Archive for July, 2012

FCO officials face cross-examination on Wikileaks cable

Posted in coverage, CRG, FCO, Legal, MPA on July 29th, 2012 by Robert Bain – 2 Comments
Royal Courts of Justice (Photo: Ell Brown, via Flickr)

Royal Courts of Justice (Photo: Ell Brown, via Flickr)

The Independent reports that Foreign Office officials will be cross-examined on the content of a US diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks, as part of the Chagossians’ application for a judicial review of the Chagos Marine Protected Area.

The cable, one of many leaked by Wikileaks in 2010, summarised a conversation in which BIOT Commissioner Colin Roberts claimed that “establishing a marine park would, in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the (Chagos) archipelago’s former residents”. Roberts also reportedly said that the Foreign Office had no regrets about the eviction of the islanders.

Our patron Ben Fogle wrote angrily at the time about having been duped into supporting a marine reserve created under ‘false pretences’, as a way to keep the Chagos islanders from returning to their rightful home.

Answering questions about this might be uncomfortable for the government, but we believe it will be good for transparency.

Sign the petition to let the Chagossians return

Posted in FCO, USA on July 19th, 2012 by Robert Bain – 3 Comments

Lagoon, Egmont Island (Photo: Karin Sinniger)

Lagoon, Egmont Island (Photo: Karin Sinniger)

A new petition has been launched with the ambition of racking up 100,000 signatures in the next 12 months. The petition is open to residents of the UK only, but if you live abroad and know people in the UK, ask them to sign.

The petition calls on the British government to work with the US to allow the banished Chagossian people to return home immediately. Their continued eviction violates several articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights every day that it goes on. The indigenous Chagossian people have suffered for over 45 years. They must be allowed to return to their homeland, the Chagos Islands, without further delay.

Chagos in the papers

Posted in MPA on July 14th, 2012 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

There are some interesting interviews with Chagossians in the Sunday Express and ThisIsLocalLondon.

Both articles look at how the marine reserve prevents the people of Chagos from returning home, and the upcoming judicial review of the reserve.

There’s also a piece on the marine reserve in the Sunday Times by Charles Clover, author of the book ‘The End of the Line’ about overfishing – but it’s behind their paywall.

Nice to see the Express picking up on the Chagos story – they’ve not given it much attention before.

30th Meeting of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group – Co-ordinator’s Summary

Posted in APPG, Legal, Mauritius, MPA, Parliament, USA, Wikileaks on July 12th, 2012 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

Photo: Gail Johnson

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 4th Annual General Meeting and 30th meeting on 11 July 2012.

The Group re-elected the current office holders (Chairman, Jeremy Corbyn MP; Vice Chairs, Lord Avebury, Lord Ramsbotham, Henry Smith MP, Andrew Rosindell MP; Secretary, Andrew George MP). David Snoxell was reappointed Coordinator and Richard Gifford Legal Adviser – they were thanked for their dedicated support and service to the Group.

The Group discussed developments in the 4 legal cases. There was no news from Strasbourg; final submissions had to be in by the end of July for the UNCLOS case brought by Mauritius; the appeal to the Information Tribunal was heard on 10/11 July and pre-trial applications were currently under way for the Judicial Review of the MPA. The BIOT Commissioner and another officer had been cross-examined at the Information Tribunal – the judge might give his decision by the end of July. In the pre-trial applications for the MPA Judicial Review it had been decided that wikileaks was admissible evidence.The judge was considering whether the BIOT Commissioner and the Administrator, who were quoted by the US Embassy in their 2009 cable to Washington, would be required to give evidence under oath. This was being opposed by the FCO. It looked as if the MPA JR would therefore drag on until October.

Note was taken of Lord Avebury’s intervention in the debate on the Queen’s speech on 17 May, concerning a just and fair settlement, the MPA, the wikileaks and the mounting cost of continuing to fight legal cases. Lord Avebury was asked to draw his comments to the attention of Ministers.

The media reports and the Answers to PQs on the outcome of the meeting between the Mauritian Prime Minister and Mr Cameron on 8 June were discussed. It was noted that both sides had different understandings of what was discussed.The Group was surprised at the apparent contradiction of the two accounts of the meeting between the Prime Minister and Dr Ramgoolam. Members felt that the meeting had raised expectations and offered a unique opportunity, during the Diamond Jubilee week, to begin to address an overall political settlement. They were disappointed that the British side seemed to prefer to prolong the legal battles. It was agreed that in view of the sensitivities of the situation members would talk personally to Ministers.

The Group discussed the chapter on BIOT in the White Paper on the Overseas Territories released on 28 June. They were unhappy about the way some aspects of BIOT had been described and decided to raise these points when the White Paper is debated.

A recent statement by Olivier Bancoult concerning the difficulties over passports, visas and benefits had been circulated to members. The Group was very sympathetic and would continue to raise these issues, most recently on 22 February when Mr Corbyn, Mr Rosindell and Lord Avebury had a meeting with the Immigration Minister.

The next meeting of the Group will be after the summer recess on 17 October 2012.