Bringing the past, bringing rights back home – UK Supreme Court today

Today, the Supreme Court will hear legal arguments in a case examining the massacre by the British army of 24 civilians at the Batang Kali rubber plantation on 12th December 1948 in Malaya during what the British government called the Malayan Emergency. Relatives of the unarmed civilians who were murdered will be present at the hearing today as will human rights and victims groups from the North of Ireland who are observing these proceedings with great interest on behalf of many victims of the Conflict.


KRW LAW LLP has been instructed to intervene in this case and has briefed Ben Emerson QC of Matrix Chambers and Adam Straw of Doughty Street Chambers. Counsel of such international standing are instructed because the arguments being made over the next two days and the judgment of the Supreme Court could have a very significant effect in relation to the investigation of many of the deaths suffered during the Conflict in the North of Ireland.


Northern Ireland NGOs the Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), Relatives for Justice (RFJ) and London based NGO Rights Watch UK will be observing proceedings today as the Supreme Court has granted permission for an intervention to be made so arguments can be heard about how this judgment will affect the investigation Conflict related deaths in the North of Ireland.


This is because the Batang Kali case from 1948 is concerned with the question of whether the Human Rights Act 1998 applies to events before it came into force in 2000 and what are the nature of the obligations upon the British government to investigate deaths where the State was in whole or in part responsible or could have acted to have prevented deaths. It is a question which has tested the European Court of Human Rights and is now before the UK Supreme Court. If the Human Rights Act 1998 is considered not to apply it will mean that British government will not be required to investigate historic killings where is bears responsibility.


This will mean hundreds of Conflict related deaths may be left unresolved and loved abandoned in their quest for truth, justice and accountability.


The Attorney-General for Northern Ireland John Larkin QC considers the issues raised in this case to be of such general public importance to how our society deals with the Past, that he has intervened in the Supreme Court hearing. His office will argue that the principles pertaining to the massacre by British Army in Malaya in 1948 should equally apply to State killings during the Conflict in the North of Ireland until the date of the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998. This is effect would mean he will circumscribe the circumstances in which he will order new inquests into many Conflict related deaths which would now be human rights compliant investigations with broader powers to examine, compel and comment.


Lawyers acting on behalf of the Northern Ireland NGOs and victims groups will be arguing that the provisions and juridisdciton of the European Convention in Human Rights, as incorporated by the Human Rights Act 1998, should extend to both the Batang Kali Massacre 1948 and to the Conflict in Northern Ireland. Darragh Mackin Solicitor of KRW LAW LLP said:


“This case is of fundamental importance when dealing with the Past. It is clearly incorporated into domestic law by the Human Rights Act 1998t, that the British Government is prohibited from intentional killing and a proper investigation is required into any deaths caused by the State. This is a long established principle, and the attempt to overturn same, is a further attempt to hide up the truth and to deny to victims truth, justice and accountability.”