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Diego Garcia and the US Senate Torture Report: Media Round Up

Posted in Uncategorized on December 18th, 2014 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

It can be a cause of some frustration amongst Chagossians and their allies that human rights abuses in Diego Garcia only attract serious media attention in relation to allegations of its use in ‘rendition’ flights. The decades of human rights abuse suffered by thousands of Chagossians rarely gets anything like the attention, despite being openly admitted by all involved. (To help us campaign and raise awareness, please consider donating  or signing the petition [see sidebar for both])

Nevertheless, Chagossians rightly take a concerned interest in any allegations their homeland is hosting further abuse. Indeed, as the Chagos Islands remain a British Overseas Territory, no British citizen should be comfortable with suggestions made in some quarters over the weekend about the usage of Diego Garcia military facilities.

Chagossians are confident they could live alongside a continuing US military facility, but US support for Chagossian resettlement must be a condition of an extension of the US-UK agreement on the use of Diego Garcia, which expires in 2016.

Like the rest of the world, we can not say anything on the truth of some of the below allegations. This is, however, how the issue has been covered in the UK press.

The recent spike in interest in US-operated military facilities on Diego Garica comes after a the publication of a US Senate report into the use of torture by US intelligence agencies over the past fifteen years. (link to CNN coverage and full report) Diego Garcia, and the work of British intelligence services generally, was notable by its absence. The Telegraph noted that pages and “names of countries,” had though been “redacted”, whilst referencing suspicions Diego Garcia may have been used as “Black Site” for detention, transfer of detainees and even torture.

A Guardian article similarly acknowledged these allegations, without endorsing them, which largely stem from an Al-Jazeera America report earlier this year. The piece quoted an anonymous source who predicted that an unredacted Senate report would reveal a so-called “black site” was operated in Diego Garcia with the full cooperation of the British Government.

The case of Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the Libyan dissident who claims to have been transited through Diego Garcia whilst undergoing CIA torture, has also been referenced in media reaction to the report, including an article by prominent human rights lawyer Amrit Singh.

Calls for further action have come from a variety of sources. Phillipe Sands QC, writing in the Daily Mail, has called for a “full judicial inquiry.” In his piece he forwards that the complete absence of Diego Garcia from the report suggests that “officials may have taken steps to remove anything that would blemish our reputation.”

Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, meanwhile, has argued that he will ensure the Intelligence and Security Committee has the powers to investigate the matter fully. RT, which has followed the developments of the story closely, has noted that former Prime Minister Tony Blair may be made answer questions about Deigo Garcia as part of the Committee’s inquiry.

Controversy has also broken out over whether the UK had requested these redactions, especially concerning Diego Garcia. Home Secretary Teresa May stated that she did not.  It has been admitted previously, however, that UK officals and representatives met members of US Senate Committee in relation, and that some redactions were made on “national security grounds.”

We’ll continue to follow coverage of the story as it develops. Hopefully it focus the national conversation on the future of the islands.

 

The history of UK and US intervention in the Chagos Archipelago has thus far generated nothing but bad news. Let’s hope next year positive headlines are made as the Government finally decides to grant Chagossians a measure of justice after decades of suffering.

 

 

Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group Meeting Coordinator’s Summary: Resettlement report reaction, UK-US talks and possible court action

Posted in Uncategorized on December 3rd, 2014 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Please find below a summary of the recent meeting of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting, kindly put together and provided by voluntary Coordinator of the APPG David Snoxell.

 

The  Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 45th meeting on 2 December. Members felt that the report on the Chagos Conservation Trust website of  the Group’s meeting on 15 October with CCT Trustees was not a balanced and accurate reflection of the Group’s views. PQs and Oral Answers since the last meeting, and also correspondence with FCO Ministers and with the Chairman of the FAC were considered.

Although there had not been sufficient time to read KPMG’s draft resettlement report (82 pages) in detail, Members noted that, unlike the 2002 Feasibility Study, the report was based on the assumption that resettlement was feasible and that conservation, defence and security were not obstacles. Nor did the report repeat the flawed predictions of the 2002 study concerning climate change, sea level rise and increased storminess which gave rise to the FCO’s conclusions at the time that resettlement would be precarious and inordinately costly. Members were pleased to see that the report noted the commitment by Chagossians to preserve their unique environment and that Diego Garcia seemed to be the favoured option.
Members were however surprised at the high cost estimates provided by KPMG but expected that these could be significantly reduced by sourcing materials in Asia and learning from the  experience of the Maldives and the remote inhabited islands.of Mauritius. The Group understood that there were omissions (eg lack of consideration of economic activities such as fisheries as a source of food and income) and deficiencies in the report which it was hoped would be addressed during the period of consultation before it was finalised. They also thought that the Chagossians would need to be very clear over how many really wanted to return permanently and their livelihood prospects, including a standard of living appropriate to undeveloped tropical islands. They urged the FCO to seek funding for resettlement from the EU (EDF), the US, UN Agencies, international NGOs and the privater sector.  It was felt that DFID should have been consulted and from now on ought to be closely involved.
The Group decided to invite the KPMG team to meet members for a discussion within the next 3 weeks. They also agreed that the final report, expected in January, should be debated in Parliament before Ministers reached decisions on resettlement.
The Group considered the future of the MPA, declared on 1 April 2010. It was clear that the MPA could not progress until the litigation brought by Mauritius at a Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration concluded and Chagossian resettlement was determined.  Members noted that the exclusion of indigenous people was the reason why IUCN had not included the Chagos Islands in their recent  “Green List sites” (article in Nature Journal of 20 November).
Members were informed about the forthcoming application to the Supreme Court to review the 2008 majority verdict of the House of Lords. They hoped that Ministers would carefully consider the extent to which there had been a breach of the duty of candour before agreeing to further costly litigation.
Members noted that talks with the US on the future of BIOT  started this week. It was assumed that  extension of the 1966 Agreement would be predicated on agreement over where and how resettlement was to take place.
The date of the next meeting is 14 January 2015

Reaction to Feasability Study into Chagossian Return

Posted in Feasability Study, Philippa Gregory, resettlement, Uncategorized on December 2nd, 2014 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Late last week KPMG, working on behalf of the UK Government, published a draft version of their feasibility report (read it here) into Chagossian resettlement of the Chagos Islands. The Government have claimed that this will inform their decision on whether to permit and support resettlement of the Chagos Islands. This decision is expected next year, with the final version of the report due in early January.

The whole Chagossian community will take time to analyse and respond to the report; many of its assertions are questionable and there are notable concerns about the overall approach. KPMG and the UK Government have however pledged that Chagossian groups will have the opportunity to meet with report stakeholders and the discuss the text prior to final publication.

Although Chagossians have had serious concerns about the way in which the feasibility study has been conducted, we are pleased to see confirmation that a well-managed, environmentally-aware resettlement is entirely feasible.

That the report acknowledges Chagossians are “very environmentally conscious” and “would be willing to play an active part in maintaining the pristine environment of the Chagos Islands” is especially welcome.

The report, even though it does not explore the potential for a vibrant, resettled Chagossian economy, demonstrates justice for Chagossians can be achieved at a minimal cost to UK taxpayers. Resettlement be achieved for less than £65 million over three years, or around 0.002% of the UK’s annual Overseas Aid Budget. Or to put it another way, less than 20 pence per year for every UK citizen, which would help to hear a terrible scar on the nation’s character.

In the coming days and weeks we will analyse the report further and look forward to meeting officials from the study team and other stakeholders to discuss its contents.

Commenting after reading the report, renowned author and UK Chagos Support Association Patron Philippa Gregory stated that  “I welcome the prospect of justice at last for the Chagossians and hope we get a speedy final report and can begin the implementation of return.”

Press Association Report: “No obstacles to resettlement”

Posted in Uncategorized on November 29th, 2014 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Many thanks to the Press Association and Richard Wheeler for permitting our reproduction of this Press Association report.

‘No obstacles’ to Chagos resettling

By Richard Wheeler, Press Association Political Staff

 

There are “no fundamental legal obstacles” that would prevent resettlement on the British-controlled Chagos Islands, according to a new independent report.

An initial population of between 150 to 500 people is the most likely option for the central Indian Ocean territory should resettlement take place, the draft KPMG assessment adds.

The British forced the Chagossians to leave the islands by 1973 to allow the US to establish an air base on Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Chagos archipelago.

Critics described the expulsions as one of the most shameful episodes in modern British colonial history, with the exiled Chagossians fighting a long series of legal battles for the right of return.

KPMG was appointed as independent consultants by the Foreign Office to carry out the study in 2013 and has now published a draft feasibility study assessing three options for potential resettlement.

It suggests the most likely options for any initial return would either be a pilot, small-scale resettlement (option three) or a medium-scale resettlement (option two).

Option three involves resettling 150 Chagossians, with the potential for growth should it prove successful, while option two envisages resettling 500.

The report notes this would “probably” be on Diego Garcia with “possible later expansion” on the outer islands, which could involve the large-scale resettlement plan (option one) of 1,500 Chagossians.

Discussing the legal and political issues, the report says on the conclusions and implications for resettlement: “There are no fundamental legal obstacles that would prevent a resettlement of BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territory) to go ahead.

“The legal and constitutional framework will however require significant amendment in order to facilitate a resettlement and this will require a comprehensive consultation process with the Chagossians and other interested parties.”

The report explains the needs of the returning population would have to be balanced with environmental concerns and the use of the territory for defence purposes.

One-off costs of developing transport infrastructure, sea defences, houses, public buildings, utilities and services have also been estimated for each resettlement option.

The smallest resettlement option for 150 people could cost £62.9 million to establish and be implemented over three years, the medium option could cost £106.9 million over four years and the biggest may take six years and cost £413.9 million.

The latter would reduce to £180.8 million if a breakwater/harbour and an airport are excluded.

KPMG also found Diego Garcia is the most suitable location in the territory for resettlement when compared to “remote, inhospitable islands” Boddam and Ile du Coin.

The study considered a range of factors for potential resettlement of the three islands, including rainfall, freshwater supply, soil quality, fish population, the abundance of sea cucumber and the logistics of importing food.

The report noted: “The most likely options for any initial resettlement of BIOT are option three (pilot, small-scale resettlement) or option two (medium-scale re-settlement) – probably in Diego Garcia, with possible later expansion involving option one (large-scale re-settlement) on the outer islands – such as Ile du Coin or Boddam.”

In a written statement to Parliament, Foreign Office minister James Duddridge said: “In line with its terms of reference, the feasibility study has examined the full range of options for resettlement on each of the islands of the territory, including Diego Garcia with its vital military base.

“Final views are now sought from the Chagossian community and all those with an interest.

“The study will conclude and issue its final report to ministers in January 2015.”

Chagos Myth Busting Part 2: Security, Sea Levels and Will to Return

Posted in Uncategorized on November 24th, 2014 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Chagos Myth #4: “A resettled Chagossian population would undermine military forces on Diego Garcia and therefore national security”

Government Ministers have said that security is their “first” concern when considering potential Chagossian resettlement. It is difficult to see, however, in what way a resettled Chagossian population would have any impact on the national security of the US or the UK.

Firstly, the US have been explicit in stating Chagossian resettlement is an issue for the UK Government and not something on which it will take a position. All around the world, meanwhile, US military bases co-exist with civilian populations.

It is of course also something of a myth there is currently no civilian population on the Chagos Islands for forty years: military bases require people to run the bars, clean the barracks and provide other support services. If anything a resettled Chagossian population, who could take up a good number of these roles, would improve security. US forces would have a permanent, known work force rather than having to rely upon a constant flow of temporary workers recruited from overseas.

Although there’s no indication that the US would oppose resettlement, the Chagos Islands All Party Parliamentary Group has rightly recognised that with the UK-US agreement on use of facilities coming to an end in 2016, US support for Chagossian resettlement should be “an obvious condition for extending the agreement.”

It is also worth remembering the military presence in Diego Garcia began in a very different world. Created at the height of the Cold War, the military challenges faced by the UK and the US are very different today. Cyber warfare and online espionage are now the greatest threats to the integrity of military information. In combatting these threats, it entirely irrelevant whether the would-be hacker is Lincolnshire, Tehran or Peros Banhos.

Final word though must go to Stuart B. Barber, one of the most influential military officials involved in the creation of the military base on Diego Garcia. Speaking in retirement, Mr Barber lamented not just the barbarism of the forced deportation of the Chagossian people, but also the fact it was “not necessary militarily.”

 

Chagos Myth #5: “Rising sea levels will soon make the Chagos Islands uninhabitable anyway”

Like many other island nations, rising sea levels would be a concern for a resettled Chagossian community. As the 2007 Returning Home report notes, however, this is a global threat for which mitigation and adaption can be made with appropriate investment. The speed of sea-level rises are unpredictable, but a resettled Chagossian population would have several generations to adapt to gradual rises.

Indeed an intensive 2012 academic study, Contemporary Sea Rises in the Chagos Archipelago, found “no statistically significant long-term rise.” It also noted “no record of island subsidence” and  “no evidence of changes in the wind or wave environment in the past 20 years.” In other words, there is no evidence the Chagos Islands are becoming more difficult to live in.

Presuming the US military base remains, as is expected, American and British administrations will also have a self-interest in protecting the islands from rising sea levels.

The Chagos Islands have an average elevation no lower than vast swathes of The Netherlands. There is no plan to expel the Dutch for their own safety, so rising sea levels are not an excuse to deny justice to the Chagossian people after so many decades of oppression.

Chagos Myth #6: “Chagossians do not really want to return and are better of where they are”

All recent studies and surveys have indicated that a significant enough proportion of the Chagossian diaspora would wish to return in the first few years of resettlement to make a settlement viable.Evidence further suggests that as the settlement proved successful, a greater number would wish to return.

The 2007 Returning Home study calculates that around “400 families” may wish to return. This figure includes not only the now fairly aged victims of deportation, but also a high enough proportion of economically active younger people to make a functioning economy more than feasible.

The level of enthusiasm for return is in part reflective of the difficulties Chagossians have faced in exile. In Mauritius, The Seychelles and the UK, Chagossian communities are amongst the most deprived, disadvantaged and discriminated against.

That the resettled population is likely to grow gradually is, however, a positive as it will allow Chagossians to re-adapt to the environment without causing any damage.

Chagossians are fully aware that establishing a new settlement will be difficult and demand a lot of effort, but the enthusiasm is there to rebuild a prosperous and vibrant community.

Before any Chagossian makes a choice on return, however, the Government need firstly need to give them the Right to Return and then make a clear offer explaining how they will support resettlement in the early stages.

Right to Return: Feasibility Study Update and Timetable

Posted in Uncategorized on November 20th, 2014 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

As we await the publication of a feasibility study into Chagossian resettlement, due this week, commissioned by the Government and KMPG, it is worth reminding ourselves of the current timetable. So here, stolen shamelessly from our own archives, is a brief outline of the expected timetable.

As regular readers will know, the campaign to win Chagossians the right to resettle in their homeland is at a very important stage. The Government has commissioned professional services firm KPMG to conduct a feasibility study. The study, which is all but complete, analysed how different models of resettlement could work, taking economic, environmental and social factors into account.

Though we can not know the content of the report before its publication, it is likely “feasibility” will in practice depend upon how much the Government are willing to invest to develop the necessary infrastructure on the islands. The final decision will be made by politicians, not KPMG, so we must continue to make the argument it is fundamentally wrong to deny Chagossians the right to live in their homeland.

With this in mind, I’ve produced a rough timetable for the remainder of the feasibility study. This is subject to change of course, but it will be useful in planning our campaigning.

October KMPG continued consultations with the Chagossian community. Although understand suspicious of the Government’s motives and the practices initially adopted by KPMG, Chagossians entered the process in good faith.
November-w/c 17th aprox First draft of feasibility study published. “Stakeholders” will be consulted for comments before the draft is revised and finalised.
December: Feasibility study scheduled to be completed
January: Report will be presented to the Government
Early February We hope the report will be debated in Parliament, though the Government do not have to agree to a debate before making a decision on resettlement. We will need to campaign to ensure this happens.
Late February Government ministers are expected to make their final decision on resettlement. Although only committed to doing so before the election, Ministers are unlikely to want to risk discussing an even

What can we do? Write to our MPs and ask them to ensure there is a debate and a vote in Parliament before the final decision on resettlement. It will be harder for the Government to deny Chagossians the right to return if there is greater public scrutiny and support.

Chagos Myth Busting Part 1: Compensation, Environment & Economy

Posted in Uncategorized on November 19th, 2014 by Robert Bain – 1 Comment

Chagos Myth-Busting Kit

As Chagossians know only too well, every noble cause has its opponents and these opponents may not always play fair. The motivations of those who oppose the Chagossian people’s fight for justice are varied; they may be the geopolitical, financial or even faux-environmental. Some opposition is so deeply illogical and polemical one might suppose even darker motivations.

We all hope the Government recognises it’s moral responsibilities and works to support and permit a sustainable, thriving Chagossian population on the Islands when it decides upon the Islands future early next year, following the conclusion of a feasibility study.

We must be prepared though to respond to the usual myths about the Chagos Islands and their people should these be deployed by the Government, or anyone else, as disingenuous arguments against restoring Chagossians right to live in their native land.

Let’s look at a few of the main myths which crop up about the Chagos Islands, Chagossians and their history, and why they are nonsense. More to come soon (and let us know if you can think of any others).

Myth #1: “Chagossians have already received generous compensation for their removal.”
A favourite line of Government Ministers for many years, it is grossly mis-representative of the facts. Chagossians were offered compensation but it was neither generous nor something for which the nation should feel anything other than deep shame.

Compensation promised to the islanders upon their removal arrived over half a decade late. By this time rampant Mauritian inflation (almost 30% in some years) had severely devalued the real value of the sum finally given to Chagossians. Years of living in a foreign land with no support, had in any case caused many Chagossians to fall into severe poverty and debt. Distribution methods were also wholly unreliable with private middlemen often used-many Chagossians report not receiving the full amount. Consequently the meagre, delayed compensation, often only partially received, was frequently used for little more than paying down debts.

A second tranche of compensation was forthcoming in the 1980s (almost two decades too late). In this instance however Chagossians were adjudged to have forfeited their right to return by accepting the compensation. Many Chagossians have reported this condition was never explained to them. The document was written in legalistic English, a language with which few could then understand to even a basic level.

The UK’s belated, terribly administered, inadequate, insulting and cynical ‘compensation’ is part of the history of Chagossian injustice, not an excuse to deny Chagossians justice today.

Myth #2: “The environment of the Chagos Islands and the success of the Marine Protected Area would be destroyed by a resettled Chagossian population.”

There is no conflict of interest between Chagossians’ return to their homeland and protecting the beautiful eco-system which they for well over a century called home. Rather, supporting Chagossian resettlement would be a positive step in protecting the environment. Chagossians have a unique relationship with the islands; having fought for almost half a century to return their native lands, who can doubt after achieving resettlement they will fight to protect them?

It was after all US military forces which were found to have dumped waste into the protected lagoons for decades, not Chagossians. On brief trips back to the islands, Chagossians have prioritised environmental restoration. The idea of Chagossians returning to small-scale traditional fishing is treated with mock-horror, but the US military are already permitted to catch significant amounts of fish for “sport” every year.

A resident population with a deep respect for and understanding of the environment would actually benefit efforts at environmental protection. At present the Marine Protected Area is around twice the size of the UK but even environmentalists supportive of the MPA have admitted it’s value is highly limited as it not currently effectively enforced.

Illegal fishing occurs frequently and very difficult to stop owing to limited resources and manpower. A returned Chagossian community could support efforts to make the Marine Protected Area a reality rather than a large blob on a map. A strictly limited Chagossian fishing micro-industry, using traditional methods, would meanwhile pose absolutely no threat to the long-term sustainability of the eco-system.

And don’t just take our word for it: no respectable environmental group opposes Chagossian resettlement. Greenpeace has condemned the Government’s treatment of Chagossians and argued for the creation of a sustainable Chagossian fishing industry in the event of resettlement.

Prominent environmentalists including Ben Fogle, David Bellamy and Edd Hind have meanwhile been vocal supports of the Chagossian cause over the years. Even the Chagos Conservation Trust, which has the specific aim of protecting the Chagossian environment, does not oppose Chagossian resettlement.

Myth #3: “A resettled Chagossian population would be a financial burden to UK taxpayers and could not support a sustainable economy.”

The UK already has a range of similarly remote, small Overseas Territories which are self-sustaining. Tristan da Cunha, for example, has a population of only 275 and is officially the most remote settled island in the world. Yet it is economically self-sufficient.

A resettled Chagossian population could create a vibrant and multi-faceted economy, as is demonstrated at length in the 2008 report Returning Home (in fact the potential for economic prosperity is even stronger than the report suggests as it only looked at the Outer Chagos Islands and not Diego Garcia). High-end eco-tourism could combine with traditional small-scale agriculture and fishing industries to offer a diverse range of employment for resettled islanders. A recent Freedom of Information request demonstrated even as a highly restricted territory with no tourist facilities, significant income is generated by yacht visits every year.

The potential for travel has also been boosted by the US military confirmation that they would be willing to allow Chagossians to use the airstrip for travel in and out of the islands in the event of resettlement.

The internet domain name associated with the British Indian Ocean Territory (Chagos Islands), ‘.io’ has meanwhile become highly sought after and valuable within the ever growing IT industry and elsewhere. Other non-labour intensive sources of income could include the production of niche products distinctive to the islands, such as stamps and traditional crafts.

Diego Garcia of course already has a substantial civilian population working in a variety of support roles in and around the US military base. These roles are currently mainly held by Filipino, Sri Lankan and other workers of South Asian origin but this would be another sustainable source of income for a resettled Chagossian population.

Look out for more Chagos Islands myth-busting soon, as well as regular updates on ongoing struggle to secure right to return for the Chagossian people

Diego Garcia Dentention Questions

Posted in Uncategorized on November 13th, 2014 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Chair and Founder of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on rendition Andrew Tyrie MP has in the last week asked a series of written and oral questions on the use of detention facilities in Diego Garcia, the largest of the Chagos Islands. Read both a quick summary of his questions and the full text below.

Mr Tyrie, a high-profile Conservative backbench MP who also chairs the Treasury Select Committee, questioned the usage and oversight of both UK and US maintained detention facilities on Diego Garcia. The Minister’s answers suggested that the UK-administered detention facilities, known as the Reception Centre, are used mainly to detain those suspected of illegal fishing. Another ministerial response indicates that UK personnel “may” have visited US maintained detention facilities but no record was kept of such visits.

The questions of Mr Tyrie also confirm that the US detention facility closed in 2007; the same year the UK holding cells were opened. The Ministers stops short of denying US forces have requested use of UK detention facilities on Deigo Garcia but does state that “there is no information to suggest that the US requested permission to use it during this period [2002 to 2009].”

When asked for details of previous detentions as, the Minister confirmed that “UK authorities do not maintain records of these detentions” but stated that he was informed the facilities had been used for military justice purposes.

In two separate oral questions a few days later, Mr Tyrie again asked “how the Government exercised its formal oversight of US use of Diego Garcia between 2001 and 2008″ and “what steps the Government took to strengthen formal oversight of US use of Diego Garcia after the disclosure in 2008 that two US rendition flights had refuelled there in 2002.”

In response to the former question, Foreign Office Minister David Lidington refers to the Exchange of Notes (the agreement which allowed US forces to set a base on Diego Garcia and led to the expulsion of native Chagossians) and annual political-military talks.

In response to the latter question, Mr Lidington states that in addition to these existing measures, US officials have indicated that “should there be any doubt as to whether any operation falls outside the Exchange of Notes that govern the use of Diego Garcia, the US Government would consult the UK Government.”

One suspects Mr Tyrie’s intention was to imply that the additional measures spoken of really do not amount to any real change, beyond a vague promise. In the past Mr Tyrie has frequently raised concerns about what he has viewed as lax oversight of facilities on Diego Garica which he has suggested may have led to UK “complicity” with so-called extraordinary rendition by the CIA.

House of Commons
Diego Garcia
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Written Answers on 7 Nov 2014

Andrew Tyrie (Chichester, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to the Answer of 20 November 2008, Official Report, column 748W, on Diego Garcia: detainees, how often and for what purpose UK officials visited the US detention facility on Diego Garcia when it was operational.

Hugo Swire (The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; East Devon, Conservative)

It is entirely possible that UK military personnel visited the building in which the holding cells were located during the course of their normal duties, given the fact that Diego Garcia is a joint military facility, and the building was accessible to UK personnel. The US have told us that, when the holding cells were operational, they held US military personnel in accordance with the United States Uniform Code of Military Justice. No records were kept of any possible UK visits to the cells.

Andrew Tyrie (Chichester, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether the United States requested permission to use the UK detention facility on Diego Garcia between 2001 and 2009.

Hugo Swire (The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; East Devon, Conservative)

The UK detention facility on Diego Garcia, commonly referred to as a reception centre, did not open until late 2007. There is no information to suggest that the US requested permission to use it during the period about which my honourable friend asks.

Andrew Tyrie (Chichester, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to the Answer of 20 November 2008 to the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton, Official Report, column 748W, on Diego Garcia: detainees, how many people were detained in the US detention facility on Diego Garcia before 2007; and for what reason.

Hugo Swire (The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; East Devon, Conservative)

The US have informed us that US military personnel are held in these holding cells in accordance the United States Uniform Code of Military Justice. UK authorities do not maintain records of these detentions.

Andrew Tyrie (Chichester, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to the Answer of 20 November 2008 to the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton, Official Report, column 748W, on Diego Garcia: detainees, for how many years the US detention facility was open; and for what reasons the US detention facility was decommissioned.

Hugo Swire (The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; East Devon, Conservative)

The US have informed us that holding cells were used to house US military personnel in accordance with the United States Uniform Code of Military Justice. The US has confirmed that it built these in 1984 and decommissioned them in 2007. UK authorities do not hold information as to the reasons for the US decision to decommission their holding cells.

Andrew Tyrie (Chichester, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to the Answer of 17 November 2008 to the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton, Official Report, columns 191-2W, on Diego Garcia: detainees, how many people were detained in the prison on Diego Garcia in each year from January 2002 to January 2009; and for what reasons and for how long each such person was detained.

Hugo Swire (The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; East Devon, Conservative)

The main purpose of the UK detention facility on Diego Garcia, commonly known as the reception centre, is to hold illegal fishermen caught in the Territory’s waters. It was opened in 2007. BIOT Administration records show that between the point of it opening and January 2009, only one person has been imprisoned there for a period of 10 days during 2008 for an offence of assault. In September, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office released information following a Freedom of Information Act request which showed that a number of Sri Lankans were also held during the period he asks about, for offences related to illegally fishing in BIOT waters. These were held in the police station which is located next to the reception centre.

House of Commons
Diego Garcia
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Written Answers
10 Nov 2014

Andrew Tyrie (Chichester, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps the Government took to strengthen formal oversight of US use of Diego Garcia after the disclosure in 2008 that two US rendition flights had refuelled there in 2002.

David Lidington (The Minister for Europe; Aylesbury, Conservative)

My honourable friend refers to the US Government’s disclosure in 2008 that, contrary to earlier assurances, two flights carrying a detainee landed and refuelled on Diego Garcia in 2002. Following this disclosure, the US Government assured Her Majesty’s Government that these had been the only two cases and that there would be no future transfer of detainees through the UK, its airspace or Overseas Territories without express permission; and stated that, should there be any doubt as to whether any operation falls outside the Exchange of Notes that govern the use of Diego Garcia, the US Government would consult the UK Government. Since that time, Her Majesty’s Government has sought regular reassurance from the US Government, including by means of annual political-military talks between senior officials, that all previous assurances on transfer of detainees provided by the US Government since 2008 remain valid and correct. In addition, the Officer in Charge of the United Kingdom Service elements in Diego Garcia, a senior Naval Officer, is routinely informed of all ship and aircraft movements.

…………………………………………………..

Andrew Tyrie (Chichester, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, how the Government exercised its formal oversight of US use of Diego Garcia between 2001 and 2008.

David Lidington (The Minister for Europe; Aylesbury, Conservative)

As my honourable friend is aware, use of the defence facility in Diego Garcia is governed by the Exchange of Notes between the UK and US, which places treaty obligations on both parties. These Notes provide that, as regards the use of the facility in normal circumstances, the US Commanding Officer and the Officer in Charge of the United Kingdom Service element shall inform each other of intended movements of ships and aircraft. In other circumstances, they provide that the use of the facility shall be a matter for the joint decision of the two Governments. Oversight of US activities between 2001 and 2008 was thus exercised: through the exchange both of routine information, via the Governments’ representatives in Diego Garcia; and, where non-routine matters were concerned, through regular dialogue between the two Governments, including by means of annual political-military discussions between senior officials.

Volunteer Opportunities: Support the Chagossian cause!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10th, 2014 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

The next few months are absolutely crucial in the long hard fight for Chagossian justice. The UK Government will decide early next year whether to support Chagossians’ right to resettle on the islands, from which they were forcibly expelled just over forty years ago.

That’s why we need your help: we are recruiting for a Campaigns Assistant and an Online Assistant (or more likely a couple-there’s a lot to be done!).

Read the full description of these roles on our ‘Do-It’ profile linked below. You can apply through the Do-It site, or just email us at ukchagos@gmail.com; you can attach a CV and/ or a short letter explaining your interest.

In brief though, the Campaign Assistant will play a vital role in developing and implementing our campaign strategy. This may involve organising events, drafting articles, identifying supporters and investigating new campaign tools.

The Online Assistant will work to revamp our website, support our e-campaigning efforts, create online content and support and develop our social media outlets. Crucially the work will all be done online so you can support the Chagossian cause from anywhere in the world.

Both roles come with huge scope for creativity, will look great on a CV and are highly flexible. Whether you can spare 20 hours a week or 2, we would love to hear from you.

If you have any questions or queries about either of the roles, or if you’d like to help out in another way, please get in touch.

Former Deputy PM John Prescott on the Chagos Islands

Posted in Uncategorized on November 3rd, 2014 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Successive UK Government’s have failed to offer anything like justice to the Chagossian people, and the last Labour Government was no exception.

Chagossians have always, however, had a powerful advocate in former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. Writing in the Sunday Mirror this week, the now Lord Prescott branded the deal with the US which led to Chagossians forced expulsion as a “squalid little deal we should be ashamed of” and calls on “this Government and the next think long and hard about finally righting that wrong.”

The piece is not currently available online but we have reproduced the article below.

Originally printed in the Sunday Mirror on 2nd November (one day prior to Chagos Day).

Tomorrow thousands of people will commemorate Chagos Day.

In the 1960s and 1970s the British Labour Government forcibly removed the 2000 inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean to make way for a US military base at Diego Garcia.

The US was a given a 50-year lease, and in return the UK got a significant discount on Polaris missiles- British families sold out for cheaper weapons of mass destruction. It was a squalid little deal we should be ashamed of.

The Chagossians were eventually given compensation of a paltry £3000.

In 2000, after the courts found in their favour, then Foreign Secretary Robin Cook allowed the Chagossians to return to the outer islands. But this was overturned four years later by Royal Prerogative-an order made by my Government-which banned the islanders from ever returning home.

So I hope Chagos Day will make this Government and the next think long and hard about finally righting that wrong.

We’ve already seen the Falkland Islanders hold a referendum to decide if they want to remain a British territory. The people of Scotland were allowed their say on independence, and David Cameron pledges an “in-out” referendum on Europe in 2017.

America’s lease on Diego Garcia runs out in 2015 with an option of renewal. So let’s ask the Chagossian people what they want-giving them that vote is the very least we owe them.