Supreme Court verdict: Media coverage
Despite being one of the busiest weeks in recent political history, the Supreme Court verdict on Chagossian resettlement attracted widespread media attention and political support.
The case was challenging a decision made by the Supreme Court's predecessor, the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, which found in 2008 that a 2004 law forbidding Chagossians from living in their homeland was legal.
The fresh challenge was mounted following evidence that key information had not been available to the judges in the prior case. The information in question related to doubts around the credibility of a study that suggested resettlement of the Chagos Islands was unfeasible.
The court case was narrowly lost 3:2 - though there is cause for optimism.
Please read our verdict on the case here.
You can also read the All Party Parliamentary Group’s response here.
Here’s how it was reported on by the mainstream media:
Al Jazeera (video above): UK denies Chagos Islanders the right to return home
Al Jazeera produced a short video outside the court, stating “they have lost a battle but the war is far from over”.
The report includes a clip of Richard Gifford, the lawyer on the case, explaining that while this particular judgement ruled against them:
“All five judges have concluded that the [Chagos Islanders] should not have had their right of abode taken away from them”.
The BBC reported on the narrow majority rule of 3:2, adding that this was the same slim majority that upheld the exile in 2008.
The report included a series of quotes from a variety of supporters of Chagossian resettlement.
Ben Fogle said “this fight for justice will continue - and grow”.
UKIP MEP James Carver was quoted, saying "this moral injustice continues to be a stain on our history."
Owen Bowcott, the Guardian’s legal affairs correspondent, reported on the case, adding Olivier Bancoult’s statement that the ruling was “not the end of the road”.
He added a quote from that Richard Gifford:
“Resettlement is perfectly feasible and fervently desired by the Chagossians. Given the acquiescence of the US and the support of Mauritius, this injustice can no longer be sustained.”
Bowcott rounded up with a quote from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office:
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court was clear that additional documents would have not made any difference to the outcome of the case in 2008 and ruled in favour of the UK government.
“We remain committed to our current review of resettlement and will continue to keep parliament, Chagossians and their supporters closely informed of progress on the issue.”
David Vine, author of Island of Shame - the authoritative account of Chagossian history - launches a tirade against the ongoing exile of Chagossians.
In reference to this particular case, Vine summarises neatly:
“While the dismissal and initial news coverage suggests a crushing defeat, the majority opinion surprisingly supports Chagossians’ hopes for a return. In his ruling, Lord Jonathan Mance pointed to a 2015 British government funded study by consulting firm KPMG that found Chagossian resettlement on Diego Garcia and elsewhere in Chagos feasible. “Logically the [resettlement] ban needs to be revisited… If British officials refuse “to support and/or permit resettlement,” Mance said, a Chagossian could challenge such a decision “as irrational, unreasonable and/or disproportionate.”
“Following the Brexit vote and approaching [American] Independence Day, British and U.S. citizens should understand the importance of ensuring that all peoples enjoy the democratic rights Chagossians have been denied for so long. Our two governments must heed Chagossians’ simple demand to “let us return.”
Jan Colley reported “the islanders were contesting a 2008 decision which dashed their hopes of returning to their native islands”.
Colley includes a concise but informative summary of the history of the case and of the suffering of the Chagos Islanders.
The ITV report includes a powerful video of Olivier Bancoult announcing to the press after the verdict:
“We are asking for justice, we are asking to correct the injustice - and it is time for the UK Government to put an end to all our suffering”.
Russia Today gave a very neat summary of the trial:
“Thursday’s ruling… is the latest setback in the islanders’ struggle for justice, however they have not been deterred by the decision”.