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.

Parliamentary Questions on The Chagos Islands

Posted in Uncategorized on November 1st, 2014 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

parliamychipsThursday 28th October’s session of Foreign Office Questions featured a short series of inquires and responses on the Chagos Islands. We’ve pasted in the full text below preceded by a short summary and analysis of proceedings. Let us know what you think.

Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group Vice-Chair, and Conservative MP for Crawley, Henry Smith questioned what progress had been made with the ongoing resettlement feasibility study. He also asked if the decision regarding the future of a US military base on Diego Garcia would be take into account the interests of Chagossians.

 
In his responses the Minister admits the way Chagossians were treated in the 60s and 70s was “clearly wrong” but does not directly answer the question of whether negotiations over the future of US military facilities on Diego Garcia will take Chagossians’ interests into account.


The UK Government could, and should, make US support for Chagossian resettlement a condition of allowing the US military to continue using facilities in the Chagos Islands.

 

Labour MP for Wythenshawe Mike Kane highlighted the hardships suffered by Chagosssians in his constituency.  He also noted Chagossians’ concerns about the UK ceding sovereignty of the Chagos Islands in the future.

 
Responding, the Minister stated that there was “no question” of the UK ceding sovereignty. The body of Mr Kane’s question was largely ignored though as the Minister suggested that further submissions could be made after the draft feasibility study was published on the 17th November.

Finally Conservative Sir Peter Tapsell, who was already an MP when Chagossians were expelled from their homeland in the early 70s, brought a historical perspective to proceedings. He noted that “promises” had been made to treat Chagossians fairly which had yet to be fulfilled.

It is worth noting the Minister’s claim Chagossians received “substantial compensation” is quite misleading.

Initial compensation was delayed by many years, which hugely decreased its value owing to rampant inflation at the time in Mauritius. The delay also meant that many Chagossians had already fallen into debt and extreme poverty, meaning the limited compensation they received was often used merely to pay down debts to unscrupulous loan sharks. There were also considerable questions over how this money was distributed, with private go-betweens used rather than any direct distribution system.

Later compensation in the 80s was also hugely controversial, as it was available only on the condition Chagossians renounced their right to return on their homeland. The agreement was printed in legalistic English and many Chagossians, who had little or no knowledge of the English language, have reported this condition was never explained.

Not only was compensation not “substantial” then, it was grossly unfair and terribly administered.

Let’s be very clear; this compensation is in no way a substitute for justice.

Read the full Hansard text of the House of Commons questions below. 

 

Chagossian Resettlement
Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office
11:30 am
Commons debates
28 Oct 2014

Henry Smith (Crawley, Conservative)

What progress his Department has made with the British Indian Ocean Territory Chagossian resettlement feasibility study; and if he will make a statement.

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

The independent feasibility study on resettlement of the British Indian Ocean Territory is on track to report by January 2015. Ongoing consultations with interested parties, including Chagossians, are taking place so that all relevant facts are considered in the analysis of the practical costs and risks of resettlement.

Henry Smith (Crawley, Conservative)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Given upcoming negotiations on extending the military base on Diego Garcia with the United States, may I have assurances from the Department that the interests of the Chagos islands people will be very much part of those discussions with Washington?

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

That is precisely why we have commissioned the KPMG report. The way that the Chagossians were treated following their removal in the ’60s and ’70s was

clearly wrong, and substantial compensation was rightly paid. We welcome the US presence in Diego Garcia. It is an increasingly important asset for both our Governments, but there have been no formal discussions with the US about the possibility of extending the exchange of notes to date.

Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East, Labour)

I met 60 members of the Chagos community in my constituency on Friday—a faithful people but without the right to return they once again feel that will not adequately mourn their dead as they approach All Hallows next week. Their elders are passing away without having recorded their stories of displacement, and their young are finding it increasingly difficult to find salaried employment or to visit their friends in Crawley and other places across the country. They also worry about us ceding sovereignty. Does the Minister agree that we should be doing more for those people, rather than less?

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

I assure the hon. Gentleman that there are no issues of any sort about ceding sovereignty—we should deal with that point straight away. The draft KPMG report, which we were not obliged to undertake, will be out on 17 November, and thereafter there will be time for all those who have been consulted to make such points before the final report early next year. That is why we have included the Chagossians in the testimony.

Peter Tapsell (Father of the House of Commons; Louth and Horncastle, Conservative)

A previous Father of the House and great friend of mine, Sir Bernard Braine, was a passionate advocate of the rights of the inhabitants of Diego Garcia when the whole idea of turning it into a base was launched. In his memory, may I say that I very much hope that the guarantees that he received from the British Government of the time about looking after those people will be fulfilled?

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

My right hon. Friend is right to remind the House of our responsibilities towards the Chagossians, and as I said earlier, the actions of the ’60s and ’70s were clearly wrong and substantial compensation was rightly paid. It is worth pointing out that the British High Court in 2008, and the European Court in 2012, ruled that the compensation was a full and final settlement of the Chagossians’ claims.

44th Meeting of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group – Co-ordinator’s Summary

Posted in APPG, CCT, Diego Garcia, FCO, Parliament, Phillip Hammond, resettlement, USA on October 16th, 2014 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

Photo: Gail Johnson

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 44th meeting on 15 October.

As the new Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Minister for Overseas Territories (OTs), James Duddridge, had felt that he was not yet ready to meet the Group Prof. Charles Sheppard, Chairman of the Chagos Conservation Trust and his colleagues Alistair Gammell and John Turner, who had requested a meeting in July, attended the first part of the meeting.

The Vice Chairman (Henry Smith MP standing in for Jeremy Corbyn MP) welcomed the representatives of the Chagos Conservation Trust (CCT) and looked forward to hearing about its work. The conservation and environmental aspects of resettlement were discussed. Members were pleased to note that while the CCT mandate was to protect the unique environment of the Chagos Islands, CCT was not opposed to resettlement. Prof. Sheppard and his colleagues thought that Diego Garcia was well suited and ecologically sensible, given the available facilities and infrastructure there, though this was a decision for politicians. Members drew attention to the benefits of resettlement for conservation and the types of employment that Chagossians could undertake, especially on Diego Garcia. They agreed to keep in touch with CCT.

The Group then went on to discuss the Parliamentary Questions (PQs) and Questions since the last meeting on 15 July. Members noted that on 4 September Mr Duddridge had said in reply to a PQ that “he expected officials to begin substantive discussions with US colleagues about post-2016 arrangements later this year, as the conclusions of the feasibility study on resettlement of Chagossians begin to become clear”. It was also noted that in a letter in mid August to the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) Mr Duddridge had stated that “The 1966 Exchange of Notes provides for a two-year window (December 2014-December 2016) during which we can decide whether and on what terms to extend the agreement with the US for a further 20 years. We are clear that we will consider all aspects of US presence in any discussions on this, and the Government will of course reinforce our expectations on permitted US use of the territory.” The Group felt that US co-operation and assistance in resettlement was necessary and an obvious condition for extending the agreement. The Group would engage the FAC on the renewal of the 1966 agreement.

As KPMG’s September report was received just prior to the meeting it was not possible to consider it in detail. However the Group was pleased to learn that KPMG would submit a first draft of their study to the FCO in mid November which would be circulated to “stakeholders” the following week. Members reiterated that they expected Parliament to debate the study before Ministers made decisions on it.

Members considered the Chairman’s letters, on behalf of the APPG, to the new Foreign Secretary and to Mark Simmonds, then Minister for OTs. It was decided to renew the invitation to Mr Duddridge (successor to Mr Simmonds) to meet the Group at its next meeting.

Legal developments were considered. It was noted that the decision of the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) that Environmental Information Regulations applied to BIOT by virtue of the extension of English law to BIOT in 1983, had not been appealed by the FCO. The Group saw this as significant progress for freedom of information. This would facilitate the work of researchers making requests for environmental information held by FCO/BIOT. The Group was also informed of the decision to grant legal aid to the Chagos Refugees Group in pursuit of their claim to the Supreme Court that the House of Lords majority verdict in 2008 had resulted from an apparent breach of the duty of candour by officials.

The next meeting will be on 3 December.

Parliamentary Questions on the Chagos Islands

Posted in Parliament, Uncategorized on September 28th, 2014 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft has continued his interest in the alleged use of Diego Garcia in rendition.

Libyan politician Abdel Hakim Belhadj has claimed that he tortured by US military forces in Thailand and on the way the aeroplane he was aboard stopped in Diego Garcia to refuel. In late 2013 the UK High Court judged that although Mr Belhadj had a “well-founded claim,” owing to national security concerns, a UK court case could not proceed.

The full question and answer can be found below.

Diego Garcia
House of Lords
Written Answers on 26 Sep 2014

Lord Ashcroft (Conservative)

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Warsi on 28 July (WA 249), whether they will now answer the question as tabled.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Conservative)

The United States is our most important bilateral ally and we have regular discussions on a range of sensitive issues. It is our longstanding position not to comment on discussions of that nature. With regard to Mr Belhaj allegedly stopping over in Diego Garcia, I refer the noble Lord to the response given by my noble friend, the former Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Baroness Warsi), on 17 June 2014, Official Report, Column WA36, that, aside from the two cases of rendition through Diego Garcia (British Indian Ocean Territory) in 2002, there have been no other instances in which US intelligence flights landed in the UK, our Overseas Territories, or the Crown Dependencies, with a detainee on board since 11 September 2001.

Below is the earlier question to which Lord Ashcroft refers:

Diego Garcia
House of Lords
Written Answer
28 Jul 2014

Lord Ashcroft (Conservative)

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the United States sought to use Diego Garcia as a stopover
for the rendition of Abdel Hakim Belhadj; and, if so, what was the outcome.

Baroness Warsi (Conservative)

I refer the noble Lord to the response I gave on 17 June 2014, Official Report, Column WA36, that,
aside from the two cases of rendition through Diego Garcia (British Indian Ocean Territory) in 2002,
there have been no other instances in which US intelligence flights landed in the UK, our overseas
Territories, or the Crown Dependencies, with a detainee on board since 11 September 2001.

Parliamentary Questions on the Chagos Islands

Posted in Diego Garcia, FCO, Parliament on September 8th, 2014 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

With Parliament now reconvened, James Duddridge, the new Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for British Overseas Territories, has had his first opportunity to answer questions on the Chagos Islands.

Interestingly the Minister states that negotiations on the future use of Diego Garcia by the US military will start “later this year, as the conclusions from the feasibility study on resettlement of Chagossians begin to become clear.” It should be noted the final conclusions of the KPMG feasibility study on Chagossian return are not expected until next year.

Asked about what payments the UK Government would receive in the event of a continuing US military presence on Diego Garcia, Mr Duddridge confirmed that there is no formal “lease” but rather a bi-lateral agreement. In answer to a further question from Conservative MP Charlotte Leslie, the Minister claimed that US military presence on Diego Garcia remains a “vital part of the Anglo-American defence relationship.”

…………………………………………………………………………………
Diego Garcia
Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Written Answers
4 Sep 2014

Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what payments the Government would accrue from extending the lease for use of Diego Garcia by the United States for a further 20 years.

James Duddridge (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Rochford and Southend East, Conservative)

There is no lease of Diego Garcia to the United States military under which a rent is charged. The use of the British Indian Ocean Territory (including Diego Garcia) is regulated by a series of bilateral agreements between the UK and US covering a period of fifty years. I expect my officials to begin substantive discussions with US colleagues about post-2016 arrangements later this year, as the conclusions from the feasibility study on resettlement of Chagossians begin to become clear.

……………………………………………..

Diego Garcia
Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Written Answers
4 Sep 2014

Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the potential security benefits of the UK’s ability to use Diego Garcia as a military base after the current lease for use of that territory by the US has expired.

James Duddridge (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Rochford and Southend East, Conservative)

The 2012 White Paper, ‘The Overseas Territories-Security, Success & Sustainability’ made clear the strategic importance of our Overseas Territories, which give Britain a global strategic reach in support of our international objectives. The US Base on Diego Garcia represents a vital part of the Anglo-American defence relationship, remains a significant strategic asset for the UK and has previously been used for UK military operations.

House of Commons

British Indian Ocean Territory
Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Written Answers
1 Sep 2014

Andrew Rosindell (Romford, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if his Department will place in the Library a copy of the commercial tuna-fishing licences sold by the British Indian Ocean Territory Government in 2010.

James Duddridge (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Rochford and Southend East, Conservative)

Copies of the commercial tuna-fishing licenses from 2010 were deposited in the Library of the House on 21 July 2014.

……………………………………………..

43rd Meeting and AGM of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group – Co-ordinator’s Summary

Posted in APPG, conservation, FCO, Philippa Gregory, USA on July 24th, 2014 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

Photo: Gail Johnson

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 6th Annual General Meeting (AGM) and 43rd meeting on 15 July 2014. The meeting which was to have taken place prior to the AGM with the FCO Minister Mark Simmonds MP, was postponed at the last minute due to the arrival at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the new Foreign Secretary.

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

Parliamentary Questions (PQs) and Questions which had been answered since the Group’s last meeting on 5 June were considered. Members were surprised to learn that the Government received no revenues from the sales of .io domains and noted that this had been contradicted by the International Computer Bureau (ICB) Chief. Lord Avebury had tabled a further Question on the financial arrangements with the ICB.

The Group discussed the KPMG monthly reports for May and June on the progress of the feasibility study. They were concerned that the initial consultations with the Chagossians in Mauritius, Seychelles and Crawley did not appear to have gone well and that this could lead to delay. They urged both the FCO and KPMG to ensure that the grievances and aspirations of Chagossians were considered as well as the technical aspects of the conditions in which some would want to resettle permanently in the Islands. Members did not feel that to proceed by way of questionnaires was the best way forward. The Group took note that in answer to a PQ Mr Simmonds had said that the feasibility study should be complete by early January 2015. Members were of the view that the study, including the extension of the 1966 UK/US Agreement on the use of BIOT, should be debated in Parliament before Ministers made final decisions on resettlement.

A request from Prof Charles Sheppard, Chairman of CCT and his colleagues to make a presentation to the Group on the conservation aspects was agreed – their last presentation to the Group had been in December 2010. Also at her request a meeting with Dr Philippa Gregory would be arranged.

The next meeting of the Group will be on 15 October 2014, preceded by the postponed meeting with Mr Simmonds, if available.

Notice of an Extraordinary General Meeting

Posted in Uncategorized on July 6th, 2014 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

The UK Chagos Support Association will hold an extraordinary general meeting on Sunday 10 August at Pizza Express, 48 Moreton Street, Pimlico, London SW1V 2PB, at 2pm, for the election of officers, and annual business.

Opponents of Chagos Islands resettlement again honoured in Queen’s Birthday Honours list

Posted in APPG, CCT, conservation, FCO, Legal, MPA, resettlement, Uncategorized on June 30th, 2014 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

The new Chairman of the Chagos Islands Conservation Trust (CCT), Professor Charles Sheppard, has been awarded an OBE in the recent Queen’s Birthday Honours list. In the Mandrake column published by The Daily Telegraph journalist Tim Walker suggested that this would be unwelcome news to most Chagossians and their supporters, as the CCT and Charles Sheppard have been opponents of resettlement (although it now takes a “neutral” position with regard to resettlement).
Prof Sheppard is not the first opponent of Chagossian resettlement to receive a national honour from the Queen in the recent past. Last year fellow Chagos Island Conservation Trust member Simon Hughes received an MBE whilst a Foreign Office Legal Adviser, Dereck Walton, received an OBE.
Commenting in the Daily Telegraph article, Chagos Islands APPG Coordinator David Snoxell stated that

“Three honours lists in a row have honoured individuals – nominees of the FCO – who, in their different capacities, opposed resettlement. At a time when progress is being made on a resettlement feasibility study commissioned by the FCO, this sends the wrong signal. Acknowledging conservation is important, but not when it trumps the human rights of an exiled people.”