December 2012 update


The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 32nd meeting on 5th December 2012. The Chairman welcomed a new member, Henry Bellingham MP who is the fifth former FCO Minister with responsibility for BIOT or the Indian Ocean to have joined the Group.


Members considered legal developments since the last meeting on 17 October. They noted that the Judicial Review of the MPA had been postponed to March to allow the FCO more time to prepare their case, in view of additional pleadings agreed by judges on 13 November, concerning traditional fishing rights and the requirement under the EU Treaty for social and economic development of the OTs. The Group also discussed the Mauritius case at ITLOS which would be heard by a Tribunal next July. Until these cases were resolved it was difficult to see how the MPA, declared on 1 April 2010, could progress. The Group discussed ways in which these issues might be resolved through diplomacy and compromise, such as providing Mauritius with a role in the MPA and the Chagossians with a designated fishing zone, as is provided for the Pitcairn fishermen in the forthcoming Pitcairn marine reserve.


The Group also considered the implications of the Information Commissioner’s Decision that the BIOT Administration was subject to FOIA and EIRs. There seemed to be no good reason why the FCO should want the BIOT Administration, which is part of the FCO, to be immune from freedom of information and disclosure of environmental information. It was possible that the FCO would appeal to the First Tier Tribunal. The Chairman said he would table a further PQ on the subject.


The FAC meeting (postponed to 11 December) concerning the Overseas Territories White Paper, at which the new FCO Minister Mark Simmonds would be questioned, was discussed. Andrew Rosindell, the Vice Chairman of the Group, would be raising various issues regarding the section in the WP concerning BIOT.


The Group discussed the 1966 UK/US Exchange of Letters, due for renewal in 2014. It was felt that this provided a golden opportunity to discuss with the US an overall settlement of the issues and that the sooner these discussion began the better.


Lord Avebury’s intervention in the Lords debate on piracy in the Indian Ocean on 24 October was discussed. He had proposed that following up the meeting between the two prime ministers of 8 June, and once the court cases were out of the way, discussions between the UK and Mauritius on the future of the Chagos Islands should take place. Since Lord Avebury had received an unsatisfactory reply to his proposal during the debate it was suggested that he should write to the Minister concerned.

The next meeting of the APPG will be on 13 February 2013. As Philippa Gregory and the Comite Chagos were unable to meet the Group on this occasion it was agreed that they should do so before the next meeting.


There were several parliamentary questions this month.  On the 12th December, long time Chagossian supporter and APPG Chairman Jeremy Corbyn asked:


“To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 8 November 2012, on British Indian Ocean Territory, whether he accepts the recent decision of the Information Commissioner that his Department is the relevant public authority for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and environmental information regulations in respect of British Indian Ocean Territory.”


Mark Simmonds, FCO Minister for OTs:


“The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), accepts the Information Commissioner’s recent decision whereby the Information Commissioner’s Office accepts that the British Indian Ocean Territory is constitutionally separate and therefore not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (2000) or the Environmental Information Regulations (2004). However, the Secretary of State also accepts that British Indian Ocean Territory Administration information stored on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office systems in London is subject to the Freedom of Information Act and the Environment Information Regulations.”


On the 12th December Andrew Rosindell asked:


“To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much his Department has spent on contesting the Chagossian right to return to the British Indian Ocean Territory since 1999.”


Mark Simmonds:


“Legal costs incurred by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in defending cases on the Chagossian right to return to the British Indian Ocean Territory since 1998 total £1,956,408.56. These costs relate to the following cases:

1. R (Bancoult) v. Secretary of Stale for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 1):

2. R (Bancoult) v. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 2);

3. Chagos Islanders v. the Attorney General; and

4. Chagos Islanders v. United Kingdom.”



On the 17th December Andrew Rosindell:


“To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his US counterpart on the British Indian Ocean Territory,”


Mark Simmonds:


“I have not discussed the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) with my US counterpart. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and State Department Officials have regular discussions about all bilateral matters including the British Indian Ocean Territory. The most recent BIOT Pol-Mil annual talks were held in London in October.”


On  17 December  Andrew Rosindell:


“To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to develop the infrastructure of the British Indian Ocean Territory.”


Mark Simmonds:


“The UK has no plans to develop the infrastructure of the British Indian Ocean Territory.”


On the 18th December Lord Ashcroft:


“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of relations between the United Kingdom and each of the British Overseas Territory,”


 Baroness Warsi, FCO Minister:


“This Government places a great deal of importance on their relationship with the British Overseas Territories. In our June White Paper we set out a positive vision for the Overseas Territories-of flourishing communities, proudly retaining aspects of their British identity and creating new opportunities for young and future generations. On December 4 and 5, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, my honourable friend Mr Simmonds, chaired the first meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council between UK Ministers and political leaders from the Overseas Territories. Eight other UK Ministers participated in this and related meetings. At our meeting we agreed a communiqué
setting out joint priorities and action points (a copy is in the Library of the House). These include working together to promote trade and investment between the territories and the UK, to build the capacity of the territory public services, and to protect the environment. We will work in partnership with Territory Governments on these and report progress to the next Joint Ministerial Council and to Parliament.”






I would like to thank all our supporters who have helped and supported us throughout the year.  A special thanks to our Patron Philippa Gregory who has a massive interest in the Chagossians’ cause. I hope next year will be a very good year for the Chagossian cause.  The Chagos Refugees Group UK members and I wish all our supporters and UKChSA members a happy New Year for 2013.



On the 5th December the Council released a statement following a two day meeting at Lancaster House in London.  The full text of their statement can be found here but here is an extract of the press release:


“We share a vision for the Territories as vibrant and flourishing communities, proudly retaining aspects of British identity and generating wider opportunities for their people.

We are committed to a modern relationship based on partnership and shared values. We share a commitment to the principle and right of self-determination. The people of each Territory have the right to choose whether or not their Territory should remain a British Overseas Territory.”



Last year supporters from around the world signed a petition which was filed in April 2012 on the White House website.  We successfully attained over 30,000 signatures which guaranteed a response from the White House. The petition read:


The U.S. Government Must Redress Wrongs Against the Chagossians

For generations, the Chagossians lived on the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. But in the 1960s, the U.S. and U.K. governments expelled the Chagossians from their homes to allow the United States to build a military base on Diego Garcia. Facing social, cultural, and economic despair, the Chagossians now live as a marginalized community in Mauritius and Seychelles and have not been allowed to return home. The recent passing of the oldest member of the exiled population underscores the urgent need to improve the human rights of the Chagossians. We cannot let others die without the opportunity to return home and obtain redress. The United States should provide relief to the Chagossians in the form of resettlement to the outer Chagos islands, employment, and compensation.


We had started to wonder if their response was being sent by pigeon carrier or horse, but on 21 December (24 hours after the Strasbourg ruling which can surely be no coincidence) we finally obtained an anodyne response in the best of FCO style:


By Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary for European & Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon, and Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro.


Thank you for your petition regarding the former inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelago. The U.S. recognizes the British Indian Ocean Territories, including the Chagos Archipelago, as the sovereign territory of the United Kingdom. The United States appreciates the difficulties intrinsic to the issues raised by the Chagossian community.


In the decades following the resettlement of Chagossians in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United Kingdom has taken numerous steps to compensate former inhabitants for the hardships they endured, including cash payments and eligibility for British citizenship. The opportunity to become a British citizen has been accepted by approximately 1,000 individuals now living in the United Kingdom. Today, the United States understands that the United Kingdom remains actively engaged with the Chagossian community. Senior officials from the United Kingdom continue to meet with Chagossian leaders; community trips to the Chagos Archipelago are organized and paid for by the United Kingdom; and the United Kingdom provides support for community projects within the United Kingdom and Mauritius, to include a resource center in Mauritius. The United States supports these efforts and the United Kingdom’s continued engagement with the Chagossian Community. 

Thank you for taking the time to raise this important issue with us.


Sounds great, all that the UK and US are doing for the Chagossians. Except they seem to have overlooked one small point – allowing the Chagossians to return to live in their own homeland.



Earlier this month we were all devastated to learn of the untimely passing of Charlesia Alexis.  She was 79 years old.  Charlesia had devoted her life to the quest for justice for her community and had been a prominent figure for over three decades.  In the 2004 award winning documentary Stealing A Nation she can be seen here




Charlesia’s death means that in the space of just twelve months the community has lost two enormous figures of the battle for justice, coming almost exactly a year since Lisette passed away.  This should serve as a reminder to us that we all need to act with a little more urgency as time quickly runs out for the first generation of Chagossians.


The association would like to thank Charlesia for her dedication and courage and believe that while she may not have been fortunate enough to witness a return for her community, her efforts will inspire the generations which followed her to pick up the baton and continue the fight.  Rest In Peace Charlesia.




Just twenty-four hours after Charlesia’s death was announced, long time Chagossian supporter Dr Sean Carey called on the European Court of Human Rights to deliver its long awaited verdict.


Yesterday, Chagos Islanders in Mauritius, Seychelles and the UK learned that one of the stalwarts of the struggle for the right of return to their homeland, Charlesia Alexis, had died in Crawley. Charlesia’s birth certificate reveals that she was born at 8am on 8 September 1934 on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. So how had the 78-year-old woman ended up living in a council flat in West Sussex? It’s a long story.


In the 1960s at the height of the Cold War the US, fearful of what the Soviet Union would get up to in the Indian Ocean if it was left unchecked, selected Diego Garcia as the location for a base. Like some of her compatriots, Charlesia was prevented from returning to the Chagos Archipelago, part of the British colony of Mauritius, after she and the rest of her family had accompanied her husband to Port Louis to receive medical treatment in 1967. The rest of the 1,500 or so islanders were then forcibly removed by the British authorities between 1968 and 1973, and dumped at the quaysides in Mauritius and the Seychelles. The removal of an entire population was unprecedented. Little wonder that the late Robin Cook said that the episode was “one of the most sordid and morally indefensible I have ever known”.


The Court obliged, by giving their long awaited ruling  72 hours later…



As many of you will already be aware, earlier this month the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg finally delivered a ruling for our case.  The full ruling can be found here.  The court ruled that the case was inadmissible due to compensation being granted to some Chagossians in 1982.  This ignored the fact that many Chagossians did not accept any compensation and those who did were unaware that they were forfeiting any future right of return.  Our official response is contained below.



Following the European Court of Human Rights ruling, the UKChSA released the following statement:


The Chagossians and their supporters throughout the world are saddened and shocked that a 7 judge chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has after 8 years, by a majority ruling, decided that it does not have jurisdiction to give judgment on the case of the Chagos Islanders and that the case is therefore inadmissible. The Court concluded that the Chagossians had no right of individual petition.


The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights guarantees that no one shall be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment. It is obvious to all right thinking people that depriving the Chagossian people, for whom Britain was responsible, of their homes, livelihoods and homeland and deporting them 40 years ago, was a grievous violation of their fundamental human rights. This was compounded as late as 2004 by Privy Council Orders, a means by which Parliament was bypassed. The Orders overturned a November 2000 High Court judgment and the decision by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook to restore the right to return to the Outer Chagos Islands. It is inconceivable that Parliament would have agreed to deprive the Chagossians of this fundamental birthright.


What happened has been described by English courts as shameful, an abuse of power, repugnant, deplorable and unlawful. Strasbourg also concluded that this was “the callous and shameful treatment which they….suffered from 1967 to 1973, when being expelled from, or barred from return to, their homes on the islands and the hardships which immediately flowed from that”.  In 2008 two of the five Law Lords held that without the authority of Parliament these Orders were unlawful, anachronistic and against the principles of democracy. Lord Bingham, presiding, said that there was “no (other) instance in which the royal prerogative had been exercised to exile an indigenous population from its homeland”.


Now that the European Court of Human Rights has decided that it does not have jurisdiction we appeal to the Coalition Government to stand by their pre-election promises to bring about a just and fair settlement to one of the great tragedies of the twentieth century, perpetrated by the UK on the defenceless – the  brutal removal of an entire people from their homeland and  their  way of life, into a life of  exile, poverty and hardship. We expect our Government to reflect the British sense of fair play and to ensure that the same basic human rights apply to Chagossians, who are British, as apply to the people in the UK. As the Foreign Secretary himself has said “The British public expects its Government to act with moral integrity”.



The leader of the Chagos Refugees Group, Olivier Bancoult, issued the following statement on the 21st December:


On Friday, the 21st of December 2012, less than 48 hours after the European Court of Human rights has delivered its ruling on the inadmissibility of the application of the Chagos Islanders, the White House finally responded to the petition pertaining to the plight of the Chagossians. The response that purportedly took 8 months to prepare, was disappointing except for the fact that the Obama Administration has officially recognized the ‘hardship that they [the Chagossians] have endured’.


SPEAK Human Rights and Environmental Initiative (SPEAK) and the Chagos Refugees Group (CRG) note that, ‘[T]he United States appreciates the difficulties intrinsic to the issues raised by the Chagossian Community’, but deprecates its unwillingness to accept that it played an instrumental role in the deportation of the entire Chagossian Community.

First and foremost, the petition to the White House, did not address the territorial sovereignty of the Chagos Archipelago but the deportation of the indigenous population from their homeland, their continuing exile, ongoing sufferings and the need for the United States to provide for redress in light of its involvement. Therefore, the comment on territorial sovereignty is uncalled for, as it has no bearing to the subject matter of the petition.

The carefully crafted response shamelessly shifted the responsibility onto the United Kingdom and cleverly praised the latter for having ‘taken numerous steps to compensate former inhabitants for the hardships that they have endured (..) remains actively engaged with the Chagossian community(…)’ among many other measures. Obviously, if the United States had simply stated that the United Kingdom bears the sole responsibility, this could have jeopardized their diplomatic relationship and thus it was absolutely necessary to absolve the UK from further responsibilities. SPEAK/CRG note that the burden is shifted but caution has been exercised to ensure that the credibility of the United Kingdom is neither tarnished nor its responsibilities further engaged.

Fundamentally, SPEAK/CRG would like to highlight on the fact that, unlike as has been erroneously asserted by the Obama administration, only 230 Chagossians out of 1876 applicants were each given a sum of money. Apart from a few random exceptions, the majority of the Chagossians who are illiterate were not aware that the allocation of money was to be construed as compensation and a renunciation of the right to return. Furthermore, SPEAK/CRG would like to emphasize that all the Chagossians currently residing in the Seychelles have never obtained any sum of money.

SPEAK/CRG believe it necessary to reiterate that the Chagossian community is fully aware of the measures taken and the policies endorsed by the United Kingdom. SPEAK/CRG did not address a petition to the White House with the aim of being informed anew of the policies of the United Kingdom. The question put forward to the United States relates to its own responsibilities, the pressing need for the United States to accept its partaking in what could be described as the grossest of injustices and for the United States to make amends.

The United States cannot escape from its legal and moral responsibilities. While, the physical act of deportation was perpetrated by the United Kingdom, it is a well-known fact that it was carried out at the behest of the United States who required Diego Garcia to build its military base.
Historical documents also attest that the United States was unequivocal that despite the military base being built on Diego Garcia, the whole of the Chagos Archipelago must remain uninhabited. In December, 1970, the United States informed the United Kingdom that it was time to relocate the inhabitants as per the terms of their agreements.

Furthermore, the United States has repeatedly informed the United Kingdom that resettlement on the outer islands would be a threat to the security of the military base. In 2016 the 50 year US lease agreement shall expire but subject to a review on the defence needs. Yet according to the UK/US lease agreement, after the initial 50 years has lapsed, there is still the possibility of extending it for an additional 20 years.

The United Kingdom has more often than not stated that its bilateral agreement with the United States prevents it from considering resettlement.
The United States cannot choose to ignore its involvement in the deportation of the Chagossian Community from the Chagos Archipelago. Its failure to officially acknowledge the above fundamental fact will not alter history.

SPEAK/CRG note that the United States supports efforts of the United Kingdom especially its ‘continued engagement with the Chagossian Community.’ Yet, if the United States believes in integrity, transparency, truth, fairness and human rights, it must ensure that justice prevails by gracefully accepting its responsibility, embarking on dialogues with the Chagossian Community, attending to their requests and providing for redress to right this historical wrong.
Finally, as discussed and agreed in a joint meeting held on the 24th December 2012 with the Honourable

Dr Arvin Boolell GOSK Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade, SPEAK/CRG shall continue in its exchange of dialogues with the Government and appreciates the fact that the Government of Mauritius remains sensitive to the issue.
SPEAK/CRG would like to express their gratitude to all those people who support the Chagossian community and have signed the petition. We would like to reassure you that we shall spare no effort in reaching our goal.



As expected there has been much reaction to the news from Strasbourg.  Sabrina Jean was interviewed by ITV News.  This contact came as a direct result of our campaigning on the social networking site Twitter, as we were able to mobilise our supporters to contact people in the media once we were aware that a verdict was imminent.


In a statement issued by Minority Rights Group International, condemning the ruling and the British “colonial mentality” the Executive Director, Mark Lattimer said:


“Having expelled a whole people from their homes, the United Kingdom government is now washing its hands of all responsibility”….“The government has not even tried to defend what the Court today described as its ‘callous and shameful treatment’ of the islanders, but has simply relied on jurisdictional arguments.”

“The Court described the legislation in this area as a ‘colonial remnant’, but the UK has shown that it is still determined to pursue the colonial mentality.”

“The UK government is happy to defend the rights to self-determination of the Falkland Islanders, but when the Chagos Islanders appeal for protection from their government they are abandoned.”


The Guardian reported on the sad news later that day:


Although judges in lower British courts found unanimously in favour of the Chagossians’, in 2008 the Law Lords decided against their right of return by a narrow 3-2 majority.


“We brought this case 15 years ago. All of a sudden everything has been turned upside down. This is a very bad law. We just do not understand how this decision was made,” said Roch Evenor, Chair of the UK Chagos Support Association in London.


In a statement, the islanders added: “It is obvious to all right thinking people that depriving the Chagossian people, for whom Britain was responsible, of their homes, livelihoods and homeland and deporting them 40 years ago, was a grievous violation of their fundamental human rights.


“This was compounded as late as 2004 by Privy Council orders, a means by which Parliament was bypassed. The orders overturned a November 2000 high court judgment and the decision by foreign secretary Robin Cook to restore the right to return to the Outer Chagos Islands. It is inconceivable that Parliament would have agreed to deprive the Chagossians of this fundamental birthright.”


The BBC also picked up on the developments and included a response from William Hague, suggesting that he would “re-examine its policy of the resettlement”. The BBC said:


In its final decision, issued on Thursday, the ECHR said: “The court notably found that the heart of the applicants’ claims under the European Convention on Human Rights was the callous and shameful treatment which they or their antecedents had suffered during their removal from the Chagos islands.”


However, because the claims had been settled “definitively” in domestic courts, the applicants had “effectively renounced bringing any further claims to determine whether the expulsion and exclusion from their homes had been unlawful and breached their rights.”


The first legal proceedings by the Chagossians were settled in 1982 when the UK government agreed to pay £4m and provide land worth £1m.


Chagossians and their supporters said they were saddened by the latest court decision.”


The Telegraph opted to focus more on the British government’s response:


The Foreign Office argues that the islands are too small, lack sufficient fresh water and are too prone to rising oceans to support a viable community. Campaigners concede that it is unlikely that islanders would want to return full time to the archipelago, but argue that establishing their right to do so is crucial to correcting the injustice they and their forbears suffered.


Britain is likely to renew the current 50-year lease with the US, which expires in 2016, for another 20 years.


Dr Sean Carey wrote another piece in the Independent this time calling on William Hague to apologise to the Chagossians and to allow the islanders the right to return home:


For example, in March 2010 before the general election in May, Hague wrote in reply to a letter from campaigner: “I can assure you that if elected to serve as the next British government we will work to ensure a fair settlement of this long-standing dispute”. By August, the view had changed. An FCO official replied to a new letter from the same campaigner to the newly installed Foreign Secretary: “The Government will continue to contest the case brought by the Chagos Islanders to the European Court of Human Rights. This is because we believe that the arguments against allowing resettlement on the grounds of defence, security and feasibility are clear and compelling. And we do not see the case for paying further compensation as this has already been paid in full and final settlement of all claims. Both of these issues have already been decided by the UK courts”.


Hague, author of a critically acclaimed biography of anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce, would do well to ponder what the new judgement means for the 700 or so native-born islanders who are still alive. Many would like to live out their final days in the Archipelago. So would many of their descendants keen to escape the poverty and slum conditions in which they live in Mauritius and the Seychelles, as well as those now living in Crawley in West Sussex and other parts of the diaspora.


James Wan, the News Editor for Think Africa Press offered an optimistic note to proceedings, pointing out that the fight for justice continues:


Following today’s defeat at the ECHR, campaigners will be looking forwards to next year and another legal challenge – this one in UK courts and against the establishment of a controversial marine protection area around the islands, which a leaked cable suggests may have been set up with the intention of preventing the islanders to return.


As Lattimer pointed out, “The legal fight hasn’t finished. One major avenue may have come to an end, but the legal fight continues.”


And as Dugasse said following the ECHR ruling: “I will fight on until I die”.



We are still seeking more signatures for our Chagos Petition, which as always can be found here:







Derek Walton, Legal Counsellor at the FCO  has just been awarded an OBE in the New Years Honours List for his services to “human rights and diplomacy”. For the last few years Walton has led the legal team against the Chagos Islanders case at Strasbourg and in the English courts. This timing, 10 days after Strasbourg, is really a gratuitous insult to Chagossians and deeply ironical.  If any one should get an honour for services to human rights and diplomacy it should be Oliver Bancoult.



And so this brings us to the end of 2012.  I really wish this edition of the newsletter was one which offered happier news but it has been dominated by the death of Charleisa whose funeral will be held on the 4th of January 2013 at the Friary church Haslett Avenue, Crawley at 12.15 pm, and the ECHR ruling.  At this time of year we always look to the future with hope and optimism, but I must concede this has been a very difficult challenge to rise to. But we must remain hopeful that the Foreign Secretary will carry through his promise to revisit the FCO policy against resettlement and that politicians will use the ECHR ruling to seize the initiative from officials.


But amidst the ashes of the disappointments of recent days we have something to look forward to.  2012 has been the year when our social networking presence really took off and the efforts of our supporters on Twitter last week does offer much hope for the future.  The time has come to utilise our tools on that platform to even greater effect in 2013- the potential is there for all to see.  If we are to continue growing as a movement then we must accept that we are living in changing times.  This means we must adapt and seize the emerging opportunities.


Last week we lost a battle.  But the war goes on and as Sabrina told me only last week- “we will never give up”.


I would like to thank everyone for all of their support this year, following my succession to the role from Celia earlier this year.  I would also like to take the opportunity to thank our many supporters on behalf of the association for their tireless efforts.


All that is left for me to do is to wish you all a happy Christmas and a fantastic new year in 2013.  Enjoy the festivities, because in January we have a job to do.  The struggle continues.