July 2011 update


The Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group held its AGM and 22nd meeting on 13 July.

The current office holders (Chairman – Jeremy Corbyn MP; Vice Chairmen – Lord Avebury, Lord Ramsbotham, Andrew Rosindell MP; Secretary – Andrew George MP) were re-elected. Henry Smith MP was also elected Vice-Chairman. David Snoxell and Richard Gifford were respectively re-appointed Coordinator and Legal Adviser. The Group took note of the progress that had been made since the general election and the evident desire of current Ministers to find solutions to the long standing issues concerning the future of the Chagossians and the Chagos Islands.
The Vice Chairman, Andrew Rosindell, reported on a meeting he and the Patrons, Chairman and Vice Chairman of UKChSA had had with the Foreign Secretary on 27 June and on a subsequent exchange of letters in which the Foreign Secretary had listed on-going initiatives and had expressed the hope that others would be possible. While the meeting had been positive and encouraging, as were the proposed small projects, Mr Rosindell had appealed to the Foreign Secretary to go beyond the constraints of official briefing and deal with the fundamental issues of the right to return and resettlement. In opposition both Coalition parties had expressed a determination to work for a just and fair settlement. The Government had already had more than a year to find an agreeable solution. Members of the Group asked when the all-party meeting, to which the Foreign Secretary had agreed in early May, would take place. The Chairman said he would remind Mr Hague.
The Group considered the Chairman’s letter to the US Ambassador of 10 June, proposing a meeting with the Group to discuss any potential defence security issues over resettlement. Since no reply had yet been received the Coordinator was asked to remind the US Embassy.
The Group also considered the Chairman’s letter to the Chairmen of the Public Administration and Foreign Affairs Select Committees concerning the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Commissioner with regard to the Overseas Territories. The Group agreed that the Chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Human Rights should also be seized of the issues.
The Group discussed the ECtHR’s (Strasbourg) judgment of 7 July on the Al-Skeini case (that the UK was responsible under the European Convention for the human rights violations of its soldiers against civilians, since the UK had control and jurisdiction in Iraq at that time). The disposal of the Al-Skeini case cleared the way for the Court to consider the Chagos Islanders case and this was expected in the autumn.The Group felt, however, that this judgment had such important implications for the Government’s case in Strasbourg that it would be prudent, and much cheaper for the taxpayer, for the UK to withdraw from the case and settle out of court.
The next meetings of the APPG will be on 7 September and 19 October.
David Snoxell


Meeting with William Hague (Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs). An account from UKChSA website:

In a historic meeting on Monday the British Foreign Secretary met representatives of the Chagos people who were expelled from their islands more than forty years ago.
Foreign Secretary William Hague invited the Chagos representatives to a meeting following May’s Chagos Regagné conference on the possibility of a science station and eco-village on Chagos. Ben Fogle and Philippa Gregory, patrons of the UK Chagos Support Association, accompanied chair Roch Evenor and vice chair Marcus Booth to the Foreign Office where they were welcomed by Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell, who expressed his support for their cause.
Philippa Gregory opened the meeting by describing the Chagos Regagné conference. The Chagos people had been interested in the scientific papers on the value and the pristine nature of the reef, she said, and the scientists, conservationists and reef experts had mostly agreed that an eco-village on one of the outer islands could provide a base for Chagos people visiting their homeland and working on conservation projects. She acknowledged that there were strong feelings on both sides but stressed that there was a consensus for conservation and for the Chagos people to return.
Mr Hague reminded the meeting of various projects currently funded by the government which he said demonstrated the government’s goodwill to the Chagos people. He also cited projects in other overseas territories which he said demonstrated the government’s interest in and commitment to overseas territories. But he warned that some aspects of the right to return could not be discussed while the case against the government was before the European Court of Human Rights.
Mr Rosindell asked if there was a possibility of an out-of-court settlement. Mr Hague said the government saw this case, which should be heard this year, as a test case on the court’s ability to rule on the British overseas territories. Philippa Gregory remarked that she saw no obstacle to progress on the idea of an eco-village and science station while the case was going on. The matter will have to be resolved sooner or later, she said, underlining the sense of urgency among the Chagos people, whose campaign will continue whatever the result of the court case.
Ben Fogle spoke strongly about the publicity campaign, which so far has focused on seeking the government’s support – in line with its pre-election promises. If progress was not made on that front, the campaign would continue, he said, as there is increasing public interest, and his commitment to the campaign would go on.
Mr Hague mentioned the Science Advisory Group which has met once and will meet again in September. Miss Gregory asked if there could be Chagos representation on the group, and the Foreign Office officials were concerned about there being proper representation. Roch Evenor explained that he had convened an umbrella organisation which covers all Chagos groups in the UK, and which could nominate proper representatives.
The officials said that Diego Garcia was mentioned as a possible site for a science station and Miss Gregory said that the Chagos people would welcome that as a site for the Chagos eco-village, which might give Chagos people work opportunities as well as solving issues about fishing, communications, and safety. Mr Rosindell asked Mr Hague to find out whether the Americans had serious views against a return of the Chagos people. Mr Hague remarked that the US was a premier ally with important treaty
obligations. Andrew Rosindell pressed this point, saying that when he had visited Washington he had not heard it mentioned that the US wanted to exclude the Chagos people.
As the meeting was, ending Mr Hague again stressed the government’s continuing goodwill, citing visits and courses that have been organised. Miss Gregory raised the issue of British Citizenship and explained the problem caused by the loophole in the law acknowledging the rights of Chagos people. She gave Mr Hague a briefing note and told him of the hardship and distress that this problem is causing to large numbers of people. She cited figures of 600 people affected by the problem in Mauritius (according
to Olivier Bancoult), and Roch Evenor said there were 68 in the UK. Mr Evenor was able to give Mr Hague a list of UK Chagossians who are experiencing difficulties. Mr Hague said that resolving this issue would probably require a change in the law.
The meeting wound up. Roch Evenor and Philippa Gregory felt that Mr Hague was genuinely sympathetic and that progress is being made. The next step is to get Chagos people on the Science Advisory Group so that they can be included in any discussion of a science station, and any proposed station includes a green village for Chagos people.

The small projects initiated by the FCO and fine words about the ‘government’s continuing goodwill’ are a valiant attempt to put themselves in a good light but do nothing to address the real problem of justice for the exiled Chagossians.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office: John McManus has replaced Joanne Yeadon as the British Indian Ocean Administrator. Should you wish to let him know your views on the Chagos situation, his email address is john.mcmanus@fco.gov.uk or write to him at Room K218, FCO, King Charles Street, London SW1A  2AH


House of Lords
Written answers and statements, 28 June 2011
Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Labour)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what regard they gave to the requirement of judicial impartiality in appointing as Arbitrator in the current Chagos Islanders case a person associated with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and to that person’s role in appointing an official who is involved in the case on the side of the British Government.
Lord Howell of Guildford (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Conservative)
I assume the noble Baroness is referring to the arbitration proceedings brought by Mauritius under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, in which Mauritius is challenging the appointment of Sir Christopher Greenwood, a judge of the International Court of Justice, as one of the arbitrators. The challenge is being considered by the tribunal and therefore it would be inappropriate to comment, other than to confirm that the Government have no doubt whatsoever about Sir Christopher’s integrity and suitability for this appointment.


A letter from Richard Gifford, solicitor for the Chagossians, 8th July on the implications of the Al-Skeini case for the Chagossians:

Dear Friends,

Yesterday was an important day. The ECtHR finally gave a judgment in the case of the Iraqi civilians killed by the British Army in the war in Iraq (Al-Skeini v UK). The Court decided in July last year that the Chagos case must await the decision of the Grand Chamber (18 judges) in Al-Skeini v UK. They believed that some principles were the same, relating to the circumstances in which the Convention on Human Rights could operate outside of Europe to restrain the acts of Government agents such as the army.

The result was a fundamental statement that the obligations and rights of the Convention operate wherever a Convention State takes upon itself the control of territory or persons outside of Europe. The UK’s claim that this would operate outside of the “Espace Juridique” of the Convention was roundly dismissed. The Court said:

“(iii) Conclusion as regards jurisdiction

149. It can be seen, therefore, that following the removal from power of the Ba’ath regime and until the accession of the Interim Government, the United Kingdom (together with the United States) assumed in Iraq the exercise of some of the public powers normally to be exercised by a sovereign government. In particular, the United Kingdom assumed authority and responsibility for the maintenance of security in South East Iraq. In these exceptional circumstances, the Court considers that the United Kingdom, through its soldiers engaged in security operations in Basrah during the period in question, exercised authority and control over individuals killed in the course of such security operations, so as to establish a jurisdictional link between the deceased and the United Kingdom for the purposes of Article 1 of the Convention.”

The question of “effective control” determines whether the UK has jurisdiction over the victims, and the Court answered this point in the broadest way. At para 161, the Court adopted what is called a “purposive approach” i.e. you first ask what is the purpose of the ECHR and then see how to interpret the rules to give effect to that purpose. It said:

“162. While remaining fully aware of this context, the Court’s approach must be guided by the knowledge that the object and purpose of the Convention as an instrument for the protection of individual human beings requires that its provisions be interpreted and applied so as to make its safeguards practical and effective.”

Two judges went even further. In a concurring opinion Judge Bonello held that arbitrary state boundaries should not operate to exclude responsibility for violations. He said:

“9. The founding members of the Convention, and each subsequent Contracting Party, strove to achieve one aim, at once infinitesimal and infinite: the supremacy of the rule of human rights law. In Article 1 they undertook to secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Convention. This was, and remains, the cornerstone of the Convention. That was, and remains, the agenda heralded in its preamble: “the universal and effective recognition and observance” of fundamental human rights. “Universal” hardly suggests an observance parcelled off by territory on the checkerboard of geography.”

The Court however left open the question which arises in the Chagos islanders’ case concerning the extension of the Convention to the “colonies” (defined as the “overseas territories for whose international relations the European State remains responsible”).Under Art 56 there is a distinct regime for extending the Convention. It requires the European State to notify the Council of Europe that it will apply the Convention to such territory. The UK says it never extended the Convention to BIOT as such, but it did apply the Convention to Mauritius in 1953 when Chagos was part of Mauritius, and of course the UK has always remained responsible for BIOT’s international relations, (save only that Mauritius claims to be the sovereign power – this gives rise to an interesting argument that the Art 56 regime does not arise, and we are dealing only with Art 1 jurisdiction – which is even better for Chagossians). The Court said:

“140. The “effective control” principle of jurisdiction set out above does not replace the system of declarations under Article 56 of the Convention (formerly Article 63) which the States decided, when drafting the Convention, to apply to territories overseas for whose international relations they were responsible. Article 56 § 1 provides a mechanism whereby any State may decide to extend the application of the Convention, “with due regard … to local requirements,” to all or any of the territories for whose international relations it is responsible. The existence of this mechanism, which was included in the Convention for historical reasons, cannot be interpreted in present conditions as limiting the scope of the term “jurisdiction” in Article 1. The situations covered by the “effective control” principle are clearly separate and distinct from circumstances where a Contracting State has not, through a declaration under Article 56, extended the Convention or any of its Protocols to an overseas territory for whose international relations it is responsible (see Loizidou (preliminary objections), cited above, §§ 86-89 and Quark Fishing Ltd v. the United Kingdom (dec.), no. 15305/06, ECHR 2006-…)”.

Here the court is saying that the Colonial extension system does not stop the Convention travelling overseas to any country where the European State exercises effective control, since the two systems are distinct. This is helpful since in the Quark case, the Court (in a preliminary ruling without full discussion) suggested that the two systems were mutually exclusive. It is also helpful that the Court drew a distinction between the “historical reasons” which gave rise to the Art 56 regime (i.e. the local govt of e.g. Mauritius had to be ready to accept the obligations of the Convention as it did in 1953) and the “present conditions” which led the Court to lay down a broad test for responsibility wherever “effective control” was exercised.

More generally the tone of the Al-Skeini judgment is strong and clear, giving a wide test for effective control, and dismissing the technical arguments of the UK who tried to limit their responsibility to the continent of Europe with only the tightest extension overseas in very limited circumstances.

Overall, the news from Al Skeini is good for Chagossians. Despite the outstanding arguments on the law and facts, I think their supporters have some cause for optimism. If the Court had ruled the other way, Chagossians would have had a harder case to argue. The Clarion call from Strasbourg (all 18 judges in unison) is to warn the UK that all persons under their control deserve protection. This will make the UK’s attempts to argue for “implied evaporation” (my term for the Hoffman analysis) of fundamental rights on the independence of Mauritius look like evasion. The point which Chagossians can deploy in their case is that after Chagossians were endowed with the Fundamental Rights of the Convention in 1953, those rights attached to People, and could not therefore evaporate with the changing status of the territory. Al Skeini has shifted the focus from a jurisdiction that is primarily based on territory to one that protects Persons.

Richard Gifford.

The Government had argued that it was not subject to human rights obligations for events that occur outside UK borders. That should take your breath away!


From Roch Evenor (Chair of UKCSA)

The “Comité  Chagos” is an amalgamation of three of the four groups here in the UK, namely the CRG, CICA and Seychelles Chagossian Social Committee. Its aim is to support and assist all Chagossians and to represent them wherever and whenever possible. The committee was given its mandate by all adult Chagossians after a General Assembly Meeting. We feel that our “Right of Return” is paramount and that we shall strive to achieve this noble objective and then, when the right time comes, we shall have a democratic election and let all the Chagossians decide who should lead them. Even though Comité Chagos is now the biggest group here in the UK, we will not be forming a ‘government in exile’!


In Mauritius, Dr Laura Jeffery organised a workshop.

This took place on Sunday 10th July and was called “Chagos – Archipel Durable” (Chagos – Sustainable Archipelago). The title is borrowed from the Mauritian Government’s current environmental programme called “Mauritius – Ile Durable” (Mauritius – Sustainable Island). Laura tells us:

There was an illustrated introduction to the biodiversity and ecological significance of the Chagos Archipelago; a debate about the meaning of the concept of ‘sustainable development’; four interactive roundtable discussions on the themes of marine resources, terrestrial resources, infrastructure, and heritage; a response from Olivier Bancoult; and the workshop resolutions. I’ve drafted a workshop report and am awaiting input from the other participants, after which a PDF will be circulated.

Ifield Community College Choir

Last month the choir performed two concerts with the BBC singers and their teacher, Patrick Allen, said:

The two events went really well – as did the recordings and broadcast on Music Matters on Saturday. Friday’s event was a very special and exciting concert for us at school, and the concert and recording at Maida Vale was a fantastic experience for everyone. We were really grateful to the BBC for treating the students so well – and taking them seriously as people – and as performers. The recordings are being mixed down and I’ll keep you updated about what happens.

I was pleased that the Music Matters feature got to the heart of what we’re trying to do, and was not coy about foregrounding the Chagossian youngsters, or the political context. Also that it was in such a highbrow context! (Schoenberg, opera, the Met etc). That showed real RESPECT to the young people I thought.

Janet Tubbs sent us this enthusiastic account:

On Saturday 17th June I was lucky enough to hear about a concert being given by Ifield Community College Choir in Crawley.  I have heard this choir a number of times before and have always been impressed with their choral singing. They have been described as representing ‘school music at its best ‘.

They have a superb blend and accuracy and quite obviously love what they are doing. They perform a very diverse and demanding repertoire. So I went, knowing that I would have a very rewarding evening, which I did.

Over the last year they have been in collaboration with the BBC Singers as part of their nationwide outreach programme. In addition the Choir have competed in national competitions and have been finalists on a number of occasions.

This programme actually included a group of drummers; these young people are members of the Mauritian/Chagossian community who arrived in Crawley some 4 years ago.  These young drummers have performed at The Royal College of Music, among other prestigious venues. They now provide much of the music accompaniment for the choir.

The programme called ‘Rhythms of the World’ included music from Africa, Spain, America and a drumming selection of music from the Indian Ocean area.

They were privileged to have the High Commissioner for Mauritius there as well as the cultural attaché.  Afterwards both these gentlemen spent some time with the young Chagossian drummers and some of their number who are also members of the choir.

What was most rewarding was the response from a very large audience, some of whom were quite obviously new to this kind of music An absolutely super evening and I look forward to hearing them again.

News from the Treasurer of UKChSA, Peri Batliwala.

Dear Supporters and members of UKChSA,
Sorry for the great delay in setting up our new account and thanks for your patience.
The good news is that it is now finally up and running and donations can now be made in several ways:

  1. Cheques can be paid over the counter at any HSBC
  2. Cheques can be sent to me – please email peribat@yahoo.co.uk for address
  3. Donations can be paid in on-line by any supporters here in UK or abroad who wish to support our work.

The details you need to know for UK donations are:
Name of account: UKChSA
Branch sort code: 40 02 03
Account no: 81808583

For overseas donations:
The above details plus:
IBAN no: GB21MIDL 40020381808583
And branch address: HSBC, 176 Camden High St., London NW1 8QL

Thank you very much for supporting our work. All I would ask is that if you make a donation by any of the means above, you just send me an email with your name, date of transfer/donation and amount – so that I can keep a track on sums coming in, to me at peribat@yahoo.co.uk


Last month, Update included an account of the launch, in Amsterdam, of Sandra Evers and Marry Kooy’s book ‘Evicition from the Chagos islands: Displacement and Struggle for Identity’. Sidney Holt wrote:

I wish I could attend but that is not practicable. I surely would like to buy the book. I hope that at the launch someone points out that the archipelago is not quite so ‘pristine’ as some so-called ‘environmentalists’ claim since the military excavated the Diego Garcia lagoon in order to accommodate aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines! So much for the old myth that military presence on MPAs and equivalent terrestrial sites guarantees protection.

Your humble Update compiler is reliably informed that: Dr. Sidney Holt is one of the most influential marine biologists of the 20th Century. Born in England in 1926 and educated at the University of Reading, England. He is today a resident of Umbria, Italy.                                                                        Dr. Holt was employed for twenty-five years in United Nations organizations, having been appointed at various times Director of the Fisheries Resources and Operations Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO, in Rome), Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and Director of UNESCO’s Marine Sciences Division in Paris.

The Spokesman 111 contains the first part of a history of Diego Garcia since the 1960s. A single copy is £6 as is available from Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Russell House, Bulwell Lane, Nottingham NG6 OBT

Peter Harris has written a review for African Affairs, published by the OUP on behalf of Royal African Society (details on request by e-mail.) of David Vine’s ‘Island of Shame: The secret history of the US military base on Diego Garcia’ and Peter H. Sand’s ‘United States and Britain in Diego Garcia: The future of a controversial base.’ Here is Peter Harris’s final paragraph of a most interesting review:

In concluding, it is pertinent to note Sand’s prefatory statement that‘ [his] book is intended as both primer and template’. Although seemingly modest, this ambition is actually radical: if the wide range of topics discussed by Sand (and by Vine) were indeed to be regarded as elementary or introductory to the study of Diego Garcia and the Chagos Islands, then this would represent the reversal of four decades of scholarship that has failed to look past international security issues. The source materials unearthed by Vine and Sand provide ample resources and example for scholars across disciplines to draw upon and emulate. As both authors rightly establish, Diego Garcia and the Chagos Islands are not just the site of a US military base – rather, they are at the confluence of several important issues, affecting a wide range of social actors and straddling a number of academic disciplines. With the addition of these two books, the academic literature on Chagos now better reflects this reality, and may come to reflect it better still.

Coincidentally, Mr. Sand has contacted us about an exhibition in Basel of work by a Mauritian-born artist, Nirveda Alleck, ‘Focus 11’ which, he says,  includes a striking portrait of exiled Chagossians. This will be of interest to the Swiss Chagos group.

A supporter in Tokyo, Professor Yoichi Kibata, published an article in Japan last Autumn which deals with the history of Diego Garcia and its people from the critical viewpoint of imperialistic collusion between the British and American governments.
Yoichi Kibata, “Haken kotai no kage de: Diego Garcia to Ei-bei kankei”(In the Shade of the Transfer of Hegemony: Diego Garcia and Anglo-American Relations) in: Yoichi Kibata and Harumi Goto, eds., Teikoku no nagai kage: 20 seiki kokusai chitsujo no hen’yo (Long Shadows of Imperial Rule: Transformation of the Twentieth Century International Order), Kyoto: Minerva Shobo, 2010.

REMINDER – EDINBURGH  FESTIVAL.                                                                                                                                   As mentioned in June Update, the Bandwagon Theatre Company will be performing ‘A Rotten Little Story’ at the Edinburgh Festival in August. Full information in June Update or from UKChSA if you no longer have that. The play is written by Dr. Jim McCarthy and is a short piece about the circumstances surrounding the forcible eviction of islanders from Diego Garcia. The performers feel passionately about the Chagossian cause and this will help to spread the word.

MESSAGES FROM SUPPORTERS                                                                                                  Anthony Cheke has written I don’t know why this hasn’t occurred to me before, but it has just dawned on me that perhaps the biggest argument against the American protestations that Chagossians on the outer islands, or indeed DG itself, would be a security risk to the USA is the fact that they never felt the need to remove the native people on Guam, where they have a base of equivalent or greater size and importance – and indeed ditto on numerous other places around the world. Newbury wasn’t depopulated for Greenham Common, nor Banbury for Upper Heyford… An argument on these lines could surely be used to help scuttle the FO’s consistent obstruction, notably whatever government is in power, or what they say in opposition (i.e. ministers are apparently totally driven by the FO mandarins in this matter).

UKChSA suggests that supporters draw that point to their MP’s attention. It is a good argument which has been deployed with the US and FCO by lawyers for the Chagossians and supportive parliamentarians.

Richard Crawford (Green Party candidate for Gravesham, Kent in the 2010 General Election) wrote:

I would like to draw attention to an inaccuracy in the article for Parliament Magazine by the MEP, Charles Tannock, (which was included in the June Update of UKCSA):

‘The Chagossians want to return to the outer islands of the Chagos Archipelago. They have never sought to resettle on Diego Garcia, which they accept will remain off-limits …’

In fact, there have been persistent demands to return specifically to Diego Garcia, as much as, if not more than, to the outer islands. David Vine (in ‘Island of Shame’, Princeton U.P. 2009, and in other publications) has written of how protestors have rallied for years around the Mauritian Kreol phrase ‘Rann nu Diego’ (‘Give us back Diego’, or ‘Return us to Diego’). In a 1978 protest in Mauritius one of the flyers read: ‘Give us a house; if not, return us to our country, Diego’. When Chagossians tried to sue the U.S Government, the suit included a request for an end to employment discrimination on the military base (ie. allowing Chagossians to live & work on Diego Garcia). Not that all Chagossians support the base remaining on Diego Garcia; many want it closed.

In stark contrast to Tannock’s assertion, Mark Spalding, (also featured in the June Update), highlights the practical nature of Chagossians returning to Diego Garcia:

‘The simplest answer is, as a first stage, for those Chagossians who want to resettle to go to Diego Garcia. There would be no additional environmental impact. Moreover, the infrastructure is there – harbours, an airport, shops, restaurants and even a cinema. With the agreement between the UK and the US over the use of the Diego Garcia as a military base up for renewal in 2016 this is surely an opportune moment.’

In the closing pages of ‘Island of Shame’, David Vine declares: ‘the United States and the United Kingdom must immediately restore the right to return … to all of Chagos including Diego Garcia … the two nations should, under the direction of the islanders, commence reconstruction of inhabitable islands and finance resettlement for those wishing to return’. I would like to echo this statement, emphasizing the words ‘including Diego Garcia’.

Supporters who have been with UKChSA for some time will know the name John Loader. Now ninety years of age, John still fights hard for the rights of the Chagossian Islanders and was interviewed for an article in his local paper, Hexham Courant, last month, by Rosalind Saul. This was a really excellent half page spread with a good photograph of John wearing his medals. Decades ago, John did some of his war service on the Island of Diego Garcia with the RAF.  Sadly, the last line of the article quotes John as saying “I shan’t live to see them return, that’s for sure.” Let’s try to prove him wrong and get William Hague and the Government to keep those pre-election promises.

He is, incidentally, still in contact with a comrade from those days who has sent a donation for UKChSA to “keep the propellers turning”, as he put it. For which, we are very grateful.