UK Chagos Islands officials accused of Apartheid

Two Chagossians, Solomon Prosper and Bernard Nourrice, have filed a submission at the International Criminal Court accusing several key figures in the administration of the British Indian Ocean Territory of apartheid.

Prosper and Nouricce, both born on Diego Garcia Atoll, argue that by forcing the Chagossians to leave the Chagos Archipelago in the early 1970s and by passing laws preventing their return, resettlement and citizenship, the UK has pursued a racist policy that amounts to apartheid under international law. Under the Rome Statute of the ICC, apartheid is a crime against humanity which carries a sentence of up to life in imprisonment.

The submission lodged at the ICC focuses on the governance of the Archipelago by non-Chagossians and the oppressive legal structure that has prevented the Chagossians from returning to their homeland for over 50 years. The submission document argues that “the Chagos Archipelago is a ‘perfect’ case of colonial Apartheid in practice.”

Dr Jonathan Levy, the legal representative for the petitioners, explains that the claim is important as “the UK government will only change their position if extreme pressure is used.  An arrest and trial at The Hague of the BIOT officials for crimes against humanity (apartheid) is not only appropriate but necessary.“ Below, he speaks to RT about the case.

Sabrina Jean, chair of the UK Chagos Refugees Group said in an interview with Russia Today that she hoped the claim would allow the “Chagossian people to fight for their fundamental rights.” She also gave her thoughts to RT in a short interview.

The claim follows several positive legal developments in the Chagossians’ struggle for justice. In February 2019 the International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion that the UK was under a legal obligation to bring an end to its administration of the Chagos islands. This was affirmed in May 2019 by the United Nations General Assembly, who instructed the UK to withdraw from the Chagos Archipelago by November 22nd 2019. The UK government has ignored both the advisory opinion and the UN resolution.

The ICC Prosecutor’s Office will now decide whether to launch an investigation into the charge of apartheid. If successful, the figures named in the submission, including Ben Merrick, Commissioner for the British Indian Ocean Territories, and Commander Kay Burbridge, the British military representative at Diego Garcia, could be brought to the Hague for a criminal trial. 

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