UK Supreme Court delivers judgement on the Batang Kali killings

Supreme Court verdict on the Batang Kali massacre: “honourable crusade” exposes evidence that “wholly innocent men were mercilessly murdered” and the UK remains responsible, but no remedy for victims’ families The UK Supreme Court delivered a judgment today holding that the British Government remains legally responsible for a controversial series of events in December 1948 when Scots Guards killed 24 unarmed civilians in Batang Kali, Selangor, but need not hold a public inquiry to establish the truth. Selangor was then part of colonial Malaya and the troops had been deployed to assist the local administration tackle insurgent activity. The killings were described as a military victory at the time and the official account that they were necessary and lawful has been maintained for decades, despite six of the soldiers involved confessing to murder in 1970. One of the five judges, Lady Hale, dissented. She concluded that refusal of an inquiry was a decision no “reasonable public authority could reach” (para 313). One of the majority Justices, Lord Kerr, described the case as “shocking” adding that the “overwhelming preponderance of currently available evidence” showed: “wholly innocent men were mercilessly murdered and the failure of the authorities of this state to conduct […]
Read More ›

Thinking history

This blog was launched alongside the book ‘Massacre in Malaya’… and I have continued to comment on the legal proceedings to do with the Batang Kali case. We are all waiting for word from the UK Supreme Court. But other issues have caught my attention in the meantime and so here are some rumination on those. Reading Max Hastings’ review about German citizens during the Second World War a few comments struck me forcibly. The first was the oft repeated trope that the Holocaust – and for that matter German plans to eradicate millions of Slavs also considered ‘life not worthy of life’ – somehow contradicts the fact that modern Germany, founded in 1871 was Europe’s preeminent civilisation – the land of Bach, Goethe and Thomas Mann, although only the last named was a ‘German’ in the modern sense. The implication is that it is less surprising that, say, Rwandans or Cambodians, or Turks for that matter, perpetrate genocide than that some Germans did between 1941 and 1945. It is a puzzle that the civilised descended to barbarism but not that other peoples did. The puzzle is a false one. Putting it in these terms exposes the innately racist assumption […]
Read More ›