Archive for December, 2012

US response to Chagos petition: an abdication of responsibility

Posted in ECHR, Mauritius, USA on December 27th, 2012 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

The response to a petition requesting that the US Government redress wrongs against the Chagossians is published below. The petition, signed by 30,037 people, included the statement that “The United States should provide relief to the Chagossians in the form of resettlement to the outer Chagos islands, employment, and compensation.” 

The language of this response follows closely the language of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). Indeed, one might think from the style that it had been written by the FCO! The UK govenrment has, in reality (as opposed to spin), done little for Chagossians, especially the majority who live in Mauritius. Whatever the UK has done for Chagossians in recent years cannot be seen as a substitute for the loss of a fundamental human right, enshrined in both Magna Carta and the US Constitution

The US is, with the UK, complicit in denying the Chagossians their human rights but the US has done nothing to support the Chagossians. The  compensation paid to the Chagossians in 1982 (30 yrs ago – the last compensation) was small, used to repay debts and quickly disappeared. The UK failed to provide any material assistance, or help Chagossians, who were not used to a money economy, plan savings, expenditure and debt repayment. The FCO is not actively engaged with Chagossians in Mauritius, as claimed, and has never sought to bring about a resolution of these issues. Instead, they have applied the divide and rule principle with their ‘support’ and ‘engagement’ with the various Chagossian groups.

Finally, the response to a petition requesting that the US Government  was released within 24 hours of the ECHR ruling, despite the petition being closed on 4 April 2012. This would appear to be a cynical attempt to distract from the real issue: resettlement.

Response to We the People Petition on Redressing Wrongs Against the Chagossians

By Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary for European & Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon, and Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro.

Thank you for your petition regarding the former inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelago. The U.S. recognizes the British Indian Ocean Territories, including the Chagos Archipelago, as the sovereign territory of the United Kingdom. The United States appreciates the difficulties intrinsic to the issues raised by the Chagossian community.

In the decades following the resettlement of Chagossians in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United Kingdom has taken numerous steps to compensate former inhabitants for the hardships they endured, including cash payments and eligibility for British citizenship. The opportunity to become a British citizen has been accepted by approximately 1,000 individuals now living in the United Kingdom. Today, the United States understands that the United Kingdom remains actively engaged with the Chagossian community. Senior officials from the United Kingdom continue to meet with Chagossian leaders; community trips to the Chagos Archipelago are organized and paid for by the United Kingdom; and the United Kingdom provides support for community projects within the United Kingdom and Mauritius, to include a resource center in Mauritius. The United States supports these efforts and the United Kingdom’s continued engagement with the Chagossian Community.

Thank you for taking the time to raise this important issue with us.

Chagos case: the UK government still ‘determined to pursue colonial mentality’

Posted in ECHR, FCO, Legal on December 26th, 2012 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) today reiterated its call for the UK government to recognise the Chagos islanders’ fundamental right to go home, following the decision of the European Court of Human Rights today that their case was inadmissible on technical grounds. The Chagossians were expelled from their island home in the 1960s and 1970s so that it could be turned into a US military base. MRG has supported the islanders in their long struggle and was an intervenor before the European Court.

“Having expelled a whole people from their homes, the United Kingdom government is now washing its hands of all responsibility,” says Mark Lattimer, Executive Director of Minority Rights Group International. “The government has not even tried to defend what the Court today described as its ‘callous and shameful treatment’ of the islanders, but has simply relied on jurisdictional arguments.”

“The court described the legislation in this area as a ‘colonial remnant’, but the UK has shown that it is still determined to pursue the colonial mentality,” he adds.

“The UK government is happy to defend the rights to self-determination of the Falkland Islanders, but when the Chagos Islanders appeal for protection from their government they are abandoned.”

The full article can be found on the website of Minority Rights Groups International.

Hague ‘should say sorry to the Chagos islanders and let them return’

Posted in APPG, Crawley, CRG, ECHR, FCO, Legal, MPA, Parliament, Wikileaks, William Hague on December 26th, 2012 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

So says Dr Sean Carey, a research fellow at the University of Roehampton, UK, in an article for The Independent. The article was written in the wake of the seven-judge chamber of the European Court of Human Rights deciding by majority that the case regarding the right of return of the exiled Chagos Islanders was inadmissible.

The article charts the campaign for justice waged by the Chagossians over the years, and the tactics used by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to block them, the most recent being the creation of a Marine Protected Area.

The article concludes:

“Although recent UK governments have expressed “regret” about the past, it is very revealing that no formal apology has been made to the Chagossians. Irrespective of the decision of the Strasbourg court, on moral and ethical grounds, it is time for a change in tone and policy. That should include a debate in Parliament in the New Year, and the Foreign Secretary working in close collaboration with the Chagos All Party Parliamentary Group. William Hague should also take the opportunity to invoke the spirit of William Wilberforce by apologising for the mistakes of previous UK governments and allow the islanders to return to their homeland.”

UK Government to “take stock” says William Hague

Posted in ECHR, FCO, Legal, William Hague on December 26th, 2012 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

The UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague MP, made the following comment in response to the ECHR ruling of 20th December 2012

“We welcome the end of this legal process, which has taken many years. We have made clear our regret for the wrongs done to the Chagossian people over forty years ago. Nevertheless, it was right for the Government to defend itself against this action.
Now that this litigation is concluded, the Government will take stock of our policy towards the resettlement of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), as we have always said we would. There are fundamental difficulties with resettlement in BIOT, but we will be as positive as possible in our engagement with Chagossian groups and all interested parties.”

Please spell out what these “fundamental difficulties with resettlement” actually are, Mr Hague!

Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group comments on ECHR Ruling

Posted in APPG, ECHR, FCO, Legal, William Hague on December 25th, 2012 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

Press Release All Party Parliamentary Group – Chagos Islands
Chair: Jeremy Corbyn MP, Vice Chairs: Lord Ramsbotham; Lord Avebury; Andrew Rosindell MP; Henry Smith MP
Secretary/Treasurer: Andrew George MP
House of Commons London SW1A OAA

Strasbourg ruling on Chagos Islanders v United Kingdom

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group regret that a 7 judge chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has after 8 years, by a majority ruling, decided that it does not have jurisdiction to give judgment on the case of the Chagos Islanders and that the case is therefore inadmissible. The Court concluded that the Chagossians had no right of individual petition.

The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights guarantees that no one shall be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment. It is obvious to all right thinking people that depriving the Chagossian people, for whom Britain was responsible, of their homes, livelihoods and homeland and deporting them 40 years ago, was a grievous violation of their fundamental human rights. This was compounded as late as 2004 by Privy Council Orders, a means by which Parliament was bypassed. The Orders overturned a November 2000 High Court judgment and the decision by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook to restore the right to return to the Outer Chagos Islands. It is inconceivable that Parliament would have agreed to deprive the Chagossians of this fundamental birthright.

What happened has been described by English courts as shameful, an abuse of power, repugnant, deplorable and unlawful. Strasbourg also concluded that this was “the callous and shameful treatment which they….suffered from 1967 to 1973, when being expelled from, or barred from return to, their homes on the islands and the hardships which immediately flowed from that”. In 2008 two of the five Law Lords held that without the authority of Parliament these Orders were unlawful, anachronistic and against the principles of democracy. Lord Bingham, presiding, said that there was “no (other) instance in which the royal prerogative had been exercised to exile an indigenous population from its homeland”.

Now that the European Court of Human Rights has decided that it does not have jurisdiction we ask the Coalition Government to stand by their pre-election promises to bring about a just and fair settlement to one of the great tragedies of the twentieth century, perpetrated by the UK on the defenceless – the brutal removal of an entire people from their homeland and their way of life, into a life of exile, poverty and hardship. We expect our Government to be guided by the British sense of fair play and to ensure that the same basic human rights apply to Chagossians, who are British, as apply to the people in the UK. As the Foreign Secretary himself has said “The British public expects its Government to act with moral integrity”. He is also quoted in the FCO Annual Report to Parliament (Human Rights and Democracy, Cmd 8339, April 2012) as saying “It is not in our character as a nation to have a foreign policy without a conscience: neither is it in our interests”. The Report states that “The promotion of human rights, democracy and rule of law is at the heart of Britain’s foreign policy.

To speak to Group Chair, Jeremy Corbyn MP
tel 020 7219 3545 or 07773 429 690
e corbynj@parliament.uk

European court says it has ‘no jurisdiction’ on Chagos case

Posted in CRG, ECHR, Legal on December 20th, 2012 by Robert Bain – 1 Comment

The Chagossians and their supporters throughout the world are saddened and shocked that a seven-judge chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has after eight years, by a majority ruling, decided that it does not have jurisdiction to give judgment on the case of the Chagos Islanders and that the case is therefore inadmissible. The Court concluded that the Chagossians had no right of individual petition.

The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights guarantees that no one shall be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment. It is obvious to all right-thinking people that depriving the Chagossian people, for whom Britain was responsible, of their homes, livelihoods and homeland and deporting them 40 years ago, was a grievous violation of their fundamental human rights. This was compounded as late as 2004 by Privy Council Orders, a means by which Parliament was bypassed. The Orders overturned a November 2000 High Court judgment and the decision by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook to restore the right to return to the Outer Chagos Islands. It is inconceivable that parliament would have agreed to deprive the Chagossians of this fundamental birthright.

What happened has been described by English courts as shameful, an abuse of power, repugnant, deplorable and unlawful. Strasbourg also concluded that this was “the callous and shameful treatment which they… suffered from 1967 to 1973, when being expelled from, or barred from return to, their homes on the islands and the hardships which immediately flowed from that”. In 2008 two of the five Law Lords held that without the authority of parliament these Orders were unlawful, anachronistic and against the principles of democracy. Lord Bingham, presiding, said that there was “no (other) instance in which the royal prerogative had been exercised to exile an indigenous population from its homeland”.

Now that the European Court of Human Rights has decided that it does not have jurisdiction we appeal to the coalition government to stand by their pre-election promises to bring about a just and fair settlement to one of the great tragedies of the twentieth century, perpetrated by the UK on the defenceless – the brutal removal of an entire people from their homeland and their way of life, into a life of exile, poverty and hardship. We expect our Government to reflect the British sense of fair play and to ensure that the same basic human rights apply to Chagossians, who are British, as apply to the people in the UK. As the Foreign Secretary himself has said, “The British public expects its Government to act with moral integrity.”

Charlezia Alexis dies aged 79

Posted in Crawley, CRG, personal on December 16th, 2012 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Charlézia Alexis (Photo: L’Express)

Charlezia Alexis, the passionate Chagossian campaigner and singer, died this morning aged 79.

Illegally evicted from her homeland along with hundreds of others by the British authorities in the 1960s, Charlezia was one of the founders of the Chagos Refugees Group, campaigning to be allowed to return. She died in the UK having spent half her life in exile.

Her death follows that of Lisette Talate, who died aged 70 last year.

Charlezia’s funeral will take place in the UK, and a special mass will be held by the CRG in Mauritius.

If the British government continues to stand in the way of resettlement, more like Charlezia and Lisette will die without being able to see their home again.

Read L’Express’ coverage here.

32nd Meeting of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group – Co-ordinator’s Summary

Posted in APPG, ConDem, conservation, FCO, Legal, Mauritius, MPA, Parliament, Philippa Gregory, USA on December 6th, 2012 by Mark Fitzsimons – 2 Comments

Photo: Gail Johnson

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 32nd meeting on 5 December 2012. The Chairman welcomed a new member, Henry Bellingham MP who is the fifth former FCO Minister with responsibility for BIOT or the Indian Ocean to have joined the Group.

Members considered legal developments since the last meeting on 17 October. They noted that the Judicial Review of the MPA had been postponed to March to allow the FCO more time to prepare their case, in view of additional pleadings agreed by judges on 13 November, concerning traditional fishing rights and the requirement under the EU Treaty for social and economic development of the OTs. The Group also discussed the Mauritius case at ITLOS which would be heard by a Tribunal next July. Until these cases were resolved it was difficult to see how the MPA ,declared on 1 April 2010, could progress. The Group discussed ways in which these issues might be resolved through diplomacy and compromise, such as providing Mauritius with a role in the MPA and the Chagosians with a designated fishing zone, as is provided for the Pitcairn fishermen in the forthcoming Pitcairn marine reserve.

The Group also considered the implications of the Information Commissioner’s Decision that the BIOT Administration was subject to FOIA and EIRs. There seemed to be no good reason why the FCO should want the BIOT Administration, which is part of the FCO, to be immune from freedom of information and disclosure of environmental information. It was possible that the FCO would appeal to the First Tier Tribunal. The Chairman said he would table a further PQ on the subject.

The FAC meeting (postponed to 11 December) concerning the Overseas Territories White Paper, at which the new FCO Minister Mark Simmonds would be questioned, was discussed. Andrew Rosindell, the Vice Chairman of the Group, would be raising various issues regarding the section in the WP concerning BIOT.

The Group discussed the 1966 UK/US Exchange of Letters, due for renewal in 2014. It was felt that this provided a golden opportunity to discuss with the US an overall settlement of the issues and that the sooner these discussion began the better.

Lord Avebury’s intervention in the Lords debate on piracy in the Indian Ocean on 24 October was discussed. He had proposed that following up the meeting between the two prime ministers of 8 June, and once the court cases were out of the way, discussions between the UK and Mauritius on the future of the Chagos Islands should take place. Since Lord Avebury had received an unsatisfactory reply to his proposal during the debate it was suggested that he should write to the Minister concerned.

The next meeting of the APPG will be on 13 February 2013. As Philippa Gregory and the Comite Chagos were unable to meet the Group on this occasion it was agreed that they should do so before the next meeting.