University of Greenwich Chagos Socio-Legal Conference

Posted in Campaign, coverage, Cultural, Environment, Exile, FCO, Legal, MPA, Parliament, resettlement, Return, Return 2015, Supreme Court, UN, Uncategorized on July 1st, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
University of Greenwich, host of Monday's Chagos conference

University of Greenwich, host of Monday’s Chagos conference

On Monday a host of academics, legal experts and Chagossians came together to discuss a broad range of legal and social issues related to Chagossians enforced exile. Hosted by the Law School of the University of Greenwich, it featured prominent lawyer Phillipe Sands as keynote speaker.

Mr Sands QC has recently worked with the Mauritian Government to successfully convince an international tribunal that the UK-Government’s establishment of a Marine Protected Area in 2010 breached international law.  Analysing how race inevitably played a part in legal processes in the UK involving Chagossians, Mr Sands quoted Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird:

“in our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life.”

A range of other speakers also delivered powerful addresses. Chagos Islands All Party Parliamentary Group Coordinator David Snoxell spoke about the interplay of Parliament and the courts in the Chagossian fight for the right to return to the islands. He begins his talk by describing three “myths” of the Chagossian deportation. Later dealing with the 2004 use of Orders-in-Council (Royal Perogative) to forbid Chagossian return to the islands, he brands the move a “short sighted ploy.” Mr Snoxell’s full remarks can be read here.

Elsewhere, University of Greenwich Post-Graduate student Kinnari Bhatt presented a equally insightful address on the concept of Chagossians status as an “indigenous” people. Apologists for Chagossians’ forced exile have often argued they did not qualify for indigenous status as the islands were first populated in the 1700s. Ms Bhatt contends this idea that only a people living in a land from “time immemorial” can be called ‘indigenous’ is a flawed, eurocentric concept. A summary of her full paper of Chagossian indigenous identity can be read here.

As well as new pieces of writing, the conference was an opportunity to discuss previously published legal and political documents relating to Chagossians’ exile. As well the infamous Wikileaks revelations that the 2010 creation of the Chagos Marine Protected Area was at least in part an attempt to prevent Chagossian resettlement of their homeland, an African Union resolution from earlier this month which reiterated the group’s support for Mauritian sovereignty over the Islands.

As we get more written notes and summaries we plan to update this page so do check back for more detail in a week or so. We’ll let you know via Facebook and Twitter, so make sure you’re following us (click on the links to do so if you are not!).

Letter to the Telegraph: End “distressing” exile of Chagossians

Posted in coverage, Letusreturn, resettlement, Return, Return 2015, Supreme Court, Uncategorized on June 29th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
Mr Davies letter was published in 26th June 2015

Mr Davies letter was published in 26th June 2015

One of our long-term supporters Sid Davies last week had a letter published in The Daily Telegraph calling for a definitive end to the shameful UK-enforced exile of Chagossians.

Mr Davies’s letter is a beautifully written, poignant and personal account of his encounter with the islands. He visited the islands as part of yachting journey in the 1980s and describes the “distressing” sight of abandoned houses and churches. You can read it in full below.

Letter to the Telegraph by Sid Davies

SIR – I am pleased that Amal Clooney is to represent the Chagos islanders, who were forcibly evicted from their homes when the island of Diego Garcia was leased to the Americans as an airbase.

In 1985, I called at Saloman Atoll, which is about 100 miles north of Diego, when crossing by yacht from Darwin to Aden. The abandoned houses and roofless church, together with the overgrown pathways were distressing to see. It is to our shame that we treated these islanders so cruelly and it is high time we made amends and repatriated them.

While I was there, a yacht arrived from the Maldives, crewed by a French couple. They had called previously and found that the abandoned hens had no cock among them, so they brought one across the ocean to bring joy to the lonely poultry.

Sid Davies
Bramhall, Cheshire

Coral Frontiers: Towards a Post-Military Landscape- Architecture Project on Chagossian Return on Show Now

Posted in Cultural, Diego Garcia on June 26th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
A 3D model of Diego Garcia, part Coral Frontiers project currently on show at RCA Battersea Campus

A 3D model of Diego Garcia, part Coral Frontiers project currently on show at RCA Battersea Campus

An exciting new architecture project centered around Chagossian return to their homeland can now be seen at the Battersea Campus of the Royal College of Art. As part of the university’s degree show, Rosa Rogina’s work Coral Frontiers: Towards a Post-Military Landscape can be seen between 25th June and 5th July, at Howie Street, London SW11 4AS.

A few months ago we reported on and went to an ‘in progress’ exhibition of the project, which Ms Rogina comments looks at “a possible shift in the balance of power” from the previously dominant colonial powers to the Chagossian people.

Having initially looked at how Chagossians were stripped of the most fundamental human rights by their forced exile, Rosa expanded her project to look at how infrastructure projects could have a positive social, environmental and economic benefit for resettled Chagossians.

Coral Frontiers: Towards a Post-Military Landscape imagines how integrating a resettled Chagossian society into the Coral Frontier programme, supported by UN Environmental Programme for biodiversity, could act as an “environmental healer” for Diego Garcia whilst providing skills and income for returned Chagossian exiles.

Roch Evenor with a mocked-up paper reporting Chagossian returning home

Roch Evenor with a mocked-up paper reporting Chagossian returning home

The military past of Diego Garcia is contrasted with a potential sustainable civilian future for Chagossians

The military past of Diego Garcia is contrasted with a potential sustainable civilian future for Chagossians

The project focuses on the potential for the a “progressive transition from a landscape dominated by an occupying army to one defined by a community of returning exiles.” Acknowledging that a continued military presence is likely at least in the short-term, Rosa is adamant that Chagossians themselves should define the new spatial configuration and architecture of their renewed society as exiles and their descendents reconnect with their homeland:

“I chose not to impose a design solution for the resettled community and leave to the Chagossians to decide how to inhabit the island. Instead, this project is a proposal for their first means of survival – the infrastructure that may sustain their resettlement,

The imagined scenario in 2036 as a successful Chagossian society replaces US military dominance of the islands

The imagined scenario in 2036 as a successful Chagossian society replaces US military dominance of the islands

One central aspect of the current exhibition looks at how coral regeneration in the lagoon of Diego Garcia, contrasting this environmentally-conscious civilian future with its role in recent years as a military hub (pictured above centre).

 

“Chagossians were not only exiled from their homeland, they have been continuously manipulated within the legal framework in order to never come back. For me, not to atone for the committed crime is often more monstrous than committing a crime in the first place.” Rosa Rogina on the recent history of the Chagossian people.

Creating the project took months of hard work and Rosa worked with a number of Chagossians, including Roch Evenor, former Chairperson of UK Chagos Support Association (pictured above right) and David J. Simon (right). As can be seen, an earlier part of the project involved Chagossians holding detailed mock-ups of a Guardian report on Chagossian return home and their renewed society’s progress.

As Rosa explained in her previous interview, her initial interest in the Chagossian story centered on just how “media plays a crucial role in the production of space.”

Speaking about her hopes for the project, Rosa adds that “I definitely hope I can help raise awareness of the cause. Even speculative architecture projects can be a very powerful tool. Resettlement of these islands is possible, its just a question of whether the people in power are willing to make it happen.”

You can see Rosa Rogina’s Coral Frontiers: Towards a Post-Military Landscape at the Battersea Camps of the Royal College of Art until 5th July (open every day 12-6PM with the exception of 3rd July).

 

 

Parliamentary Questions on Chagossian Return

Posted in APPG, Campaign, FCO, Parliament, Return, Return 2015 on June 26th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

parliamentSeveral highly interesting Parliamentary written question relating to Chagossian return have been asked in the last few days (printed in full below). Much credit is due to the all-too-few politicians in Westminster who turn their interest to the Chagossian cause.

Patrick Grady, International Development Spokesperson for SNP, submitted a range of questions including one asking for a timeline to be set out for the Government’s decision on supporting Chagossian return to their homeland.

Mr Grady also questioned what discussions concerning Chagossian return had taken place with the Department of International Development and other relevant bodies. Prior to the election the Government indicated such conservations would take place as they claimed not to be satisfied that the independent KPMG study into return offered sufficient “certainty.”

UKIP’s sole MP Douglas Carswell also submitted a question relating to the Chagos Islands, questioning whether the terms of the agreement which allows the US to use Diego Garcia as a military base would be altered during the current two year window of renegotiation. If no new terms are agreed by 2016, the deal will continue to allow the US to use military facilities on Diego Garcia until 2036. With the All-Party Parliamentary Group, we would argue that if the UK chooses to maintain the base, mutual support for Chagossian return must be a fundamental condition.

What do the questions and their answers tell us?

Patrick Grady, the SNP International Development Spokesperson who submitted written questions on Chagossian return this week

Patrick Grady, the SNP International Development Spokesperson who submitted written questions on Chagossian return this week

A timeline is certainly not revealed in the answer to Mr Grady’s question. Rather the Government states “we will explain our conclusions to interested parties in due course.” Perhaps not much can be read into such an answer but we would certainly suggest there should be a Parliamentary debate on the issue before any “explanation” is delivered to vaguely defined “interested parties,” which one would hope would mean simply “Chagossians.”

On the question of what “discussions” had taken place around the topic of Chagossian resettlement, the relevant Minister James Duddridge states that “Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions and the US Government” officials have been consulted as part of the process. This is in addition to previous consultations with the “Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence.”

This is more or less to be expected but it is reassuring the issue of pensions and welfare is being considered as formalising the status of Chagossian pensioners, often the most keen to return as soon as possible, would be crucial to any return to the islands.

A final question question querying the UK’s response the an international tribunal’s decision that the UK had breached international law in establishing the Chagos Islands Marine Protected Area in 2010 was also submitted by SNP Spokesperson. The response states the UK is willing to engage with Mauritius, who’s Government brought the case, and has written to the Mauritian Government.

It also emphasises that the court found “no improper motive” in the establishment of the Marine Protected Area (MPA). This is a highly questionable claim since the judgement in fact stated that “political concerns” were the chief reason for the timing of the MPA’s creation.

What do the parties say about the Chagossian fight for justice?

 

UKIP's only MP Douglas Carswell also submitted a question relating to Diego Garcia this week

UKIP’s only MP Douglas Carswell also submitted a question relating to Diego Garcia this week

Since their conference earlier this year, the SNP have been formally committed to supporting the Chagossian people’s right to return home.

Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Alex Salmond has spoken passionately about the injustices suffered by the Chagossian people whilst two SNP MPs, Paul Monaghan and Alan Brown, have joined the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group.

UKIP has not expressed a formal policy position on Chagossian return. Some senior figures are though reportedly sympathetic.

 

The Questions in Full

 

UKIP’s Douglas Carswell on US-UK deal over Diego Garcia

 

British Indian Ocean Territory: Military Bases
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Written Answers
23 Jun 2015
Douglas Carswell UKIP, Clacton

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what plans his Department has to revise the terms of the 1966 Exchange of Notes concerning the Availability for Defence Purposes of the British Indian Ocean Territory.

James Duddridge The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The British Indian Ocean Territory remains a vital strategic asset for the UK and the US, and a key contributor to our broader bilateral defence relationship. We have consistently said that we want to see the US presence there continue. No decision has yet been made about whether to seek to revise the terms of the Exchange of Notes, but we will have in mind this continuing, shared strategic interest.

 

 

SNP’s Patrick Grady on return timetable, ongoing work relating to return and Chagos Marine Protected area

Patrick Grady Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps the Government is taking to comply with the award of the Arbitral Tribunal in the case of Chagos Marine Protected Area Arbitration (Mauritius v. UK) dated 18 March 2015.James Duddridge The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth AffairsThe Arbitral Tribunal agreed with us that it had no jurisdiction to consider sovereignty, and found that there was no improper motive in the creation of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) around the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). In respect of the Tribunal’s findings about the process of establishing the MPA, it noted that it is now open to the UK and Mauritius to enter into negotiations to take account of Mauritian interests in the marine environment of the Territory.The Government wishes to implement the award in the spirit of greatest possible cooperation, and has written to the Mauritian government several times since the award, making a proposal to hold consultations about the protection of the marine environment as early as July………………………….………………………..

British Indian Ocean Territory: Resettlement

Patrick Grady Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what discussions he has had with (a) the Department for International Development and (b) other relevant bodies to facilitate Chagossian resettlement on the Chagos Islands in 2015.

James Duddridge The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Following consideration of this issue in the last Parliament, officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence are working jointly to clarify the areas requiring further analysis announced in my Written Ministerial Statement of 24 March 2015 (HCWS461).

To aid this further analysis, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also sought information from the Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions and the US Government on relevant issues and on essential practical requirements associated with options to resettle a Chagossian population as well as continuing discussions with other interested parties including Parliamentarians and Chagossian representatives. This work is ongoing, and we will explain our conclusions to interested parties in due course.

…………………………………………………..

British Indian Ocean Territory: Resettlement
Patrick Grady Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, when the Government plans to make an announcement on allowing Chagossian resettlement on the Chagos Islands.

James Duddridge The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Following consideration of this issue in the last Parliament, officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence are working jointly to clarify the areas requiring further analysis announced in my Written Ministerial Statement of 24 March 2015 (HCWS461). To aid this further analysis, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also sought information from the Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions and the US Government on relevant issues and on essential practical requirements associated with options to resettle a Chagossian population as well as continuing discussions with other interested parties including Parliamentarians and Chagossian representatives. This work is ongoing, and we will explain our conclusions to interested parties in due course.

Chagossians appeal to Supreme Court: All the action and reaction

Posted in Campaign, coverage, Exile, Supreme Court on June 25th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

sc1On Monday 22nd June another important chapter in history of the Chagossian people’s fight for justice may just have been written. Led by Chagos Refugee Group founder and President Oliver Bancoult, Chagossians’ lawyers, including long-time Chagossian supporter Richard Gifford and counsel Ed Fitzgerald QC, Paul Harris SC and Amal Clooney from Doughty Street Chambers, challenged a 2008 decision by the Law Lords which upheld a Government ban on their right to return home.

 

The Background of the Case

Oliver Bancoult after High Court victory in 2000

Oliver Bancoult after High Court victory in 2000

Although the challenge relates to a 2008 decision by the Law Lords (officially the Appellate Committee of The House of Lords), the genesis of the case stretches back to a historic High Court decision in 2000. This adjudged the expulsion of the Chagossian people unlawful and supported their right to return to their homeland. The Foreign Secretary at the time, Robin Cook, and the Government accepted the court’s ruling. But in 2004 on the day of the European elections, the Government quietly passed new law using Orders-in-Council (under the Royal Prerogative which allows Parliament to be bypassed)- making it illegal for anyone to set foot on the islands without a permit. Needless to say, permits for Chagossian return were not forthcoming.

Chagossians’ and their lawyers challenged this measure in the High Court and won, with the court finding in 2006 that the section of the 2004 Order-in-Council which had abolished the Chagossian right of abode law was not lawful. The Government appealed and lost again in 2006 in the Court of Appeal.

The final Government appeal to the Law Lords (since replaced by the Supreme Court) in 2008 was narrowly successful with a 3:2 verdict that the Government’s actions in 2004 had been legal, and that the abolition of the right of abode was not unreasonable given the findings of a 2002 feasibility study that had shown resettlement to be precarious and too costly.

That brings us to Monday’s action. The 2008 verdict was challenged on the basis that key documents were withheld from lawyers for the Chagossians and the judges, which would have impacted significantly on the case.

Specifically these documents included a copy of the draft of the 2002 feasibility study, correspondence, and the comments of an FCO scientific adviser, Charles Sheppard. Lawyers for the Chagossians had suspected that these documents existed and had been asking for them since 2005 but the FCO and the Government lawyers (Treasury Solicitor) had claimed that they had all been destroyed. This was untrue and they were finally disclosed in May 2012. The documents show that FCO officials were highly critical and doubtful about the quality of the draft report in areas which supported resettlement, and called for a strengthening of the report in other areas. These criticisms then led the consultants to alter the report so that the final version appeared more robust and the faults were hidden. The manner in which this was done has brought into question the so called “independence” of the report, with suggestions of political interference. In addition the documents also showed that the FCO’s scientific adviser was in fact unqualified to comment on the key areas of the report concerning present and future storms and wave-overtopping and flooding of the islands. As a result he endorsed a report whose science was fundamentally flawed and whose final conclusion, on which the Government’s case in the House of Lords was based, was also wrong.

New and up-to-date scientific evidence also demonstrates just how wrong the conclusions of the 2002 study also were.

The fact that such important documents which completely undermine the Government’s case in the House of Lords were not disclosed at the time is a very serious matter. In law this is called a breach of the “Duty of Candour”. As a result, counsel for the Chagossians in the Supreme Court, Ed Fitzgerlad QC, told the court that a serious injustice had occurred and invited the judges to overturn the 2008 decision and to restore the right of abode.

Government lawyers tried to argue that the new 2015 feasibility study into Chagossian resettlement, by consultants from KPMG, had overtaken events and demonstrated that the Government was willing to reconsider the matter and that accordingly there is no need to correct the injustice. Their arguments however fail to recognise that the real reason for the new study may in fact be the widespread cynicism about the 2002 report. The Supreme Court judges clearly accepted that if the 2008 decision is allowed to stand then Chagossians effectively remain banned from their homeland.

Judgment was reserved. We hope to have judgment in 1-2 months.

The Media Coverage

Even we were pleasantly surprised by the media interest in the Supreme Court case which we hope was not solely because Amal Clooney was present. Whilst it may be slightly galling the likes of the Daily Express chose to focus more of Mrs Clooney’s dress than the acute legal analysis of the terrible injustice suffered by Chagossians, other outlets provided genuinely informative coverage.

http://www.chagossupport.org.uk/wp-admin/post-new.php

The BBC reported that lead QC Edward Fitzgerald noted Chagossians had suffered a “significant injustice” which had “no alternative remedy” than revoking the 2008 Law Lords judgement which effectively banned their return home. In the Guardian, prominent lawyer Richard Gifford, who has worked with Chagossians for almost two decades, argues that “Iraq changed everything,” tracking the reluctance to support Chagossian return to the Diego Garcia US military base’s role in to the controversial 2003 US-UK led invasion of Iraq.

Poet and our own Patron Benjamin Zephaniah is quoted in The Independent calling for the Government to take decisive action, regardless of the court decision.

“I’m optimistic the court will see sense and recognise previous Government attempts to prevent Chagossian return have been totally illegitimate and undemocratic.” Benjamin Zephaniah, Patron of UK Chagos Support Association

Further video coverage of genuine quality was provided by ITV News. In an interview outside the court room, Oliver Bancoult stridently affirms that he and Chagossian people will “never give up” in their fight to return home.

Coverage of the verdict event stretched internationally. US broadcaster Fox News ran a story. Most definitely at the other end of the political spectrum, RT (Russia Today) and Press TV (Iran’s state broadcaster) also reported on the case. Surely proof the Chagossian fight for justice should transcend traditional political boundaries.

almaThere’s no escaping though that the majority of media attention was due to the presence of Amal Clooney. Although already a prominent human rights lawyer, much of the attention sadly focused on what she wore rather than the case itself where she had joined the legal team earlier this year, offering her services for free. If headlines in E!, Hello and the Daily Express though win even one more supporter to the Chagossian cause it will all be worthwhile.

 

We should take this opportunity to thank the entire legal team for their extensive efforts to win justice for Chagossians in the face of powerful, often unreasonable opposition. That the case has returned to the Supreme Court is also a testament to the relentless efforts of Richard Gifford over many years to discover the true facts and reveal what appear to be attempts to conceal information.

 

The full case can now be watched online here.

AGM Minutes

Posted in AGM on June 24th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

 

Minutes from our recent Annual General Meeting. These are not exhaustive but reflect the main points of the meeting. Our Treasurer’s Report and Chair’s Report are linked to within the report and are available for download.

If you have any questions about the meeting or would like further details, please do get in touch.

 

UK Chagos Supporters Association Annual General Meeting Saturday 13 June, 2015

Present: Stefan Donnelly, Philippa Gregory, Robert Bain, Peri Batliwala Saradha Soorrayen, Paul Grice, Lesley Nelson John Random Martin Stanley Warren Paull Richard Sparrow Amanda Flett, R.Asad.

Apologies : Sabrina Jean, Bernadette Dugasse, David Simon, Celia Whittaker, Chris D-B Scott, Sean Carey, Lou Dawson, Ann Hooker, Ann Littlefair, Richard Dunne, David Snoxell, Prof. David Simon, Marcus Booth, Robin Townsend.

1. Chair Stefan Donnelly gave his report (attached) on the main events of the last year (attached), in the campaign, in the community and for the Association. Speaking of the 2 legal actions currently being undertaken one to challenge the 2008 law lords ruling and the other to challenge the establishment of the MPA.  He spoke of the Feasibility Report which states that return to Diego Garcia is a possibility and suggests 3 options for establishing a Chagos community.

He reported on a number of fund-raising initiatives which have been successful this year, and the establishment of a new website. Content for the website should be sent to email@warrenpaull.com.

2. Treasurer Peri Batliwala presented her report. (attached) which showed increased fund raising and disbursements to funeral expenses, community projects and campaigning costs.

3. Chair Stefan Donnelly spoke of a community meeting he had attended on behalf of the UKCHSA and it was agreed that UKCHSA representatives should meet with the community in Crawley in July. It was agreed we could use this meeting to discuss some of the below initiatives with the Chagossian community directly. Date to be confirmed.

4. New initiatives: for 2015-2016 it was agreed that UKCHSA funds should be spent on hardship, community projects, campaigning costs and inward investment e.g. advertising on social media which this year has repaid the investment and raised money. Philippa Gregory noted the importance that the community attach to funding for funerals. Chair Stefan Donnelly encouraged the possibility of establishing connections between experts and Chagossian students for skills and resources. Warren undertook to establish some pro bono workers and to investigate the possibility of Chagos branded merchandise.

Paul Grice agreed to explore the possibilities of a Credit Union type organisation for funding Chagossian funerals and explore charitable trusts and possible donors. Saradha agreed to prepare a calendar of key dates for Chagos publicity and events.

Philippa Gregory reminded everyone that Chagos Day falls on November 3 and we should focus publicity and events at that time, and agreed to locate the constitution of UKCHSA and the list of possible donors.

5. Election of Officers: Chair warmly thanked retiring officers Robert Bain who has worked for UKCHSA for 12 years, and Philippa Gregory who is retiring as Secretary but remaining Patron. Officers elected for 2015-2016 are Chair: Stefan Donnelly, vice chair Warren Paull and Richard Sparrow, Treasurer Peri Batliwala, secretary Martin Stanley.

In accordance with the policy of avoiding conflict of interest in the Chagos community none of the above are members of a Chagossian group, but it was felt that Chagossians might help as advisors and liaison officers with the community to advise on projects and funding.

6. There was no Any Other Business and the meeting closed at 4pm.

Supreme Court hears Chagossian calls to back their right to return

Posted in coverage, Legal, Supreme Court on June 23rd, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

Supreme-Court-of-UK-001The Supreme Court will hear evidence on Monday in a major new case related to the UK-ordered deportation of the Chagossian people in the early 1970s. Chagossians were forced from their Chagos Islands homeland so a US military base could be built on Diego Garcia, as part of a deal which saw the UK receive a discount on the Polaris nuclear weapons system.

This new case appeals the 2008 Law Lords decision which supported the legitimacy of the Government’s use of Royal Prerogative in 2004 to ban Chagossians from returning to their homeland. This effectively nullified a High Court verdict several years previously which condemned the deportation as illegal and restored Chagossians right to return. You can watch the case live via the Supreme Court website.

In the case before the Supreme Court on Monday, however, Chagossians, led by Chagos Refugee Group President Oliver Bancoult, will argue the 2008 verdict must be declared invalid.

Two major factors undermine the legitimacy of the 2008 verdict, Chagossian representatives will argue. Firstly Chagossians’ lawyers have claimed that it has since emerged that appropriate documents were not disclosed to them in the 2008 House of Lords Appellate Committee case.

The use of a 2002 feasibility study into Chagossian return in the 2008 case has also called the verdict into question, as this study has since been widely discredited as highly flawed.

A significant number of UK-based Chagossians are expected to accompany Oliver Bancoult to the Supreme Court on Monday. A verdict in favour of the Chagossians’ appeal would be a huge
milestone in their decades-long struggle to win the right to return home.

Similarly, a defeat for the Government could have a major impact on Government policy. A Government-commissioned feasibility study into Chagossian return reported last year. Despite reporting their were no fundamental obstacles to return, the Government failed to respond fully to the report before the election as Ministers had indicated they would.

Commenting on the historic case, our Patron Benjamin Zephaniah stated that “”I’m optimistic the court will see sense and recognise previous Government attempts to prevent Chagossian return have been totally illegitimate and undemocratic.”

“Regardless of the verdict though, the Government has a great opportunity to deliver a measure of justice by supporting Chagossians right to return home. Not only is it the obviously right thing to do, a Government-commissioned feasibility study has just this year confirmed it is possible.”

Chagos Solidarity Trust Fund Open Letter: UK has “flouted” Magna Carta for almost 50 years

Posted in Uncategorized on June 16th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
Mr Uteem is the former President of Mauritius and the founder and Chair of the Chagos Solidarity Trust Fund

Mr Uteem is the former President of Mauritius and the founder and Chair of the Chagos Solidarity Trust Fund

The Chagos Solidarity Trust fund, chaired by former President of Mauritius Cassam Uteem, has released an open letter marking the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.

In the letter, which can be read below or downloaded here Mr Uteem and his fellow trustees call on the UK and the US to act to finally end the exile of the Chagossian people in accordance with the principles that lay behind Magna Carta. The right to be exiled without due process is a key clause of the 800 year-old document, widely seen as the cornerstone of human rights legislation.

The letter also calls on a multi-lateral support for Chagossians managed return to their homeland. Referencing a feasibility study earlier this year which assessed that return was possible, the signatories criticise the UK’s hesitancy over the cost of allowing Chagossians to return, stating that any costs would be ” a small price to pay for repairing the immeasurable wrong done to Chagossians.”

Mr Uteem is the former President of Mauritius and the founder and Chair of the Chagos Solidarity Trust Fund

Chagos Solidarity Fund Open Letter

15 June 1215 is a memorable date of glory for Britain’s Magna Carta, with its Human  Rights Clauses 39 and 40 which are still valid and read as follows in the modern English

(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful  judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.

(40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

15 June 2015 is an inglorious date for the newly elected British government and for its predecessors for having flouted the Magna Carta in the 1960s and 1970s, when they stripped the free native Chagossian people of their rights and possessions, exiled them, and continued
to deny their rights and to delay justice being done to them.

The spirit of these Human Rights clauses enshrined in the Magna Carta is present in the UN 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which is the foundation of international human rights law. In its Article 9, the UDHR says that ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile and in Article 13 (2): Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

It is also present in the 1965 United Nations Resolution 2066 (XX) on sovereignty and integrity of the national territory of Mauritius:

2. Reaffirms the inalienable right of the people of the territory of Mauritius to freedom and independence in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 1514

3. Invites the administering Power (NB: UK) to take no action which would dismember the Territory of Mauritius and violate its territorial integrity.

These UN Resolutions too were flouted by Britain when the Chagos was detached from Mauritius in 1965, then a British colony, prior to independence.

On 9 June 2015, on the occasion of the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta, the Chagos All-Party Parliamentary Group of the House of Commons published an appeal in The Times addressed to “the new government to honour the feasibility study which found that there were
no legal or climatic reasons why resettlement should not be achieved”.

The Chagos Solidarity Trust Fund (CSTF) for its part considers that:

 The resettlement process flows from the recognition of the right of return – a fundamental Human Right, as we have quoted above – of the Chagossian people to

ï‚· The requirements and costs (economic opportunities, infrastructure development, support services) are, on balance, a small price to pay for repairing the immeasurable wrong done and therefore have to be borne.

ï‚· The Chagos resettlement project, based on Human rights promotion and sustainable development combined with environment (sea, land, air) protection, subscribes to the principles and ideals that we all want the world to abide by progressively.

In this endeavour, three sovereign countries are directly concerned: Britain, USA and Mauritius. For historical reasons, the responsibility and cost of establishing and maintaining the resettlement lie first and foremost with the British Government. With regard to the USA, the legal and political factors mentioned in the Feasibility Report should be defined in terms of the responsibility and participation of the US Government in the resettlement process.

The inclusion of Diego Garcia is a clear indication that there have been prior consultation and agreement between the US and the UK.  It may be expected therefore that sharing the costs of resettlement on Diego Garcia would be on the agenda of the renewal of the UK-US treaty.

The Feasibility Report opposes two extreme options: at one end, US contractors “providing extremely robust and high standard engineering services to the US Navy (…) likely to propose high costs”; and at the other end, “small family businesses on, say, Mauritius, (who)
will claim to be able to build houses for a fraction of the costs being proposed.” (p. 68). This is not correct: there are long-established building contractors with proven track record in Mauritius and also in the Indian Ocean region. Regional partnerships should therefore be explored in order to help lower the costs.

We therefore propose that the estimated costs mentioned in the Feasibility Report be reviewed and scaled down, and that funding sources be diversified to include US, Europe, the international community as well as the private sector. In the same vein, the Mauritius Government’s claim of sovereignty, systematically acknowledged in the British Government statements that the Chagos will be returned to Mauritius when no longer needed for defence and security purposes, carries the need and obligation for Mauritius to be involved in the resettlement process.

The Feasibility Report identifies a number of areas (environmental impact, economic prospects, access issues, training and administration) in which Mauritian stakeholders, including Chagossians, could intervene.

Resources and expertise are also available within the South-West Indian Ocean insular region in the areas of fisheries, marine protection, oceanographic research, climate change, disaster management systems (cyclones, tsunami).

For all theses reasons, the Chagos Solidarity Trust Fund is convinced that the Chagos resettlement should not be viewed as a one-state affair and therefore makes an earnest appeal to the British, USA and Mauritius Governments to adopt a multinational approach so that the Chagos  resettled by its native people is also integrated within the South-West Indian Ocean.

Cassam Uteem, President (former President of the Republic of Mauritius)

Reverend Mario Li Hing, Chaplain/Adviser

Professor Vinesh Y. Hookoomsing (former Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of Mauritius)

Thierry Leung, Accountant/Auditor

Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn’s full interview on Chagossian people’s fight for justice

Posted in Uncategorized on June 15th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

A few months ago Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn spoke to us at length about the horrors of Chagossians’ deportation. Mr Corbyn has long been an advocate for Chagossian justice, chairing the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands since its formation in 2008. Select clips from the below interview can be found here or on our Youtube channel.

 

 

“No man shall be exiled” Chagossians & Magna Carta

Posted in APPG, Campaign, Exile, Feasability Study, Jeremy Corbyn, Letusreturn, Magna Carta, Parliament, Return, Return 2015 on June 15th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
This letter, published in The Times, was signed by all current members of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group signed by all current members of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group

This letter, published in The Times, was signed by all current members of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group signed by all current members of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group

“No man shall be exiled except by the lawful judgement of his equals or the law.”

On the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, some clauses in the document are particularly poignant when considering the heartless deportation of the Chagossian people just over 40 years ago. Chagossians’ expulsion from their homeland never went through Parliament nor did it go before a jury. Rather the Government used Royal Prerogative to force Chagossians from their homes; precisely the sort of unchecked power the Magna Carta is intended to prevent. Such measures were used again in 2004 to effectively nullify a High Court decision to permit return.

The Magna Carta is celebrated as laying the foundation for the most basic human rights. Celebrations, however, must be tempered by the fact that 800 years after the document was signed in Runnymede, Chagossians -British citizens- do not enjoy its protections.

Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn was amongst the members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands which wrote a letter to this effect in The Times several days ago. A copy of the letter can be downloaded here or viewed above.