KUALA LUMPUR: Hindraf has taken its class action suit case against the government of the United Kingdom to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasburg, France.
It filed a formal application on July 18 with the registrar of the ECHR to hold the UK responsible for various human rights violations suffered by Malaysian Indians, the descendants of indentured labour.
It was filed by Hindraf chairman P Waythamoorthy, on behalf of descendants of Malayan indentured labourers.
The application was filed after Waythamoorthy exhausted the domestic legal procedure in the UK. Since all other legal avenues have been exhausted, the case can be taken to the ECHR.
Waythamoorthy alleges the UK government acted “in full knowledge that its violations of human rights in the form of the formulation of the Federation of Malaya Constitution, which was against fundamental human rights principles, would have a permanent and long lasting effect on the descendants of indentured labour”.
Hindraf also submitted to the ECHR hundreds of pages of declassified documents to prove the breach of the ECHR convention treaty by the UK government.
The UK ratified the ECHR in 1953 and undertook to apply the treaty obligations in the colonies, including Malaya.
According to Waythamoorthy, the UK government told the then British high commissioner in Malaya in 1954 to implement the UK’s obligations according to this treaty. However, this was not done.
A statement from Hindraf today said: “Waythamoorthy has vowed to continue to seek justice for Malaysian Indians who were short changed and denied the fundamental human rights which have caused them to be among the most marginalised communities in Malaysia.
“It has taken 10 years since Hindraf initiated the matter in the UK courts and it does not matter how many more years it would take so long as we finally obtain justice.”
On Apr 1, 2015, the High Court in London denied Hindraf leave to initiate the class action suit against the Queen and her government, saying the Queen was not liable for acts done in the course of her duties as the Queen of Malaya.
On Jan 19, this year, the UK Court of Appeal dismissed Hindraf’s leave application to appeal against the London High Court ruling to strike out the class action suit.
The class action suit was filed on behalf of descendants of indentured labour by Waythamoorthy “to seek reparations and certain declarations from the British courts for the injustices suffered by the descendants of indentured labour” who were uprooted from their native India and displaced in Malaysia.
Waythamoorthy had earlier said: “The whole case rests on the premise that the UK government failed in its duty of care to the Malayan Indians who it took great effort to export to Malaya but failed to protect the fundamental rights in the new constitution when Malaya was granted independence.
“As a result of such neglect, the Indians became landless, disenfranchised, faced discrimination and were excluded from the mainstream economy of the country.”