Lawyer John Halford writes:
I write to give you a heads-up on what’s happening in the Supreme Court this week.
You’ll recall the Batang Kali case well. Tomorrow one of the oldest survivors who was there as a child – is Madam Lim Ah Yin, 78 – will be arriving in the UK for the Supreme Court hearing of the appeal which takes place this Wednesday and Thursday.
Her remarkable journey to the Britain’s highest began in December 1948, when Madam Lim was 11 years old and living on a rubber plantation in colonial Malaya. You’ll recall that British troops surrounded and took control of her village, separated the women and men, and began a series of interrogations about whether the villagers were supporting Communist insurgents. They included mock executions. The following morning she, her mother, one man and other women and children were put on a truck. The troops then took her father and 22 other unarmed men out from the hut where they had been held overnight and shot every one of them. No-one has ever been prosecuted for it, despite six of the soldiers confessing to murder in 1970. The British government has never apologised for it. Indeed it still argues that the massacre is not even its responsibility legally, despite Malaya then being a British Protected State, its nationals being British subjects, the troops involved being British, deployed on the instructions of the British Cabinet to protect British interests.
Besides the human and colonial dimensions, the outcome of the case will be very significant legally, especially in Northern Ireland. This has prompted a personal intervention by the Northern Irish Attorney General (who will be in Court to argue against there being a historical investigation duty) and a counter intervention by Rights Watch UK and the Pat Finnucane Centre.