Third time lucky?
This week, the Chagos islanders were in court for the third time fighting for the right to live on their homeland.
The Government put forward its arguments on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and the Islanders are waiting for their turn on Monday 12th.
While we wait, let’s take a look back over how the islanders’ rights have been kicked around over the years:
Let’s not forget that the right to live on these islands is one that the islanders were born with. It was stripped from them for the first time between 1965 and 1973, when they were tricked, coerced and forced into leaving their islands, and dumped without help on the docks in Mauritius and the Seychelles.
They won back the right to return in 2000, after taking the Government to court. The High Court declared the eviction illegal.
After a few years of the Government doing nothing to support a return (and in fact obstructing a return through “feasibility studies” that might better have been called “unfeasibility studies”), the Government decided in 2004 to use secret royal orders to overrule the High Court and renew the eviction. Parliament and the public were told casually about this a few days later.
So it was that the islanders found themselves back in court for a second time to fight for a right that they were born with, and had already had to win back once. In 2006 the High Court overturned the ridiculous Orders in Council and the right to return was restored.
But the Government wasn’t going to let a little thing like two High Court rulings stop it from trampling on people’s rights. So here we are in 2007, with the Government appealing last year’s ruling, and the islanders, forty years on from their eviction, still waiting for justice.
Third time lucky? That depends on two things – what the judges decide, and what dirty tricks the Government has left up its sleeve.