6 months on from UN General Assembly deadline, Chagossians still waiting for justice

The UN General Assembly

Six months ago today the UN General Assembly voted that the Chagos Islands should be ceded by the UK to Mauritius. They also indicated that the UN would work with all parties to develop a programme to support Chagossians waiting to return.

The UN General Assembly motion, passed by a majority of 116-6, followed an International Court of Justice verdict which found the creation of the British Indian Ocean Territory (the official name for the Chagos Islands) to have been illegitimate in international law. More on both the judgement and the vote here.

But six months on, Chagossians are still waiting for the right to return to their homeland.

The UK government has shown no indication it is willing to change policy on the Chagos Islands, recently issuing a statement dismissing Mauritian sovereignty claims. A statement which made no reference whatsoever to the Chagossian people.

The UK government statement also notes neither the UN General Assembly or ICJ verdict are officially legally binding.

Meanwhile the newly elected Mauritian government have been reportedly planning a trip to the Chagos Islands, unsanctioned by the UK authorities, which will include a number of Chagossians. The Mauritian government has branded the UK an "illegal colonial occupier" of the Chagos Islands.

Chagossians in Mauritius, led by Chagos Refugees Group, are today protesting outside the British High Commission.

"The dispute then leaves the Chagossian people waiting – once more – for justice. Today Chagossians will be on the streets calling on the UK to finally deliver a belated measure of justice," stated UK Chagos Support Association Vice Chair Stefan Donnelly

"We need to stand with them and all Chagossians fighting for justice. There are a variety of opinions in the Chagossian community on the future of the islands, but Chagossians are united in demanding their fundamental right to live on their islands and recompense for over fifty years of abuse and neglect. And the ultimate decision on the future of the Chagos Islands must be in the hands of the Chagos Islanders."

"All governments and international bodies involved need to work together to prioritise Chagossians’ right to return. The UN General Assembly and International Court of Justice (ICJ) verdict highlighted the vicious treatment of Chagossians to the wider world. Chagossians can not wait any longer."

"And regardless of the outcome, the UK government will still have serious responsibilities to the Chagossian people. Chagossians living here now suffer unfair costs and restrictions when accessing citizenship, for example, as a direct result of the deportations. This needs to be resolved now."

"The government also needs to do more to deliver a promised £40m Support Package annouced three years ago, of which less than 1% has so far been delivered."

Chagossian Reaction

In reaction to the announcement, several Chagossian community figures spoke with the media. These are the comments made which we're aware of.

Speaking to Seychelles News Agency about the above mentioned protest, Olivier Bancoult, leader of Chagos Refugees Group, stated that:

"This peaceful demonstration is intended to show the discontent of the Chagossians and Mauritians at Britain's refusal to respect the United Nations resolution, adopted on May 22, and giving her six months to end the illegal occupation of Chagos."

Both Allen Vincatassin, leader of Chagos Islands and Diego Garcia Council, and Sabrina Jean, Chair of Chagos Refugees Group in the UK, also spoke to broadcaster RT UK.

Both emphasised the need to give priority to the needs of Chagossians, while have different views about the immediate future sovereignty of the islands.

Sabrina Jean also spoke with Talk Radio about the decision. During this interview, Mrs Jean also discussed her work with the Chagos Islands National Football team, alongside the team's recently appointed manager.

Further reaction

Our own Vice-Chair Stefan Donnelly also spoke with France 24 about the issue.

Meanwhile there was significant political reaction, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn committing to support Chagossians right to return and to respect the UN General Assembly vote calling on the UK to cede the Chagos Islands to Mauritius.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson though indicated that there would be know change to existing government policy, commenting that "'We obviously dispute the claims that are made and we will continue to make those to vindicate our position in international law."

Coordinator of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group David Snoxell wrote to The Times shortly after the decision, calling on the next government to change course. He states that "The next government must bring an end to this humanitarian tragedy, which continues to undermine our reputation for upholding the rule of law and human rights."

Mr Snoxell also gave his reaction to Mauritian publication Weekly. In a previous edition, he had also outlined his opinion of how the dispute could be resolved diplomatically.

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