Chagos All-Party Parliamentary Group latest meeting: Coordinator's Summary
Thanks are due as ever to David Snoxell, coordinator of the Chagos Islands All-Party Group, for the below summary of the group's latest meeting.
The Chagos Islands (BIOT) APPG held its 74th meeting on 22 May 2019 which coincided with the debate in the UNGA on the draft resolution concerning the Advisory Opinion (AO) of the ICJ. It had earlier been decided that a meeting with Lord Ahmad would be more informed after the debate and vote on the resolution was known. The Minister would be invited to the following meeting.
Members considered the exchanges between Patrick Brady, (Vice Chair) and the FCO minister Harriet Baldwin on 14 May and Baroness Whitaker's (Vice-Chair) written Question on 15 May. It was noted that Lord Ahmad's Answer had stated "we do not share the ICJ's approach" and that this implied a disagreement with the ICJ's process rather than on substance.
The Group discussed the written ministerial statement (wms) to Parliament of 30 April and felt that it contained several unjustified claims, such as only a bilateral dispute, the role of the US base regarding terrorism, piracy, organized crime, humanitarian assistance and that these functions were only possible under UK sovereignty.
It was noted that the Group had repeatedly asked for a meeting with Lord Ahmad so that the Minister could hear the views of the APPG before decisions were made on the ICJ AO. The Minister had declined to attend the last meeting on 24 April but 6 days later issued a wms rejecting the ICJ AO, thus repeating the same scenario as under his predecessor in November 2016 when a wms was issued rejecting resettlement. Members wondered what was to be gained by a meeting with a minister if their views were always ignored. Members took note with approval of the letter of I May from the Leader of the Opposition to the Prime Minister and looked forward to seeing her reply.
Members welcomed the draft UN resolution L.84Rev1, sponsored by Senegal on behalf of the Group of African States which endorsed the AO, "demands that the UK withdraw its colonial administration from the Chagos Archipelago unconditionally within a period of no more than six months from the adoption of the resolution" and "urged the UK to cooperate with Mauritius in facilitating the resettlement of Mauritian nationals, including those of Chagossian origin in Chagos and to impose no impediment or obstacle to such resettlement". The Group felt that the UK was obliged under international law to implement the AO.
The resolution was subsequently adopted by 116 in favour, 6 against (UK, US, Australia, Hungary, Israel and Maldives), 56 abstentions and 15 did not vote. In anticipation of this crushing defeat the Group felt that the resolution was a victory for the rule of international law and human rights. It was noted that an FCO minister did not go to New York to make the UK statement which was instead given by the Permanent Representative. Mauritius was represented by its Prime Minister who had met Jeremy Corbyn (Hon President of the APPG) in London on his way to New York.
The Group considered a letter from its legal adviser, on behalf of the Chagosians, to President Trump and fully endorsed its content. It was agreed that the US Ambassador would be invited to discuss the issues with the Group.
The next meeting will be on 17 July.