Thanks as ever to David Snoxell, coordinator of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group, for the below summary of the group's latest meeting. Issues discussed include the recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) verdict, future legal challenges and the government's response to renewed questioning.
UK Chagos Support Association also extends our welcome to the three new members of the All-Party Group: Liberal Democrat Tom Brake, Labour MP John Groganm Conservative MP Sheryll Murray and Crossbench peer Lord Carington.
Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting: Coordinator's Summary
The Chagos Islands (BIOT) APPG held its 73rd meeting on 24 April 2019. New members Lord Carrington, John Grogan,Tom Brake and Sheryll Murray were welcomed to the Group which now numbers 55.
The Group considered the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion (AO) of 25 February which had been referred by the ICJ to the UN General Assembly. The AO had concluded that the detachment of the Chagos Islands from Mauritius in 1965 was illegal under international law, that the UK's continuing administration of the territory was unlawful and that the UK was therefore required to end its administration of the Archipelago in order to complete the decolonisation of Mauritius. Members discussed the numerous Parliamentary Questions (PQs), debates and interventions on the issues arising from this new situation. They were frustrated that many of the Answers to PQs had evaded the questions and merely repeated the same standard lines of the past which were no longer relevant to the questions posed. But they accepted that while policy was evolving it was a difficult situation for government. Members expected that by now a new policy would have been formulated as it was already two months since the ICJ had delivered its Opinion.
Members were of the view that HMG had to respect and implement the AO. Lord Ahmad, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Minister responsible for Chagos had been invited by the Chairman to the meeting to discuss FCO plans for implementation but unfortunately he had to decline as he would be travelling. Members were keen to put their views to the Minister before policy decisions were taken, not afterwards, as had happened on a previous occasion with his predecessor.
They considered that an agreement with Mauritius was the key to progress and were pleased to note that Mrs May had invited the Mauritian Prime Minister to No Ten on 18 March for a preliminary discussion. They understand that it had been agreed that an FCO Minister would visit Mauritius and that a draft resolution endorsing the AO was being circulated to the UN General Assembly. They hoped that it would be possible for both the UK and Mauritius to co-sponsor that resolution which is expected to be debated in May. Lord Ahmad would be invited to the next APPG meeting on 22 May. It was agreed that at later meetings the US Embassy and the Mauritian High Commission would be invited to discuss the issues with the Group.
It was reported to the meeting that following the rejection of the judicial review at the Divisional Court (Bancoult 5) an application to appeal to the Court of Appeal had been lodged by both the parties, which was in part based on the ICJ AO.
Members took note of the summary of a workshop of international lawyers on the AO held at the Lauterpacht Centre in Cambridge, 11-12 April.
The next meeting will be at 430pm on 22 May.