June 2008 update

  • We’re all gearing up to the hearing at the House of Lords on 30 June – 3 July. Please support our work – lobby your MP, buy a badge from letthemreturn.com, donate your money or time and tell all your friends about this campaign.

  • There has been much in the press again this month about ‘extraordinary rendition’ and the operation of prison ships. Duncan Campbell and Richard Norton-Taylor reported in the Guardian on 2 June: “Ships that are understood to have held prisoners include the USS Bataan and USS Peleiu. A further fifteen ships are suspected of having operated around the British territory of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.” Andrew Tyrie, the Conservative MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition has called on both the US and UK governments to come clean over the holding of detainees.

  • On 19 May in the New Statesman, Bryan Gould, former Labour shadow cabinet member, wrote an article entitled “What Gordon Should Say Next”, recommending that the Prime Minister should tackle inequality and slash the widespread use of spin. He would like to hear the PM say: “This will signal a return to the ethical foreign policy advocated by Robin Cook. We will, for example, finance the return to their homeland of those displaced when the US military base on Diego Garcia was established.” We in the UK Chagos Support Association, would all like to hear Mr. Brown say that too.

  • On 4 June the Times published the following letter from David Snoxell (High Commissioner to Mauritius 2000 – 2004):

    “Sir, a former Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) legal adviser, Tony Aust, discusses the legality of the use of force in humanitarian situations when not sanctioned by the Security Council (Letters, May 31) and asks: ‘When we can do something to alleviate distress, perhaps a more forthright attitude is now called for?’ I wonder if he would apply the same reasoning to expulsion – or relocation, as the FCO call it – of the Chagossians from their homeland to make way for a US base on one of the 55 Chagos Islands. Was it not FCO legal advisers who conceived the Immigration Ordinance of 1971, which deprived the population of their birthright?

    The Chagossians have suffered forty years of distress, and over the past seven years the courts have found in their favour, describing the expulsions as unlawful, repugnant and an abuse of power. The FCO, nonetheless, is appealing to the Lords against the three previous judgments. The case will be heard on June 30. Why not adopt a more forthright attitude by withdrawing the appeal and alleviating the distress of the Chagossians now?”

  • On 5 June in the House of Lords, Lord Jones of Cheltenham asked Her Majesty’s Government what progress it had made in helping the British Indian Ocean Territory ensure it has the legislation, institutional capacity and mechanism it needs to meet international obligations.

  • Lord Malloch-Brown (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office) replied: “The UK is responsible for ensuring that all overseas territories act in accordance with the UK’s international obligations. In implementing any such obligations that apply to the British Indian Ocean Territory, the Government take care to ensure that necessary measures are in place to ensure full compliance.”

    This Association would like to point out to Lord Malloch-Brown that illegally evicting citizens, denying them their human rights and ignoring three High Court judgments is not fulfilling obligations…

  • Olivier Bancoult (leader of the CRG in Mauritius) will be in the UK at the end of June for the hearing by the Law Lords of the appeal lodged by the FCO against the three previous judgments upholding the right of the exiled Chagossians to return to their homeland.

    He will give a lecture to an invited audience at Bristol University, chaired by Stephen Howe, professor of the history and cultures of colonialism. The lecture will be followed by a Q&A session to Olivier and a panel of experts on the Chagos saga.
    The CRG had a successful fund-raising day to help with expenses for the delegation coming to London for the appeal.

    The Registration to update the listing of native Chagossians went well in Mauritius. At the same time, blankets were distributed for senior citizens as the weather had turned cold. Registering disabled people who could not go to the registration point will still need to be carried out.

  • On 21 August, open to all interested parties, there will be an International Conference at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands: “The Fate of the Chagossians since Their Eviction from the Chagos Islands,” which is being organised by Dr Sandra JTM Evers of the University’s Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Speakers include Dr David Vine, Dr Laura Jeffery and Steffen Johanessen – names familiar to long-time supporters. Also speaking will be Dr Jocelyn Chan Low, Dr Stephen Allen, Ms Maureen Tong, Prof Vinesh Hookoomsing and Dr Evers herself.
    For more information, please e-mail our chair, Ann Stewart.