UK accused of crimes against humanity
This follows a sequence of events which have ruled against the UK government position on the islands in 2019. First starting back in February when the International Court of Justice ruled that the UK decolonisation process of the Chagos islands was unlawful by a margin of 13-1.
Furthermore the United Nations passed a resolution in May by an overwhelming margin of 116-6 demanding the UK return control of the islands back to Mauritius within six months. Mauritius has stated throughout proceedings that their politicians were forced in 1965 to cede control over the islands in exchange for independence.
The UK government refutes the rulings, and claims the islands are still needed for defence purposes.
This six month deadline subsequently passed without any action from the UK, with tensions rising in the process including the Mauritian PM Pravind Jugnauth claiming they’d received verbal threats from the UK government on areas such as on trade and investment in order to back down on the issue.
Phillippe Sands, the lawyer representing the Mauritian government, has suggested that the UK government’s prevention of the indigenous population the right to return may be a crime against humanity.
In recent years the UK government has apologised over the handling of the Chagossian population, famously commissioning a £40million compensation package in 2016 and organising “heritage” trips to the islands.
Many Chagossians do not however see this as anything like recompense for decades of inhumane treatment. Olivier Bancoult, head of the Chagos Refugees Group, is boycotting the heritage visits saying “their dignity is not for sale,” as is Pierre Prosper, leader of the Seychelles Chagossian Association.
Vast numbers of the evicted population and their descendants continue to demand a right to return to their homeland, and even if this is not forthcoming, there is no doubt momentum is publicly building in their favour.
We urge the UK government to take this opportunity to finally deliver a belated measure of justice for Chagossians, by backing the right to return and the right of young Chagossians to access UK citizenship.
As for the future of the islands, the final decision should be for the people of those islands. Chagos Islanders. As to be expected, there is a variety of views amongst the community and we’d urge all governments to engage directly with the Chagossian community and make their human rights the number one priority in this dispute.