June 2007 update

  • On Sunday 3 June, about 1,500 Chagossians with flags, banners and musical instruments were present at Sir Seewoosagar Ramgoolam International Airport to welcome Olivier Bancoult who back to Mauritius from the UK, following the Court of Appeal’s ruling in favour of the Chagossian community on 23 May.

  • The Chagos Refugees Group has reported the sad news that Jenny Bidot, a former member, passed away at the age of 82.

  • This Association was showered with phone calls, e-mails and letters expressing delight at the result. Lord Avebury said “The highlight of my week was attending the Court of Appeal to hear the judgment handed down in the case of the Chagossians. The Court declared that the two Orders in Council which evicted the Islanders forty years ago were unlawful (and constituted an abuse of power on the part of the executive government) and refused the government leave to appeal to the House of Lords.”

    However, strangely, the government can still petition the House of Lords direct for leave to appeal. Lord Avebury has tabled two questions to the Lords, one asking if the government intended to do this and the other asking “Her Majesty’s government whether they will take measures to facilitate the return of the Chagos islanders and to create a trust fund to help revive the economy of the Chagos Islands.” No reply as yet.

  • Jeremy Corbyn MP’s questions in the Commons elicited the reply from Geoffrey Hoon MP that the government are still considering an appeal so it would be inappropriate to comment. (If you have not already done so, please ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 1559, tabled by Mr. Corbyn). Questions have also been asked in the European Parliament.

  • There has been some very disturbing news in the media lately about Diego Garcia: “The Council of Europe Human Rights Organisation has found that Britain gave logistical support to CIA extraordinary rendition flights and that Diego Garcia was used to process those prisoners.” (William Rees-Mogg in the Times, but also covered by other papers and BBC). Britain has signed the Convention on Torture and should not be involved with this.

  • John Pilger’s excellent book “Freedom Next Time” is now available in paperback. (Black Swan, £8.99). This includes, in the section on the exiled Chagossians, the ironically entertaining interview with Bill Rammell, Minister in charge at that time. Mr. Rammell said the feasibility study (commissioned by FCO) had found the islands to be unsafe for resettlement – they were sinking so the Islanders could not go back. Mr.Pilger pointed out that there are 4,000 US personnel there, in living conditions described by the US Navy as “outstanding” and “unbelievable”!