Supreme Court hears Chagossian calls to back their right to return

Supreme-Court-of-UK-001The Supreme Court will hear evidence on Monday in a major new case related to the UK-ordered deportation of the Chagossian people in the early 1970s. Chagossians were forced from their Chagos Islands homeland so a US military base could be built on Diego Garcia, as part of a deal which saw the UK receive a discount on the Polaris nuclear weapons system.

This new case appeals the 2008 Law Lords decision which supported the legitimacy of the Government’s use of Royal Prerogative in 2004 to ban Chagossians from returning to their homeland. This effectively nullified a High Court verdict several years previously which condemned the deportation as illegal and restored Chagossians right to return. You can watch the case live via the Supreme Court website.

In the case before the Supreme Court on Monday, however, Chagossians, led by Chagos Refugee Group President Oliver Bancoult, will argue the 2008 verdict must be declared invalid.

Two major factors undermine the legitimacy of the 2008 verdict, Chagossian representatives will argue. Firstly Chagossians’ lawyers have claimed that it has since emerged that appropriate documents were not disclosed to them in the 2008 House of Lords Appellate Committee case.

The use of a 2002 feasibility study into Chagossian return in the 2008 case has also called the verdict into question, as this study has since been widely discredited as highly flawed.

A significant number of UK-based Chagossians are expected to accompany Oliver Bancoult to the Supreme Court on Monday. A verdict in favour of the Chagossians’ appeal would be a huge
milestone in their decades-long struggle to win the right to return home.

Similarly, a defeat for the Government could have a major impact on Government policy. A Government-commissioned feasibility study into Chagossian return reported last year. Despite reporting their were no fundamental obstacles to return, the Government failed to respond fully to the report before the election as Ministers had indicated they would.

Commenting on the historic case, our Patron Benjamin Zephaniah stated that “”I’m optimistic the court will see sense and recognise previous Government attempts to prevent Chagossian return have been totally illegitimate and undemocratic.”

“Regardless of the verdict though, the Government has a great opportunity to deliver a measure of justice by supporting Chagossians right to return home. Not only is it the obviously right thing to do, a Government-commissioned feasibility study has just this year confirmed it is possible.”

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