead. In these circumstances it is very unlikely that a public inquiry could come up with recommendations which would help to prevent any recurrence.

"The families of those who died have chosen to take legal action to challenge this decision and so it would be inappropriate to comment further now legal proceedings are under way."

Chong Nyok Keyu, one of the applicants named in the case, said in September after winning permission to mount the challenge: "We are truly hopeful the outcome will be the inquiry we seek, where my mother's and many other eye witnesses' stories will be publicly heard and the truth is made known to all. This grant of permission affirms my faith in British justice. It honours my mother's memory, my own country and the UK."


From Belfast Telegraph