Friday, 20 March 2015

UN ruling raises hope of return for exiled Chagos islanders

UN ruling raises hope of return for exiled Chagos islanders

Britain acted illegally, say judges in scathing ruling that upholds Mauritius’s rights and restricts US ability to expand ‘rendition’ air base on Diego Garcia

diego garcia
 Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Chagos archipelago and site of a major US military base leased from Britain in the 1970s, when the local inhabitants were forced to leave. 

Britain acted illegally in the way it has exercised territorial control over the Chagos Islands, a UN tribunal has ruled, raising questions over the UK’s claim to sovereignty and offering hope of return to hundreds of evicted islanders.

In a withering judgment, the UK is accused of creating a marine protected area (MPA) to suit its electoral timetable, snubbing the rights of its former colony Mauritius and cosying up to the United States, which has a key military base – allegedly used for the rendition of terrorist suspects – on the largest island, Diego Garcia. 

The ruling effectively throws into doubt the UK’s assertion of absolute ownership, restricts the Americans’ ability to expand their facility without Mauritian compliance and boosts the chances of exiled Chagossians being able to return to their homeland.

A dissenting opinion from two of the five judges on the permanent court of arbitration at The Hague is even more scathing, stating that “British and American defence interests were put above Mauritius’s rights” both in 1965 when the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) was established and in 2010 when the marine zone, which involves a ban on fishing, was set up.

The ruling, which was made under the 1982 United Nations convention on the law of the sea to which the UK is a signatory, is binding. It torpedoes the status of the MPA and orders the UK and Mauritius to renegotiate. By coincidence, the government this week declared another marine protected area around Pitcairn Island in the southern Pacific.


The five-judge panel found that the creation of the MPA, announced by the former foreign secretary David Miliband in the final months of the last Labour government, breached its obligations to consult nearby Mauritius and illegally deprived it of fishing rights.

The US was “consulted in a timely manner and provided with information”, all five judges state, whereas a meeting with Mauritius in 2009 reminded the tribunal “of ships passing in the night, in which neither side fully engaged with the other regarding fishing rights or the proposal for the MPA”. 

The government of Mauritius will view the judgment as a resounding victory, vindication of its ultimate right to sovereignty over the archipelago and confirmation that it must be consulted about future developments on the islands.

The UK has promised to return the Chagos Islands to Mauritius when they are no longer needed for defence purposes.

Mauritius has argued that the UK illegally detached the Chagos archipelago from Mauritius in 1965 – before the country was given its independence – contrary to UN general assembly resolution 1514, which specifically banned the breakup of colonies prior to independence.

The judgment declares: “The United Kingdom’s undertaking to return the Chagos archipelago to Mauritius gives Mauritius an interest in significant decisions that bear upon the possible future uses of the archipelago. Mauritius’ interest is not simply in the eventual return of Chagos archipelago, but also in the condition in which the archipelago will be returned.”

Relations between the UK, Mauritius and the Chagossians have been fraught ever since the 1,500 islanders were removed to make way for the US base in 1971. 

The judgment refers to a disputed US telegram that records a meeting with British officials in 2009 in which one is alleged to have said: “BIOT’s former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos archipelago were a marine reserve”.

The ruling also confirms that in an exchange of notes between Washington and London during 1966 “kept secret at the time, the United States agreed to contribute £5m to the costs of establishing the BIOT, to be paid by waiving United Kingdom payments in respect of joint missile development programmes”.

Prof Philippe Sands QC, of Matrix Chambers, who was lead external counsel for Mauritius, said: “This is a historic and far-reaching judgment: for Mauritius, for Africa, for the international rule of law. It offers hope that Mauritius and Britain will be able to move forward to bring to an end an unhappy legacy of colonialism in the Chagos archipelago and Diego Garcia. It opens the door to a return to legality, in relation to matters of sovereignty and the conservation of a remarkable environmental space.” 

Sabrina Jean of the Chagos Refugees Group in the UK said exiled islanders were now focused on the outcome of a study being conducted by the accountants KPMG on behalf of the Foreign Office.

“Our case is fighting for the right of return of the Chagossian community. We are focused on the feasibility study and what was said in it, and they have said that Chagossians could return. It depends on the study, but we are quite confident that a fair resettlement can be done. As we’ve always said, we Chagossians are ready to go.” 

If there were to be a fair resettlement offer, she said, some of the Chagossians would definitely wish to return home, while others would want to visit the islands make up their minds.

The main judgment says: “The UK has not been able to provide any convincing explanation for the urgency with which it proclaimed the MPA on 1 April 2010,” and suggests that its “haste” was “dictated by the electoral timetable in the United Kingdom or an anticipated change of government”.

It adds: “Not only did the United Kingdom proceed on the flawed basis that Mauritius had no fishing rights in the territorial sea of the Chagos archipelago, it presumed to conclude – without ever confirming with Mauritius – that the MPA was in Mauritius’ interest.” 

The two dissenting judges, James Kateka and RĂ¼diger Wolfrum, go further, referring to “language of intimidation” used by the then colonial secretary in the 1960s. 

The two judges observe that: “The 1965 excision of the Chagos archipelago from Mauritius shows a complete disregard for the territorial integrity of Mauritius by the United Kingdom, which was the colonial power. 

“British and American defence interests were put above Mauritius’ rights. Fast forward to 2010 and one finds a similar disregard of Mauritius’ rights, such as the total ban on fishing in the MPA. These are not accidental happenings.” 

In effect, they find that the UK does not have sovereignty because the archipelago should never have been separated from Mauritius. The other three judges say the tribunal does not have jurisdiction to resolve this aspect of the issue.

In 2013, a spokesman for David Miliband told the Guardian: “The marine protected area has been a great step forward and went through all proper government processes.”

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the tribunal found there was no improper motive in the creation of the MPA. There is no question about UK sovereignty in the British Indian Ocean Territory; as the legitimate power, the UK is committed to working with neighbouring states, including Mauritius, to ensure proper conservation management of the marine protected area.”

“We will now work with Mauritius to explore how its fishing ambitions are compatible with conservation in the territory.”

Poisoned waters

The declaration of a Marine Protected Area around remote Indian Ocean atolls must have appeared to the world at large to be an unqualified environmental benefit when first announced by Gordon Brown’s government in 2010. 

But in the poisoned diplomatic waters surrounding the Chagos Islands, it only served to arouse suspicions that the colonial power had devised a new excuse for excluding Mauritian fishermen and preventing the return of exiled islanders.

At the heart of UK and US interests in what it known as BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territory) lies the island of Diego Garcia, a military outpost of crucial strategic significance.

BIOT was established in 1965 out of islands claimed by Mauritius. In the early 1970s, the UK government began clearing the plantations, deporting the Chagossians and clearing the land for a naval and air base to be leased to the United States military. 

The gradual prising open of official files by this case and other court challenges has revealed a history of Foreign Office calculation and condescension epitomised for critics in the phrase “Man Fridays ” – deployed to undermine the notion that Chagossians were native to the islands.

Thursday, 12 March 2015


in Business Questions today @JeremyCorbyn raised the question to@ William Hague 
He implied that no decision was likely:


Jeremy: Last week I raised with the Leader of the house the question of a statement by the government on the future of the Chagos Islands in respect of the Feasibility of Return report that’s been done.
He’ll be pleased that tomorrow I am attending a meeting at the Foreign Office with Mr Olivier Bancoult, the leader of the Chagos Refugee Association.
Will he please ensure that between now and the dissolution of this parliament the government does make a statement on what its policy is on the right of return to allow the historical wrong of the expulsion of the islanders from those islands to finally be put right as was promised by his government at the start of this parliament, a decision to be made in this parliament. There is a week to go.

William Hague: Well, the hon member is a longstanding champion of this cause and very assiduous at pursuing it
As he knows and we’ve discussed this before, there’s been a very extensive report, a report I initiated when I was Foreign Secretary, a major report on the feasibility or otherwise of habitation of the Chagos Island, or parts of the island that is being considered very seriously by the government and I don’t think I can guarantee to the Honourable Gentlemen there’ll be a statement on that before the dissolution of parliament given that we’ve almost arrived at the Dissolution, I can tell him that the government is giving, at the highest level, detailed consideration to that report but when a decision will be made, I do not know.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Cost of ressettlement evicted islanders could be £420m

The Chagossian community have been in forced exile from our own land for almost fifty years. We have been living in poverty and struggling for our return for all this time. We are ready to resettle to the islands.

How much money has the UK government spent in other countries defending the rights of other British citizens? And where has the money for fishing licences gone and the money from the US government for the lease of Diego Garcia?

Presenting the costs of resettlement without the context of our removal from the islands and treatment at the hands of the British government is dishonest.

 The resettlement process flows from the recognition of the right of return – a fundamental Human Right – of the Chagossian people to their homeland. 

The requirements and costs (economic opportunities, infrastructure development, support services) are, on balance, a small price to pay for repairing the immeasurable wrong done and therefore have to be borne.  

The Chagos resettlement project, based on Human rights promotion and sustainable development combined with environment (sea, land, air) protection, subscribes to the principles and ideals that we all want the world to abide by, in particular the two world powers directly concerned: UK and USA . First and foremost, UK for historical reasons, which explains why the responsibility and cost of establishing and maintaining the resettlement lie with the UK Government

It is our right to return to our homeland. So, Let us return!

     Sabrina Jean

   Website :
Chagosrefugeesgroupuk branch

Parliamentary Question: Review of Feasibility Study

11th February 2015

Henry Smith (Crawley, Conservative) "To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, what contingency plans her Department is making regarding the potential resettlement of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) following the Government's feasibility study for the resettlement of BIOT."

Desmond Swayne (The Minister of State, Department for International Development; New Forest West, Conservative) "The KPMG independent Feasibility Study on resettlement of BIOT has concluded and will be published by the Government shortly. A Policy Review, led by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, will now be undertaken, carefully considering the study’s factual findings and all available options regarding the future of the British Indian Ocean Territory."

Friday, 30 January 2015

Chagosfootball team need a sponsor

Please give your support to the ChagosFootball need They need a sponsor 
What the Team need

With your help, the Chagos Islands football team will be able to train regularly, play official matches, and tell the world, “Let Us Return!” Ultimately, the team hopes to play in the next World Cup for national teams that are not recognized by soccer’s international governing body (FIFA). 

Your contribution will help them

- Travel Costs for Matches in the UK and Europe 

- Practice Field Rental Fees 

- Match and Tournament Entry Fees

- Chagos Islands Football Team Warm-up Tracksuits

- Training and Match Balls 

- First Aid Kits 

We have our donate page on the
Click on  Donate  go to sport fund and donate to the Team

Saturday, 24 January 2015

The price for Justice: Ressetlement of the chagos Island

In over forty years of exile, the people of the Chagos Islands have yet to see justice. Now, the hopes of the Chagossians are pinned to a study commissioned by the U.K. government—a study the Chagossians hope will be the answer they need to take them home. 

The Chagossians are the indigenous people of the Chagos Islands or British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) – a chain of over 50 islands in the Indian Ocean. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Chagossians were forcibly removed from their homeland by the U.K. and U.S. governments and dropped on the shores of the Seychelles and Mauritius with no money or support. A U.S. military base was established on the island of Diego Garcia and is today one of the most strategically important U.S. military bases in the world. 

The U.K.-commissioned feasibility study – a draft of which was released this November – is intended to help determine whether resettlement is feasible. In addition to the study the U.S. and U.K. governments have just entered into a two-year negotiation period on whether to extend the informal lease of Diego Garcia to the U.S., an agreement that holds considerable bearing on whether the Chagossians might return home. 

The draft feasibility study focuses largely on the financial cost and environmental impacts of resettlement. Three options were considered: large-scale resettlement of approximately 1,500 Chagossians at about £413.9 million (roughly $625.9 million) over six years, resettlement of around 500 people at £106.9 million (roughly $161.4 million) over four years and resettlement of 150 people at £62.9 million (roughly $95.1 million) over three years. 

While the costs that would be incurred through resettlement are explained in great detail, the ways in which the costs can be offset are mentioned only in passing. Below are three important ways that the costs of resettlement could be managed in order to allow Chagossians to return home and achieve at least some semblance of justice. 

1)  Eco-tourism

The Chagos Islands are part of what is currently the largest no-take marine protected area in the world so a high-end eco-tourism industry could be very lucrative for the Chagossians. The island country of Palau derives a majority of its annual GDP from the tourism and eco-tourism industry at millions per year. The Chagos Islands could be set up as prime destinations for those interested in exploring islands with little human influence. This could generate a strong source of income for the Chagossians and offer many areas for employment. 

2)  .io

One of the largest potential “cash crops” for the Chagossians is the .io domain name that is associated with the Indian Ocean territory and which has become popular with tech companies. The domain name of .tv brings millions of dollars per year to the people of Tuvalu. Likewise, profits from .me benefit the people of Montenegro. Currently, the .io profits are going to the U.K. government but if the Chagossians were able to return, the profits would go to them – potentially providing millions of dollars to support resettlement. 

3)  Reparations

Possibly the single most important thing to consider when looking at the potential costs for resettlement of the Chagossian people to their homelands is the reparations due to them for their decades of undue suffering. This should be central to the conversation on how to pay for and sustain a resettlement of the islands. 

A study conducted by anthropologist and American University professor, David Vine, Rutgers University Professor of Law and Economics, Philip Harvey, and Senior Research Associate at Johns Hopkins University, S. Wojciech Sokolowski found that damages owed to the Chagossian people fall between $5.4 billion and $13.2 billion from 1970-2008. 

The highest cost estimate of the feasibility study found that large-scale resettlement of around 1,500 people would cost approximately $625.9 million over six years. For the roughly 5,000 Chagossians living today – a people who were exiled from their homes in a brutal campaign, who lost their land, their income, the connection to their ancestors buried on the islands, and their cultural heritage, and who have suffered for decades in exile, often in extreme poverty – $625.9 million seems a small price to pay for justice. 

As negotiations between the U.K. and the U.S. governments regarding the U.S. military base begin, it is imperative that U.S. officials work a resettlement option into the agreement. The U.S. government has yet to take any responsibility or provide compensation for the injustice done to the islanders. While the violence committed against the Chagossians cannot be undone, the U.S. government can take steps toward mitigation of those crimes. This includes full resettlement of all of the Chagossian people who wish to return. This also includes substantial reparations through resettlement assistance and continued aid as the islanders rebuild their communities. 

Rohricht is a graduate student in the Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs program in the School of International Service at American University.