July 2007 update

  • We are deeply disappointed at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s decision to ask leave to appeal to the House of Lords – at the latest possible moment. This is their fourth appeal and justice delayed is justice denied.

  • We were overwhelmed by the number of supportive and encouraging messages in the wake of the FCO decision. One lady in Yorkshire said she was up to her ankles in water because of the floods but “at least my ankles are on my own land in my own country!” Another said “The description of Diego Garcia by the American Services as the “Footprint of Freedom” should really be “the Bootprint of Brutality”.

  • The FCO said the Foreign Secretary decided to appeal because “the judgment raises issues of constitutional law of general public importance that, in her view, would adversely affect the effective governance of all British Overseas Territories. This would include confusion in the legal system to be applied in those Overseas Territories, and potential conflicts between local and English courts. For these reasons, the Foreign Secretary thought it to be in the public interest that the effect of the Court of Appeal’s judgment, even if correct, should be clarified.” If the Lords accept the appeal, it is not likely to be heard before next year.

  • The Foreign Affairs Committee today announced a new inquiry into the Overseas Territories, focusing on:
    – Standards of governance
    – The role of governors and other Government-appointed officials
    – The work of the Overseas Territories Consultative Council
    – Transparency and accountability
    – Regulation of the financial sector in the Overseas Territories
    – Procedures for amendment of the constitutions of Overseas Territories
    – The application of international treaties, conventions and other agreements to the Overseas Territories
    – Human rights
    – Relations between the Overseas Territories and parliament

  • There was extensive and moving coverage last month of the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War. The current governor of the Falklands, Alan Huckle, strongly asserted the rights of the Islanders to decide their own future. Once upon a time he was in charge of BIOT (Chagos) at the Foreign Office – but did nothing to protect the Chagossians’ human rights.

  • We have been reminded by one of our Trustees that Tristan da Cunha was most successfully resettled after their (rather shorter) exile. Every effort was made by the UK government to support their return and an MP was given special responsibility for this.

  • News from Hengride Permal and the Chagos Island Community Association in Crawley:
    Over 200 Chagossians and their supporters celebrated the Appeal Court victory with a party – lots of Sega music and dance to the live sound of Ti Claude.
    Immediately after the Lords appeal was announced, Hengride and a delegation handed in a letter and petition to the new Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street.
    On 21 July an all-day community event was held by the CICA with a barbeque, football, volleyball and face painting. Also a dance presentation by the Chagos Island Youth Club.

  • Human rights group Reprieve recently held a meeting to discuss mounting evidence that Diego Garcia had been used for the ‘processing’ of prisoners in the so-called war on terror. Despite the seriousness of this mounting evidence and repeated requests, the UK government has failed to further investigate, instead relying on US assurances that no detainees have passed through Diego Garcia. Reprieve is addressing this worrying failure with further investigation and pressure on the government. Please get in touch with Chloe Davies at chloe@reprieve.org.uk with relevant information and ideas.

  • Jacques Aristide is making a documentary film focusing on the Chagossians who have started to settle in the UK after a life of poverty in Mauritius. It will also cover the history of Chagos and the deportation; some coverage of the legal battles and a wide ranging group of interviewees. We look forward to seeing this.