Latest Chagos All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting - Coordinator's Summary

Thanks are due as ever to Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group Coordinator David Snoxell for the below summary of their latest meeting.

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-party Parliamentary Group held its (virtual) 80th meeting on 2 December. PQs, Questions and Answers since the last meeting on 21 October were reviewed. It was noted that Lord Ahmad had replaced Baroness Sugg who had resigned. The Group welcomed the return of Lord Ahmad who had been the previous Overseas Territories Minister.

The Group was provided with an update on legal developments in the Horeau and Bancoult case which was still awaiting permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. It was noted that if the Supreme Court refused permission the case could return to the ECtHR. In 2012 the ECtHR decided that it did not have jurisdiction. Since the ICJ Advisory Opinion had held that Chagos was "part of the territory of Mauritius" the ECtHR could now decide it had jurisdiction to hear the case. The possibility of a case going to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity was discussed. Members felt that it was a shocking prospect for Parliament, Ministers and officials who would be named. The FCO could have avoided this situation and the mounting litigation by negotiating an overall settlement with Mauritius and the Chagossians and they should now do so.

It was also highly damaging to the UK's human rights record and support for the rule of law. A recent article in the New Statesman on the 75th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials cited HMG's refusal to allow the Chagossians to return to their homes from which they were unlawfully deported.

Recent correspondence between the Chairman and the Foreign Secretary was considered. A response was awaited to the main issue raised by the Chairman, namely the need for a radical rethink of policy towards resettlement and the future of the Chagos Islands in the light of the ICJ Advisory Opinion and the UNGA resolution endorsing it. It was decided to invite Lord Ahmad to meet the Group, as he had done when he was the Minister in 2017. The Chairman reported that the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee was in favour of the FAC conducting an inquiry into the Chagos Islands and resettlement (the last was in 2008).

Members discussed the recent relaunch of the FCDO's Chagossian Support Package and noted the statement by Olivier Bancout, President of the Chagos Refugees Group, rejecting it. The Group recalled the statement it made on 16 November 2016 following a meeting with 3 ministers which set out its regret at the Government's decision to reject resettlement and its disappointment with the Package which should not become a substitute for and distraction from resettlement. Its views had not changed. It was also noted that in over 4 years the FCO had failed to spend more than a fraction of the package. What had been spent was mainly on heritage visits to Chagos which in any case had been taking place since 2007.

It was agreed that the correspondence of the APPG should be publically made available annually on Richard Dunne's website. The House of Commons Library had declined to be a repository because these documents fell outside the parameters of the Library's Collection Development Policy. The same applied to the Parliamentary Archives.

Three Members and the Coordinator said they planned to participate in the zoom conference on 5 December of 'Chagossian Voices', a grassroots organisation of Chagos Islanders in the UK who are hoping to share the views, voices and stories of Chagossians.

The next meetings of the APPG will be on 27 January and 24 March 2021.

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