London -

Malaysian relatives of 24 rubber plantation workers killed by British troops in 1948 called for justice Monday ahead of a court application for a full investigation into the deaths.

The British government refused last November to hold a formal probe into the Batang Kali massacre in British-controlled Malaya and the High Court in London will hear a challenge by the family members on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“I hope this government will give us fairness,” Lim Ah Yin, 76, said through an interpreter at a press conference in London with two other claimants.

Lim, who was 11 years old at the time, said she heard the gunfire which killed her father and said British troops carried out a mock execution on her mother as they demanded information about the location of communists.

Loh Ah Choi, 71, said he heard his uncle being shot three times.

“I would like the British Government to apologise,” Loh said. “I hope justice can be given to my uncle.”

Their British-based lawyer John Halford accused the British government of a cover-up, saying the victims were unarmed and “weren't offering any kind of threat to the British troops who killed them”.

He added: “That in itself is serious enough, but what then followed was a cover-up that has basically lasted the following 60

years to this day, where the British Government has denied that anything untoward happened at all.”

The massacre, involving a platoon of Scots Guards, happened during the so-called Malayan Emergency when British troops conducted military operations aggainst Communist insurgents.

Soldiers shot 24 people before setting light to the village in Batang Kali.

The official account said the victims were attempting to escape.

At one point Britain opened an inquiry into the killings but authorities dropped it in 1970 due to what authorities said was a lack of evidence.

A spokeswoman for Britain's Foreign Office said the length of time that had elapsed meant that an investigation would be ineffective.

“Accounts of what happened conflict and virtually all the witnesses are dead,” she said.

“In these circumstances it is very unlikely that a public inquiry could come up with recommendations which would help to prevent any recurrence.” - Sapa-AFP