KUALA LUMPUR: The British government has been ordered by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to seek an amicable settlement over the Batang Kali massacre, in which its soldiers killed 24 innocent villagers on Dec 11 and 12, 1948.
It was also told to submit a written explanation on the merits of the massacre and state its position for a friendly settlement by Feb 7, said MCA vice-president Datuk Dr Hou Kok Chung.
The ECHR made the order recently after conducting a preliminary examination of the complaint filed by the victims’ families that London had violated Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to life, by endorsing the massacre.
Britain has been a signatory to the European Convention since 1953, when Malaya was still its colony and its residents were considered subjects under British rule.
“The descendants of the victims have for years asked the British government for an apology, compensation and construction of a memorial, but all these have been ignored.
“So, they turned to the European Court. We hope the British government and the families can reach an out-of-court settlement,” said Hou yesterday at a press conference attended by the victims’ families and their lawyer Quek Ngee Meng.
Hou said the massacre, in which British courts had held their government responsible for the killings and ruled that the victims were not linked to communist insurgents, was “an issue too big to be ignored”.
“Though many years have passed, justice must be done and the inhumane killings must be recorded. There is a need for governments to learn from history. Let history educate people.
“During the Emergency in 1948, a lot of Chinese suffered and lived in fear,” said Hou.
The British declared emergency rule on June 18, 1948, after three estate managers were murdered in Perak by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), an outgrowth of the anti-Japanese guerrilla movement which later turned anti-colonial.
During the 1948-60 emergency rule, Chinese were rounded up into “new villages” as they were suspected of being sympathetic to MCP.
On Dec 11, 1948, British troops entered the plantation village of Batang Kali, Selangor, and questioned the rubber tappers about the MCP but to no avail.
The next day, they loaded the women and children on a military truck and shot dead 23 men, after killing one the day before.
This massacre was claimed by the British as the “biggest success” since the emergency began, and its official parliamentary record in 1949 described the killings as “justified”.
But in 1970, the episode was given a twist when several soldiers involved in the operation told British media of their guilt over shooting innocent civilians.
In July 1993, survivors of the massacre petitioned for justice after the British Broadcasting Corporation did an independent documentary on the saga.
The survivors took their battle to the British government and later to the British courts with the help of international human rights groups.
Now their descendants are continuing the struggle for justice, this time with the help of MCA.