March 2014 update

PARLIAMENT

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group will hold its 42nd meeting on the 6th May.

Now that the FCO is beginning to consult Chagossians, the APPG and other ‘stakeholders’ by way of the new Feasibility Study, we can expect there to be far fewer Parliamentary Questions.  On the 5th March the Conservative Andrew Rosindell asked:

“what military personnel are stationed in each of the British Overseas Territories?”

Mark Francois (The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence; Rayleigh and Wickford, Conservative)

“UK Military personnel are stationed in the Falkland Islands, Ascension Island, Gibraltar, the
British Indian Ocean Territories and the Sovereign base areas in Cyprus. The establishment at each location is as set out in the following table.

Overseas territory Military personnel
British Forces Cyprus, including Sovereign Base Areas 2,825
Falkland Islands 1,060
Ascension Island 20
Gibraltar—includes UK Military and Royal Gibraltar Regiment 400
British Indian Ocean Territories 40

Numbers have been rounded to the nearest 10. The exact numbers of personnel currently located in each overseas territory may vary from published statistics as personnel either change location or are deployed on operations.  The other UK overseas territories have no permanent UK military presence.”

On the 7th March the Minister for the Overseas Territories Mark Simmonds provided Parliament with the following written statement:

“I wish to update the House on our work to protect the environment of the British Indian Ocean Territory and, in particular, the island of Diego Garcia which is home to a large UK-US military base.

This Government, and the Government of our most important ally, the United States, value the strategic location of the island of Diego Garcia, and we want to see our partnership there continue.

We also share a deep commitment to the pristine environment of BIOT, and take great steps to minimise the impact of the military presence on Diego Garcia on that environment. This ranges from the troops stationed there regularly taking part in beach clean-ups to remove Indian Ocean flotsam that has washed ashore, through conservation efforts with NGOs like the RSPB to remove rats or invasive plants, to a US investment of over $30 million during 2014-15 to protect the shoreline from gradual erosion. Diego Garcia military base operates an environmental protection council which co-ordinates this activity, and the standards governing its behaviour are guided by our own scientific advisers and the most stringent relevant environmental legislation.

One area where we have been working recently with the US to ensure the highest standards of environmental stewardship is in the lagoon of Diego Garcia where we are on a path to recovery and protection of the coral that supports the island above the waves. In April last year it came to our attention that the US vessels moored in the lagoon had been discharging waste water into the lagoon since the establishment of the naval support station there in the early 1980s.

This waste water is treated sewage, and water left over from routine processes like cleaning and cooking. Though the amounts are small in proportion to the size of the lagoon itself, our policy has consistently been that any form of discharge of these substances into the lagoon is prohibited because of clear scientific advice that it would be damaging to coral in the long term. That advice has not changed, and nor has our policy.

I asked my officials to immediately establish the impact of these discharges, and in October 2013, UK scientists concluded that based on the available data, there were elevated levels of nutrients in the lagoon which could be damaging to coral.

Over the period since October, my officials have been working to agree a plan with the US to come into compliance with our no discharge policy, and I am pleased to say I have now agreed this. The plan will involve expenditure of several million dollars by the US over a period of three years to retrofit all of the vessels in the lagoon. The programme of work balances the requirement to maintain operational readiness in the region, meet international security commitments, and deal with the logistical and fiscal challenges such a large-scale programme brings with it. A comprehensive joint UK-US study is now also under way to assess and monitor the coral and marine health of the lagoon and ensure that the programme has the desired effect of reducing the levels of nutrients in the lagoon and protecting the coral.”

12th March- Lord Avebrury (Liberal democrat)

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether (1) the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and (2) the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, apply to each of the Overseas Territories.”

Lord Faulks (The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Conservative)

 

“(1) The Freedom of Information Act 2000 covers any recorded information that is held by a public authority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and by UK-wide public authorities based in Scotland. The Act does not apply to the public authorities of British Overseas Territories.

(2)The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 implement European Council Directive 2003/4/EC on public access to environmental information and cover any recorded environmental information held by public authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and by UK-wide public authorities based in Scotland. The Regulations do not apply to the public authorities of British Overseas Territories. Gibraltar, as part of the EU, has implemented the directive through the Freedom of Access to Information on the Environment Regulations 2005.”

 

13th March- Lord Avebury (Liberal Democrat)

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they accept the findings of the study of the sea level in the British Indian Ocean Territory ‘Contemporary sea level in the Chagos Archipelago, Central Indian Ocean’ published in the journal Global and Planetary Change in 2012.”

Baroness Warsi (Conservative)

“We welcome scientific debate on environmental issues affecting British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), particularly as we begin our factual assessment of the feasibility of returning a civilian population to these islands. Though we welcome the scientific debate about this aspect of environmental change, both globally and for BIOT specifically, it would be inappropriate for the British Government to endorse any single piece of scientific analysis. We look forward to the resettlement feasibility study further assessing this question, although it may not be possible to come to a conclusive answer on a question on which there is a great deal of inherent uncertainty”

RESPONSE TO INCEPTION REPORT

Earlier this month the British Government published its Inception Report ahead of the commencement of the feasibility study into resettlement of the Chagos Islands.  The full report is attached to this edition of the newsletter.  UKChSA Chair Sabrina Jean provided the following response:

“We believe that the right of return should be restored to all Chagossians as their exile was unlawful, undemocratic, and violated their human rights.  Therefore the feasibility of ‘holiday rights’ as envisaged in the short-stay option is not helpful.  A ‘short stay’ option and an education programme should be put into place at once as part of expanding the current visiting programme but it does not address the right of return which is non-negotiable. 

The returning Home report was the first study to adopt proper consultation with Chagossians, and a serious attempt to provide workable solutions to provide for a phased return, whilst recognising the desire of all Chagossians to have the right to return and the right to visit their homeland. I would commend this approach to the new feasibility Study team.

We note your intention to examine the current literature on conservation and science on Chagos. What is of paramount importance is that regional expertise on central scientific issues are rigorously examined, with the involvement of such world-leading experts as Prof Paul Kench of Auckland University who is the foremost expert on climate change and the effects on small islands – an issue that was dealt with in a fundamentally flawed way in the phase 2B report.

The Inception report is alarmingly silent on who is to provide the expertise to the Study, despite the promise that outline CV’s would be included in the Inception report.

It is also true to say that the proposed scientific adviser Dr Andrew Price does not appear to be objective and is unfortunately close to Prof Charles Sheppard the former BIOT Scientific Adviser to BIOT and the one who is most responsible for the flawed Phase 2B Report. He is therefore considered to be neither neutral nor acceptable.”

 

The Chagos Refugees Group (CRG) also provided its own response to the report:

“The Chagos Refugee Group (CRG) Management Committee met on Saturday 22 March 2014, with Olivier Bancoult, its President, in the chair, in order to take stock of the draft Inception Report on the Feasibility Study for the Resettlement of the Chagossian People.

The CRG Management Committee broadly welcomes the stated scope and approach of the Inception Report and looks forward to providing assistance to the Feasibility Study team. It must be pointed out however that the current study cannot inspire confidence unless the obvious mistakes of the past Feasibility Studies are known and avoided now. The Committee raises some specific issues of its own in the main text below and has also received external input from advisers which, due to the limited time to respond, it has not had the opportunity fully to discuss. The latter input is contained in an Annex to this submission. It would wish that all of these points of concern should be addressed by BIOT and the consultants (most notably the apparent lack of objectivity of one of the proposed project specialists).

Subject to addressing these concerns, we would make three general points on the proposed scope and approach that the Committee believes need clarification and hence strengthening and amendment.

First, the consultation mechanisms proposed should ensure that consultation process is not simply a matter of the Study Team soliciting the views of Chagossians on proposals suggested by the consultants: there needs to be close collaboration in the development of proposals involving a wide representation of  Chagossian views to ensure as much consensus as possible.

Second, the different options for resettlement should emerge from such collaboration and not be presented as a set of alternatives. For example, the ‘small scale’ resettlement may well be desirable as a pilot phase towards ‘large scale’ resettlement rather than an end in itself; and the limited stay option is best seen as a facility within a resettled community rather than an alternative option.

Third, the Committee feels it is important for the team to engage with expertise and experience, including private investor experience, from the Indian Ocean region and its smaller islands.

With these considerations in mind, and in line with  the principles that have consistently guided CRG’s activities, and relying on the collective resources, experience and wisdom of the Chagossian people, the CRG  would like to propose the following:

 

1.         Introduction, Overview of the Feasibility Study (page 1):

To add the following bullet point:

the impact of the UK Government’s duty to fulfill its human rights obligation towards the resettlement of the Chagossian people

2.3       Resettlement options (page 2):

To state that  the proposed options are not mutually exclusive and indicate that

Option 1: large-scale resettlement, could be examined with proposed Option 2 (small-scale resettlement) being the 1st phase or a pilot phase. 

As for proposed Option 3, CRG’s position is that this option is a denial of the Chagossian people’s right of return and resettlement and therefore CRG cannot and will not endorse it.

In line with this position, CRG proposes to modify the last paragraph’s hypothetical  phrase as follows: ‘ …when resettlement takes place’.

 

3.1       Key phases of activity  (page 4, para.4):

Modeling of costs and incomes: the proposed time-span (5-10-20 years ) should also be considered as phases of the resettlement process.

            -Phase II: the private sector should be involved, and not just for tourism but also for other sectors of economic activity (agriculture, fishing, handicrafts…) in a sustainable development perspective. Seychelles (and Rodrigues) to be added.

            -Phase III: Page 5, last sentence: “The draft will be circulated to those with an interest…” : CRG and other Chagossian based organizations should be among them.

            -Additional development data from comparable literature on small islands (French departments, self-governed UK overseas territories, autonomous islands) should also be tapped.

3.2       Analytical framework (table, pages 6 -7)

2. Legal and political factors:

Under ‘Key questions/issues for consideration’: add ‘reparation’ to human rights agreements, as follows: “human rights/reparation agreements”.

            3. Environmental impact: add ‘experience/role/involvement of resettled Chagossians in protection of marine/land environment’.

           4. Economic prospects: add Seychelles and Rodrigues (as proposed at 3.1).

           5 .Access issues: add the experience of Seychelles and Rodrigues.

           7. Risks and uncertainties:  to add the regional experience of disaster management plans (cyclones, climate change, and recently tsunami alert and management system).

3.3       Core study team (page 9):

CRG proposes that wider pool of experts (page 10 last para) should comprise Indian Ocean region based experts (Seychelles, Reunion, Mauritius-Rodrigues, Zanzibar)


 

Annex to CRG Comments on BIOT Draft Inception Report – Chagos Feasibility Study – KPMG dated 19 March 2014

The KPMG draft Inception Report (IR) dated 19 March 2014 has been produced in accordance with the clause 9 of the Terms of Reference (TOR) dated January 2014.

Inter alia the IR was required to provide “project management information” [standard format for monthly update reports; risk management plan; proposed timeframe for delivery and reporting, including monthly milestones; list of proposed experts together with curriculae vitae].

Format for Monthly Update reports

This aspect appears not to have been addressed in the draft IR.

Risk Management Plan

Again, there is no mention of a risk management plan.

Proposed Timeframe

The proposed timeframe (IR 3.1) envisages a “consultation and data gathering” phase during April – June 2014. This includes investigation of the “carrying capacity and resources” through “a visit to the Territory”. It is not clear to what extent this represents the satisfaction of the environmental and scientific aspects of the study (in particular the factors enumerated at TOR 7). There is concern that the studies required have not been adequately scoped. Certain key areas were those that were flawed in the previous Phase 2B study. In particular, are external experts to be engaged on these aspects and if so whom? (see further below).

Proposed Experts

Section 3.3 of the draft IR lists a “Core study team” of a Project Manager and Assistant and 3 ‘experts’ together with abbreviated CVs. It is not stated whether these 3 ‘experts’ are KPMG staff or external consultants although a general search indicates the latter in each case. In the absence of an extended CV for either Malcolm Summerfield or Nancy Laatunen and of readily available on-line information, it is not possible to judge their suitability and/or prior connection with the Chagos in greater depth.

Andrew Price however is known from his connection with both Charles Sheppard (former BIOT Conservation/Scientific Adviser 2003-13) and with the Chagos Conservation Trust (CCT) and through his past publication record and CV[1]. As the proposed “Environmental Specialist” Price would presumably be required to oversee all scientific and environmental aspects of the study.

Sheppard and the CCT are perceived to be ‘anti-resettlement’ when it comes to the possibility of the return of Chagossians to the islands, promoting the Archipelago as ‘pristine’[2] where conservation of the natural environment takes precedence.

Price is understood to be a close academic colleague of Sheppard, both having worked at Warwick University in the School of Life Sciences for many years. He has also travelled on a number of expeditions to the Chagos led by Sheppard. Furthermore he was a co-author with Sheppard (and others) on a recent paper concerning the Chagos which is considered to overstate the case for environmental conservation[3], and on the recent (2012) Chagos Conservation Trust publication: “Conservation and Management in British Indian Ocean Territory (Chagos Archipelago)”[4] which is perceived as a CCT centric view of conservation. This track record and association has the potential to seriously undermine the key principle of ‘neutrality’ in the context of this study, whether real or perceived.

Price’s own environmental/scientific work/expertise in the Chagos has been restricted to surveys of holothurians (sea cucumbers)[5], or beach pollution[6] and he has been a co-author on other pollution papers[7]. Overall his known academic publication record [8] is sparse, particularly in the areas specified in clause 7 of the TORs under “Environmental factors”. Although he is known to possess considerable consultancy experience, his suitability as the sole “Environmental Specialist” is less clear.

In the circumstances it is strongly recommended that other alternative candidates to Price should be investigated.

Wider Pool of Experts

The IR concludes “This core team will be supported by a wider pool of experts, the composition of which will be determined during the inception phase”. Since this draft report represents this Inception Phase, further details of the wider pool should have been included in the draft and notified to interested parties. This is particularly important given the doubts about Andrew Price.”

In addition, David Snoxell, on behalf of the APPG, has provided a summary of their response to the Inception Report:

“On 24 March 2014 the Chairman of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) APPG wrote to Mark Simmonds, the FCO Minister responsible for Chagos, to express the Group’s support for the draft Inception Report as a sound basis on which to proceed subject to reservations. These concerned the proposed appointment of Prof Andrew Price as the Environment Specialist; the Group’s wish that the feasibility study should be completed by the end of 2014 so that there is time before the election for proper consideration of the results, parliamentary debate and implementation; the lack of any reference to involving or consulting the Government of Mauritius; the description of the MPA as ‘international’; and a suggestion on how to make the resettlement options clearer.”

CHAGOS ISLANDS WASTE WATER POLLUTION

News that the current occupants of Diego Garcia were engaging in practices which brought into question the stewardship of an alleged marine zone was reported around the world.  The Independent newspaper in the UK was the first publication to pick up on the scandal and swiftly focussed on the hypocrisy of the British Government in allowing the practice to continue unchecked for so long:

“The American military has poured hundreds of tonnes of human sewage and waste water into a protected coral lagoon on the British-owned base of Diego Garcia over three decades in breach of environmental rules, The Independent can reveal.

The Indian Ocean base on the Chagos Islands has been one of the world’s most isolated and controversial military installations since Britain forcibly removed hundreds of islanders in the early 1970s, abandoning them to destitution, to make way for US forces including nuclear submarines and bombers.

The British Government has repeatedly underlined its commitment to maintaining the pristine environment of the islands, which are known as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) and were four years ago declared the world’s largest marine reserve.

Despite these undertakings, it has emerged that US Navy vessels have been discharging waste water, including treated sewage, into the clear lagoon ever since a naval support station was established on Diego Garcia in the early 1980s.

According to scientific advisers, elevated levels of nutrients caused by the waste – which have resulted in nitrogen and phosphate readings up to four times higher than normal – may be damaging the coral.

Friday night, campaigners fighting for Chagossians to be allowed to return accused the British and US authorities of double standards by using the unspoilt character of the archipelago as a reason to prevent repopulation while themselves creating pollution.”

Moscow-based Russia Today was similarly scathing in its assessment of the levels of double standards:

“The base in question – located on the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean – has been the focus of intense lobbying by supporters of the native residents, who were resettled elsewhere in the 1970s in order to make way for a US naval establishment. The British government has stated on multiple occasions that those Chagossians could not return to the island due to its effort to maintain the area’s unspoiled habitat.

Despite these claims, however, scientists have found the state of the coral in the lagoon to be deteriorating, and have singled out increased levels of nitrogen and phosphate as the possible culprits. According, the presence of these elements is likely the result of the US Navy dumping treated sewage water and other waste into the lagoon for the last three decades.

Although the British government was aware of the Navy’s behavior in 2013, it has only now been revealed to the public.”

UKChSA Chair Sabrina Jean was invited by the Independent newspaper to offer her own views on the revelations:

“When we Chagossians lived on our islands, the seas and lagoons were pristine. When the Americans arrived, they caused massive environmental degradation, including bulldozing our villages and flattening graveyards. To create building materials, they started dynamiting the lagoon of Diego Garcia, killing fish and destroying large areas of coral reef.

For many years we have been pressing BIOT to conduct an environmental audit of the effects of the US occupation. This has been consistently refused, with the explanation that the impact of the occupation is minimal. We can now see that throughout this period there have been no controls on the pollution.

We are the real guardians of our homeland. Until we are allowed to return, we think that this degradation is bound to be permitted to continue.”

Just ahead of this edition of the newsletter going to press, Cahal Milmo implicated the British Government in the pollution of the waters around Diego Garcia during a follow-up piece in the Independent newspaper.

“The FCO has admitted that British ‘no discharge policy’ was not complied with by US vessels.

But in a statement to Parliament on 6 March it failed to disclose the claims that the Pacific Marlin, a 36-year-old Japanese tug which is chartered from a Singapore-based company to conduct duties including fishery patrols and operations with Royal Marines, may also have contributed to the problem.

Swire Pacific Offshore Operations Ltd, which operates the Pacific Marlin, told The Independent that it had modified the vessel to ensure there could be no accidental discharges of sewage but said it had not been shown any evidence that it was responsible for elevated levels of faecal bacteria found near its vessel.

Professor Charles Sheppard, a leading biologist from the University of Warwick, who acts as scientific adviser to the BIOT on environmental matters, reported last year that its patrol vessel was ‘a regular culprit in terms of sewage discharge’ on Diego Garcia.

The report was withheld by the FCO until this week on the grounds that its disclosure could damage Anglo-American relations until it was challenged by another academic and forced to disclose the material under environmental information rules.

Prof Sheppard wrote that the suspected discharges were going into ‘the very confined small boat basin in Diego Garcia where pathogen effects may be magnified’ and also leading to criticism of double standards from Britain’s closest ally. He said: ‘Comments have been received from several sources along the lines of ‘if the British ship continues to do this then why shouldn’t US ships?’

Tests have found levels of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphates up to four times higher than normal levels in the lagoon, meaning damage may be being caused to coral on Diego Garcia.

Peter Sand, a lecturer in environmental law at Munich University who secured the release of Prof Sheppard’s report, told The Independent that the island, which is home to about 5,000 US personnel, should be brought into the marine reserve.

He said: ‘The declaration of the reserve will remain an empty shell as long as it totally excludes the Diego Garcia military base. This may explain the desperate attempts by the Foreign Office to prevent public access to all embarrassing pollution data concerning Diego Garcia.’

 

 

FEASIBILITY STUDY EXPERTS APPOINTED

Following on from news last month regarding the final draft of the terms of reference being published, the British Government has now appointed the consultants for the long awaited feasibility study.  John Vidal from the Guardian picks up the story:

“The coral islands, which have some of the cleanest waters in the world and half the total area of high quality coral reefs in the Indian Ocean, are rich in fish which would normally form the economic base of any resident community. But since Britain established the archipelago as the world’s largest marine reserve in 2010, it is theoretically illegal for anyone to fish there – except for the US military who have been allowed to catch around 50 tonnes of fish for sport. The setting up of the reserve by the then-foreign secretary David Miliband was widely interpreted as an attempt to prevent any resettlement by the evicted Chagossians.

But the terms of reference for the consultants also suggest Britain may be prepared to compromise on the total ban on fishing. The team has been asked to consider eco-tourism, fishing, game fishing and “industrial development”. If the Chagossians return, they have said they plan to re-establish copra production and fishing, and to develop the islands for tourism.

Britain has previously made it impossible for the islanders to return, citing both costs and sea level rise. A 2003 feasibility study led to the government concluding that resettlement would be “costly and precarious” and that sea-level rise was averaging 5.4mm a year – twice the global average – and accelerating. This was refuted by other scientists.

The study will consider many other environmental factors that could make life impossible for a small community to establish itself, but which appear to have not deterred the US military. The terms of reference specifically ask the consultants to look at how climate change could affect life on the islands in future. “This should include sea-level rise, rogue waves, coastal erosion, tropical cyclone frequency and intensity and changes in wave and wind conditions.”

David Snoxell, Co-ordinator of the Chagos islands’ All-Party Parliamentary Group and former British High Commissioner to Mauritius, said: ‘The FCO are to be applauded for initiating a new feasibility study which the all-party group has been arguing for since 2008. The Foreign Secretary announced in December 2012, following the Strasbourg verdict, that the case was inadmissible, that he would take stock of policies towards resettlement, but it has taken 15 months to get only to the stage of publishing terms of reference. It is imperative that the study is completed by the end of 2014 so that Parliament is consulted and decisions taken before the election. We do not want a repeat of what happened over the announcement of the marine protection area in April 2010, five weeks before the last general election, thus ensuring that there was no time to consult Parliament.’”

 

PARALLELS DRAWN BETWEEN CHAGOS ISLANDS AND CRIMEA

An observation made by UKChSA Chair Sabrina Jean was noticed by a Washington based weekly newspaper called The Hill.  Sabrina pointed out that the British and American-led condemnation of the Russian occupation of Ukrainian territory in Crimea amounted to yet more hypocrisy given the events surrounding the depopulation of the Chagos Islands.  Adam Ereli outlined the unfortunate parallels between Crimea and the Chagos Islands:

“For years, Great Britain has repeatedly used its power and influence to stymie the peaceful resolution of this dispute. In 2012, Mauritius announced that it would leave the Commonwealth if necessary in order to take the Chagos issue before the International Court of Justice. But the UK immediately amended its declaration relating to the jurisdiction of the Court so that the ICJ would not have mandatory jurisdiction if a case was brought against it. In 2010, Britain declared a Marine Protected Area around the archipelago, and in response Mauritius initiated proceedings against the UK under Annex 7 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The African Union and Non-Aligned Movement have expressed unanimous support for Mauritius over the Chagos issue.

Now is the time to do the right thing and begin negotiations over the return of the Chagos Archipelago to its rightful owner, the Republic of Mauritius. The era of colonialism is over. Russia’s actions in Crimea are a searing reminder that the international community will no longer tolerate the forceful subjugation of weaker states by their more powerful neighbors. Mauritius is acting responsibly, consistent with recognized international norms, to resolve this dispute peacefully. The West has the opportunity to match its words with deeds. Great Britain and the United States should do honor to their status as great powers and sit down with us to negotiate a formal, legal transfer of sovereignty.

Washington has no interest in being the subject of protracted challenges against the legality of the territory on which it maintains a vital military facility. As a close ally and strategic partner, Mauritius will continue to provide full access and basing rights to the United States on Diego Garcia. By accepting Mauritian sovereignty, the UK will not prejudice its position with respect to other colonial territories, nor will it prejudice the “defense purposes” by which it justifies its continued occupation of the islands.”

MINORITY RIGHTS GROUP INTERNATIONAL

Our friends at Minority Rights Group International have published a new report ahead of our appeal into the Judicial Review which commences at the High Court in central London on the 31st March.  The full document is attached with this month’s copy of the newsletter and calls on the British to avoid further delays in addressing the continuing injustice inflicted against the Chagossian community:

“A new MRG report says that the creation of the Marine Protected Area, and the subsequent banning of commercial fishing in its waters, effectively bars Islanders from returning to their homes. Under international law, the Chagossians have a right to return to their homeland, unless such return is not feasible, in which case they should be offered appropriate compensation.

‘The Court case highlights the pressing need for a new feasibility study to clarify, once and for all, the possible means and arrangements for return to the islands,’ says Lucy Claridge, MRG’s Head of Law.

‘Given that the 2002 investigation commissioned by the UK government on resettlement of the Chagos Islands was found to be seriously flawed, it is imperative that any new feasibility study must be carried out with the full participation of the Chagossians,’ she adds.

The Islanders’ struggle to return home has led to a decades-long legal battle in the UK courts, and culminated in a December 2012 European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) dismissal of their claims to return, citing reasons based on technical grounds.”

DEMONSTRATION AT THE HIGH COURT IN LONDON

We will once again be organising a demonstration outside the High Court in central London on Monday 31st March.  This will commence at 10am and we hope as many of our incredible supporters as possible will be available to join us.  The demonstration is to mark the two day appeal against the High Court rejection of the Judicial Review of the MPA brought by Olivier Bancoult last April.

CHAGOS FOOTBALL TEAM TOURNAMENT

We are delighted to confirm news of a football tournament which will be administered by the Chagos Football Association.  The event is an opportunity to raise funds for our fledgling football side (we need all the support they can get after suffering our first ever defeat last month!)

The fundraiser will be taking place at the Hazelwick School on Hazelwick Mill Lane, Three Bridges, Crawley RH10 1SX.  The entrance fee will be £100 per competing team and all money raised will be ploughed towards turning our up and coming side into the next Bayern Munich.  Further details are available from Giany, Gino, Dorian or Sabrina.

 

 

 

 

 

 

UKChSA ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING (AGM)

A final reminder that we will of course be hosting our AGM at the Pimlico branch of the Pizza Express on Sunday 6th April at 12 noon.

The full address is: 46 Moreton Street, London SW1V 2PB.

As always all of our wonderful supporters are welcome to come along.  We are delighted to confirm that Richard Gifford from our legal team will once again be addressing the AGM, which of course will be the week following our latest date at the High Court.

Thank you as always for your continued interest and support,

 

Clency Lebrasse (Update compiler)

 



[1] http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/lifesci/people/publications/?ssn=MwZTkFw2Uz0=&inst=WARWICK

[2] At least from the marine perspective

[3] SHEPPARD, C. R. C., ATEWEBERHAN, M., BOWEN, B. W., CARR, P., CHEN, C. A., CLUBBE, C., CRAIG, M. T., EBINGHAUS, R., EBLE, J., FITZSIMMONS, N., GAITHER, M. R., GAN, C. H., GOLLOCK, M., GUZMAN, N., GRAHAM, N. A. J., HARRIS, A., JONES, R., KESHAVMURTHY, S., KOLDEWEY, H., LUNDIN, C. G., MORTIMER, J. A., OBURA, D., PFEIFFER, M., PRICE, A. R. G., PURKIS, S., RAINES, P., READMAN, J. W., RIEGL, B., ROGERS, A., SCHLEYER, M., SEAWARD, M. R. D., SHEPPARD, A. L. S., TAMELANDER, J., TURNER, J. R., VISRAM, S., VOGLER, C., VOGT, S., WOLSCHKE, H., YANG, J. M.-C., YANG, S. Y. & YESSON, C. 2012b. Reefs and islands of the Chagos Archipelago, Indian Ocean: why it is the world’s largest no-take marine protected area. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 22, 232-261.

[4] SHEPPARD, C., CARR, P., GRAHAM, N., HARRIS, A., HEAD, C., KOLDEWEY, H., MEEUWIG, J., MORTIMER, J., PURKIS, S., PRICE, A. R. G., ROBERTS, C., SCHLEYER, M., SHEPPARD, A., TAMELANDER, J. & TURNER, J. 2012a. Conservation and Management in British Indian Ocean Territory (Chagos Archipelago).

[5] PRICE, A. R. G., EVANS, L. E., ROWLANDS, N. & HAWKINS, J. P. 2013. Negligible recovery in Chagos holothurians (sea cucumbers). Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 23, 811-819.

PRICE, A. R. G., HARRIS, A., MCGOWAN, A., VENKATACHALAM, A. J. & SHEPPARD, C. R. C. 2010. Chagos feels the pinch: assessment of holothurian (sea cucumber) abundance, illegal harvesting and conservation prospects in British Indian Ocean Territory. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 20, 117-126.

[6] PRICE, A. R. & HARRIS, A. 2009. Decadal changes (1996-2006) in coastal ecosystems of the Chagos archipelago determined from rapid assessment. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 19, 637-644.

PRICE, A. R. G. 1999. Broadscale coastal environmental assessment of the Chagos Archipelago. In: SHEPPARD, C. R. C. & SEAWARD, M. R. D. (eds.) Ecology of the Chagos Archipelago. London: Linnean Society.

[7] GUITART, C., SHEPPARD, A., FRICKERS, T., PRICE, A. R. G. & READMAN, J. W. 2007. Negligible risks to corals from antifouling booster biocides and triazine herbicides in coastal waters of the Chagos Archipelago. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 54, 226-232.

READMAN, J., DELUNA, F., EBINGHAUS, R., GUZMAN, A., PRICE, A. G., READMAN, E., SHEPPARD, A. S., SLEIGHT, V., STURM, R., THOMPSON, R., TONKIN, A., WOLSCHKE, H., WRIGHT, R. & SHEPPARD, C. C. 2013. Contaminants, Pollution and Potential Anthropogenic Impacts in Chagos/BIOT. In: SHEPPARD, C. R. C. (ed.) Coral Reefs of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories. Springer Netherlands.

[8] http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/lifesci/people/publications/?ssn=MwZTkFw2Uz0=&inst=WARWICK

PARLIAMENT
The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group will hold its 42nd meeting on the 6th May.
Now that the FCO is beginning to consult Chagossians, the APPG and other ‘stakeholders’ by way of the new Feasibility Study, we can expect there to be far fewer Parliamentary Questions. On the 5th March the Conservative Andrew Rosindell asked:
“what military personnel are stationed in each of the British Overseas Territories?”

Mark Francois (The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence; Rayleigh and Wickford, Conservative)

“UK Military personnel are stationed in the Falkland Islands, Ascension Island, Gibraltar, the
British Indian Ocean Territories and the Sovereign base areas in Cyprus. The establishment at each location is as set out in the following table.

Overseas territory Military personnel
British Forces Cyprus, including Sovereign Base Areas 2,825
Falkland Islands 1,060
Ascension Island 20
Gibraltar—includes UK Military and Royal Gibraltar Regiment 400
British Indian Ocean Territories 40

Numbers have been rounded to the nearest 10. The exact numbers of personnel currently located in each overseas territory may vary from published statistics as personnel either change location or are deployed on operations. The other UK overseas territories have no permanent UK military presence.”
On the 7th March the Minister for the Overseas Territories Mark Simmonds provided Parliament with the following written statement:
“I wish to update the House on our work to protect the environment of the British Indian Ocean Territory and, in particular, the island of Diego Garcia which is home to a large UK-US military base.

This Government, and the Government of our most important ally, the United States, value the strategic location of the island of Diego Garcia, and we want to see our partnership there continue.

We also share a deep commitment to the pristine environment of BIOT, and take great steps to minimise the impact of the military presence on Diego Garcia on that environment. This ranges from the troops stationed there regularly taking part in beach clean-ups to remove Indian Ocean flotsam that has washed ashore, through conservation efforts with NGOs like the RSPB to remove rats or invasive plants, to a US investment of over $30 million during 2014-15 to protect the shoreline from gradual erosion. Diego Garcia military base operates an environmental protection council which co-ordinates this activity, and the standards governing its behaviour are guided by our own scientific advisers and the most stringent relevant environmental legislation.

One area where we have been working recently with the US to ensure the highest standards of environmental stewardship is in the lagoon of Diego Garcia where we are on a path to recovery and protection of the coral that supports the island above the waves. In April last year it came to our attention that the US vessels moored in the lagoon had been discharging waste water into the lagoon since the establishment of the naval support station there in the early 1980s.

This waste water is treated sewage, and water left over from routine processes like cleaning and cooking. Though the amounts are small in proportion to the size of the lagoon itself, our policy has consistently been that any form of discharge of these substances into the lagoon is prohibited because of clear scientific advice that it would be damaging to coral in the long term. That advice has not changed, and nor has our policy.

I asked my officials to immediately establish the impact of these discharges, and in October 2013, UK scientists concluded that based on the available data, there were elevated levels of nutrients in the lagoon which could be damaging to coral.

Over the period since October, my officials have been working to agree a plan with the US to come into compliance with our no discharge policy, and I am pleased to say I have now agreed this. The plan will involve expenditure of several million dollars by the US over a period of three years to retrofit all of the vessels in the lagoon. The programme of work balances the requirement to maintain operational readiness in the region, meet international security commitments, and deal with the logistical and fiscal challenges such a large-scale programme brings with it. A comprehensive joint UK-US study is now also under way to assess and monitor the coral and marine health of the lagoon and ensure that the programme has the desired effect of reducing the levels of nutrients in the lagoon and protecting the coral.”
12th March- Lord Avebrury (Liberal democrat)
“To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether (1) the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and (2) the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, apply to each of the Overseas Territories.”
Lord Faulks (The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Conservative)

“(1) The Freedom of Information Act 2000 covers any recorded information that is held by a public authority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and by UK-wide public authorities based in Scotland. The Act does not apply to the public authorities of British Overseas Territories.
(2)The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 implement European Council Directive 2003/4/EC on public access to environmental information and cover any recorded environmental information held by public authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and by UK-wide public authorities based in Scotland. The Regulations do not apply to the public authorities of British Overseas Territories. Gibraltar, as part of the EU, has implemented the directive through the Freedom of Access to Information on the Environment Regulations 2005.”

13th March- Lord Avebury (Liberal Democrat)
“To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they accept the findings of the study of the sea level in the British Indian Ocean Territory ‘Contemporary sea level in the Chagos Archipelago, Central Indian Ocean’ published in the journal Global and Planetary Change in 2012.”

Baroness Warsi (Conservative)

“We welcome scientific debate on environmental issues affecting British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), particularly as we begin our factual assessment of the feasibility of returning a civilian population to these islands. Though we welcome the scientific debate about this aspect of environmental change, both globally and for BIOT specifically, it would be inappropriate for the British Government to endorse any single piece of scientific analysis. We look forward to the resettlement feasibility study further assessing this question, although it may not be possible to come to a conclusive answer on a question on which there is a great deal of inherent uncertainty”
RESPONSE TO INCEPTION REPORT
Earlier this month the British Government published its Inception Report ahead of the commencement of the feasibility study into resettlement of the Chagos Islands. The full report is attached to this edition of the newsletter. UKChSA Chair Sabrina Jean provided the following response:
“We believe that the right of return should be restored to all Chagossians as their exile was unlawful, undemocratic, and violated their human rights. Therefore the feasibility of ‘holiday rights’ as envisaged in the short-stay option is not helpful. A ‘short stay’ option and an education programme should be put into place at once as part of expanding the current visiting programme but it does not address the right of return which is non-negotiable.
The returning Home report was the first study to adopt proper consultation with Chagossians, and a serious attempt to provide workable solutions to provide for a phased return, whilst recognising the desire of all Chagossians to have the right to return and the right to visit their homeland. I would commend this approach to the new feasibility Study team.
We note your intention to examine the current literature on conservation and science on Chagos. What is of paramount importance is that regional expertise on central scientific issues are rigorously examined, with the involvement of such world-leading experts as Prof Paul Kench of Auckland University who is the foremost expert on climate change and the effects on small islands – an issue that was dealt with in a fundamentally flawed way in the phase 2B report.
The Inception report is alarmingly silent on who is to provide the expertise to the Study, despite the promise that outline CV’s would be included in the Inception report.
It is also true to say that the proposed scientific adviser Dr Andrew Price does not appear to be objective and is unfortunately close to Prof Charles Sheppard the former BIOT Scientific Adviser to BIOT and the one who is most responsible for the flawed Phase 2B Report. He is therefore considered to be neither neutral nor acceptable.”

The Chagos Refugees Group (CRG) also provided its own response to the report:
“The Chagos Refugee Group (CRG) Management Committee met on Saturday 22 March 2014, with Olivier Bancoult, its President, in the chair, in order to take stock of the draft Inception Report on the Feasibility Study for the Resettlement of the Chagossian People.
The CRG Management Committee broadly welcomes the stated scope and approach of the Inception Report and looks forward to providing assistance to the Feasibility Study team. It must be pointed out however that the current study cannot inspire confidence unless the obvious mistakes of the past Feasibility Studies are known and avoided now. The Committee raises some specific issues of its own in the main text below and has also received external input from advisers which, due to the limited time to respond, it has not had the opportunity fully to discuss. The latter input is contained in an Annex to this submission. It would wish that all of these points of concern should be addressed by BIOT and the consultants (most notably the apparent lack of objectivity of one of the proposed project specialists).
Subject to addressing these concerns, we would make three general points on the proposed scope and approach that the Committee believes need clarification and hence strengthening and amendment.
First, the consultation mechanisms proposed should ensure that consultation process is not simply a matter of the Study Team soliciting the views of Chagossians on proposals suggested by the consultants: there needs to be close collaboration in the development of proposals involving a wide representation of Chagossian views to ensure as much consensus as possible.
Second, the different options for resettlement should emerge from such collaboration and not be presented as a set of alternatives. For example, the ‘small scale’ resettlement may well be desirable as a pilot phase towards ‘large scale’ resettlement rather than an end in itself; and the limited stay option is best seen as a facility within a resettled community rather than an alternative option.
Third, the Committee feels it is important for the team to engage with expertise and experience, including private investor experience, from the Indian Ocean region and its smaller islands.
With these considerations in mind, and in line with the principles that have consistently guided CRG’s activities, and relying on the collective resources, experience and wisdom of the Chagossian people, the CRG would like to propose the following:

1. Introduction, Overview of the Feasibility Study (page 1):
To add the following bullet point:
the impact of the UK Government’s duty to fulfill its human rights obligation towards the resettlement of the Chagossian people
2.3 Resettlement options (page 2):
To state that the proposed options are not mutually exclusive and indicate that
Option 1: large-scale resettlement, could be examined with proposed Option 2 (small-scale resettlement) being the 1st phase or a pilot phase.
As for proposed Option 3, CRG’s position is that this option is a denial of the Chagossian people’s right of return and resettlement and therefore CRG cannot and will not endorse it.
In line with this position, CRG proposes to modify the last paragraph’s hypothetical phrase as follows: ‘ …when resettlement takes place’.

3.1 Key phases of activity (page 4, para.4):
-Modeling of costs and incomes: the proposed time-span (5-10-20 years ) should also be considered as phases of the resettlement process.
-Phase II: the private sector should be involved, and not just for tourism but also for other sectors of economic activity (agriculture, fishing, handicrafts…) in a sustainable development perspective. Seychelles (and Rodrigues) to be added.
-Phase III: Page 5, last sentence: “The draft will be circulated to those with an interest…” : CRG and other Chagossian based organizations should be among them.
-Additional development data from comparable literature on small islands (French departments, self-governed UK overseas territories, autonomous islands) should also be tapped.
3.2 Analytical framework (table, pages 6 -7)
2. Legal and political factors:
Under ‘Key questions/issues for consideration’: add ‘reparation’ to human rights agreements, as follows: “human rights/reparation agreements”.
3. Environmental impact: add ‘experience/role/involvement of resettled Chagossians in protection of marine/land environment’.
4. Economic prospects: add Seychelles and Rodrigues (as proposed at 3.1).
5 .Access issues: add the experience of Seychelles and Rodrigues.
7. Risks and uncertainties : to add the regional experience of disaster management plans (cyclones, climate change, and recently tsunami alert and management system).
3.3 Core study team (page 9):
CRG proposes that wider pool of experts (page 10 last para) should comprise Indian Ocean region based experts (Seychelles, Reunion, Mauritius-Rodrigues, Zanzibar)

Annex to CRG Comments on BIOT Draft Inception Report – Chagos Feasibility Study – KPMG dated 19 March 2014
The KPMG draft Inception Report (IR) dated 19 March 2014 has been produced in accordance with the clause 9 of the Terms of Reference (TOR) dated January 2014.
Inter alia the IR was required to provide “project management information” [standard format for monthly update reports; risk management plan; proposed timeframe for delivery and reporting, including monthly milestones; list of proposed experts together with curriculae vitae].
Format for Monthly Update reports
This aspect appears not to have been addressed in the draft IR.
Risk Management Plan
Again, there is no mention of a risk management plan.
Proposed Timeframe
The proposed timeframe (IR 3.1) envisages a “consultation and data gathering” phase during April – June 2014. This includes investigation of the “carrying capacity and resources” through “a visit to the Territory”. It is not clear to what extent this represents the satisfaction of the environmental and scientific aspects of the study (in particular the factors enumerated at TOR 7). There is concern that the studies required have not been adequately scoped. Certain key areas were those that were flawed in the previous Phase 2B study. In particular, are external experts to be engaged on these aspects and if so whom? (see further below).
Proposed Experts
Section 3.3 of the draft IR lists a “Core study team” of a Project Manager and Assistant and 3 ‘experts’ together with abbreviated CVs. It is not stated whether these 3 ‘experts’ are KPMG staff or external consultants although a general search indicates the latter in each case. In the absence of an extended CV for either Malcolm Summerfield or Nancy Laatunen and of readily available on-line information, it is not possible to judge their suitability and/or prior connection with the Chagos in greater depth.
Andrew Price however is known from his connection with both Charles Sheppard (former BIOT Conservation/Scientific Adviser 2003-13) and with the Chagos Conservation Trust (CCT) and through his past publication record and CV . As the proposed “Environmental Specialist” Price would presumably be required to oversee all scientific and environmental aspects of the study.
Sheppard and the CCT are perceived to be ‘anti-resettlement’ when it comes to the possibility of the return of Chagossians to the islands, promoting the Archipelago as ‘pristine’ where conservation of the natural environment takes precedence.
Price is understood to be a close academic colleague of Sheppard, both having worked at Warwick University in the School of Life Sciences for many years. He has also travelled on a number of expeditions to the Chagos led by Sheppard. Furthermore he was a co-author with Sheppard (and others) on a recent paper concerning the Chagos which is considered to overstate the case for environmental conservation , and on the recent (2012) Chagos Conservation Trust publication: “Conservation and Management in British Indian Ocean Territory (Chagos Archipelago)” which is perceived as a CCT centric view of conservation. This track record and association has the potential to seriously undermine the key principle of ‘neutrality’ in the context of this study, whether real or perceived.
Price’s own environmental/scientific work/expertise in the Chagos has been restricted to surveys of holothurians (sea cucumbers) , or beach pollution and he has been a co-author on other pollution papers . Overall his known academic publication record is sparse, particularly in the areas specified in clause 7 of the TORs under “Environmental factors”. Although he is known to possess considerable consultancy experience, his suitability as the sole “Environmental Specialist” is less clear.
In the circumstances it is strongly recommended that other alternative candidates to Price should be investigated.
Wider Pool of Experts
The IR concludes “This core team will be supported by a wider pool of experts, the composition of which will be determined during the inception phase”. Since this draft report represents this Inception Phase, further details of the wider pool should have been included in the draft and notified to interested parties. This is particularly important given the doubts about Andrew Price.”
In addition, David Snoxell, on behalf of the APPG, has provided a summary of their response to the Inception Report:
“On 24 March 2014 the Chairman of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) APPG wrote to Mark Simmonds, the FCO Minister responsible for Chagos, to express the Group’s support for the draft Inception Report as a sound basis on which to proceed subject to reservations. These concerned the proposed appointment of Prof Andrew Price as the Environment Specialist; the Group’s wish that the feasibility study should be completed by the end of 2014 so that there is time before the election for proper consideration of the results, parliamentary debate and implementation; the lack of any reference to involving or consulting the Government of Mauritius; the description of the MPA as ‘international’; and a suggestion on how to make the resettlement options clearer.”
CHAGOS ISLANDS WASTE WATER POLLUTION
News that the current occupants of Diego Garcia were engaging in practices which brought into question the stewardship of an alleged marine zone was reported around the world. The Independent newspaper in the UK was the first publication to pick up on the scandal and swiftly focussed on the hypocrisy of the British Government in allowing the practice to continue unchecked for so long:
“The American military has poured hundreds of tonnes of human sewage and waste water into a protected coral lagoon on the British-owned base of Diego Garcia over three decades in breach of environmental rules, The Independent can reveal.
The Indian Ocean base on the Chagos Islands has been one of the world’s most isolated and controversial military installations since Britain forcibly removed hundreds of islanders in the early 1970s, abandoning them to destitution, to make way for US forces including nuclear submarines and bombers.
The British Government has repeatedly underlined its commitment to maintaining the pristine environment of the islands, which are known as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) and were four years ago declared the world’s largest marine reserve.
Despite these undertakings, it has emerged that US Navy vessels have been discharging waste water, including treated sewage, into the clear lagoon ever since a naval support station was established on Diego Garcia in the early 1980s.
According to scientific advisers, elevated levels of nutrients caused by the waste – which have resulted in nitrogen and phosphate readings up to four times higher than normal – may be damaging the coral.
Friday night, campaigners fighting for Chagossians to be allowed to return accused the British and US authorities of double standards by using the unspoilt character of the archipelago as a reason to prevent repopulation while themselves creating pollution.”
Moscow-based Russia Today was similarly scathing in its assessment of the levels of double standards:
“The base in question – located on the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean – has been the focus of intense lobbying by supporters of the native residents, who were resettled elsewhere in the 1970s in order to make way for a US naval establishment. The British government has stated on multiple occasions that those Chagossians could not return to the island due to its effort to maintain the area’s unspoiled habitat.
Despite these claims, however, scientists have found the state of the coral in the lagoon to be deteriorating, and have singled out increased levels of nitrogen and phosphate as the possible culprits. According, the presence of these elements is likely the result of the US Navy dumping treated sewage water and other waste into the lagoon for the last three decades.
Although the British government was aware of the Navy’s behavior in 2013, it has only now been revealed to the public.”
UKChSA Chair Sabrina Jean was invited by the Independent newspaper to offer her own views on the revelations:
“When we Chagossians lived on our islands, the seas and lagoons were pristine. When the Americans arrived, they caused massive environmental degradation, including bulldozing our villages and flattening graveyards. To create building materials, they started dynamiting the lagoon of Diego Garcia, killing fish and destroying large areas of coral reef.
For many years we have been pressing BIOT to conduct an environmental audit of the effects of the US occupation. This has been consistently refused, with the explanation that the impact of the occupation is minimal. We can now see that throughout this period there have been no controls on the pollution.
We are the real guardians of our homeland. Until we are allowed to return, we think that this degradation is bound to be permitted to continue.”
Just ahead of this edition of the newsletter going to press, Cahal Milmo implicated the British Government in the pollution of the waters around Diego Garcia during a follow-up piece in the Independent newspaper.
“The FCO has admitted that British ‘no discharge policy’ was not complied with by US vessels.
But in a statement to Parliament on 6 March it failed to disclose the claims that the Pacific Marlin, a 36-year-old Japanese tug which is chartered from a Singapore-based company to conduct duties including fishery patrols and operations with Royal Marines, may also have contributed to the problem.
Swire Pacific Offshore Operations Ltd, which operates the Pacific Marlin, told The Independent that it had modified the vessel to ensure there could be no accidental discharges of sewage but said it had not been shown any evidence that it was responsible for elevated levels of faecal bacteria found near its vessel.
Professor Charles Sheppard, a leading biologist from the University of Warwick, who acts as scientific adviser to the BIOT on environmental matters, reported last year that its patrol vessel was ‘a regular culprit in terms of sewage discharge’ on Diego Garcia.
The report was withheld by the FCO until this week on the grounds that its disclosure could damage Anglo-American relations until it was challenged by another academic and forced to disclose the material under environmental information rules.
Prof Sheppard wrote that the suspected discharges were going into ‘the very confined small boat basin in Diego Garcia where pathogen effects may be magnified’ and also leading to criticism of double standards from Britain’s closest ally. He said: ‘Comments have been received from several sources along the lines of ‘if the British ship continues to do this then why shouldn’t US ships?’
Tests have found levels of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphates up to four times higher than normal levels in the lagoon, meaning damage may be being caused to coral on Diego Garcia.
Peter Sand, a lecturer in environmental law at Munich University who secured the release of Prof Sheppard’s report, told The Independent that the island, which is home to about 5,000 US personnel, should be brought into the marine reserve.
He said: ‘The declaration of the reserve will remain an empty shell as long as it totally excludes the Diego Garcia military base. This may explain the desperate attempts by the Foreign Office to prevent public access to all embarrassing pollution data concerning Diego Garcia.’

FEASIBILITY STUDY EXPERTS APPOINTED
Following on from news last month regarding the final draft of the terms of reference being published, the British Government has now appointed the consultants for the long awaited feasibility study. John Vidal from the Guardian picks up the story:
“The coral islands, which have some of the cleanest waters in the world and half the total area of high quality coral reefs in the Indian Ocean, are rich in fish which would normally form the economic base of any resident community. But since Britain established the archipelago as the world’s largest marine reserve in 2010, it is theoretically illegal for anyone to fish there – except for the US military who have been allowed to catch around 50 tonnes of fish for sport. The setting up of the reserve by the then-foreign secretary David Miliband was widely interpreted as an attempt to prevent any resettlement by the evicted Chagossians.
But the terms of reference for the consultants also suggest Britain may be prepared to compromise on the total ban on fishing. The team has been asked to consider eco-tourism, fishing, game fishing and “industrial development”. If the Chagossians return, they have said they plan to re-establish copra production and fishing, and to develop the islands for tourism.
Britain has previously made it impossible for the islanders to return, citing both costs and sea level rise. A 2003 feasibility study led to the government concluding that resettlement would be “costly and precarious” and that sea-level rise was averaging 5.4mm a year – twice the global average – and accelerating. This was refuted by other scientists.
The study will consider many other environmental factors that could make life impossible for a small community to establish itself, but which appear to have not deterred the US military. The terms of reference specifically ask the consultants to look at how climate change could affect life on the islands in future. “This should include sea-level rise, rogue waves, coastal erosion, tropical cyclone frequency and intensity and changes in wave and wind conditions.”
David Snoxell, Co-ordinator of the Chagos islands’ All-Party Parliamentary Group and former British High Commissioner to Mauritius, said: ‘The FCO are to be applauded for initiating a new feasibility study which the all-party group has been arguing for since 2008. The Foreign Secretary announced in December 2012, following the Strasbourg verdict, that the case was inadmissible, that he would take stock of policies towards resettlement, but it has taken 15 months to get only to the stage of publishing terms of reference. It is imperative that the study is completed by the end of 2014 so that Parliament is consulted and decisions taken before the election. We do not want a repeat of what happened over the announcement of the marine protection area in April 2010, five weeks before the last general election, thus ensuring that there was no time to consult Parliament.’”

PARALLELS DRAWN BETWEEN CHAGOS ISLANDS AND CRIMEA
An observation made by UKChSA Chair Sabrina Jean was noticed by a Washington based weekly newspaper called The Hill. Sabrina pointed out that the British and American-led condemnation of the Russian occupation of Ukrainian territory in Crimea amounted to yet more hypocrisy given the events surrounding the depopulation of the Chagos Islands. Adam Ereli outlined the unfortunate parallels between Crimea and the Chagos Islands:
“For years, Great Britain has repeatedly used its power and influence to stymie the peaceful resolution of this dispute. In 2012, Mauritius announced that it would leave the Commonwealth if necessary in order to take the Chagos issue before the International Court of Justice. But the UK immediately amended its declaration relating to the jurisdiction of the Court so that the ICJ would not have mandatory jurisdiction if a case was brought against it. In 2010, Britain declared a Marine Protected Area around the archipelago, and in response Mauritius initiated proceedings against the UK under Annex 7 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The African Union and Non-Aligned Movement have expressed unanimous support for Mauritius over the Chagos issue.
Now is the time to do the right thing and begin negotiations over the return of the Chagos Archipelago to its rightful owner, the Republic of Mauritius. The era of colonialism is over. Russia’s actions in Crimea are a searing reminder that the international community will no longer tolerate the forceful subjugation of weaker states by their more powerful neighbors. Mauritius is acting responsibly, consistent with recognized international norms, to resolve this dispute peacefully. The West has the opportunity to match its words with deeds. Great Britain and the United States should do honor to their status as great powers and sit down with us to negotiate a formal, legal transfer of sovereignty.
Washington has no interest in being the subject of protracted challenges against the legality of the territory on which it maintains a vital military facility. As a close ally and strategic partner, Mauritius will continue to provide full access and basing rights to the United States on Diego Garcia. By accepting Mauritian sovereignty, the UK will not prejudice its position with respect to other colonial territories, nor will it prejudice the “defense purposes” by which it justifies its continued occupation of the islands.”
MINORITY RIGHTS GROUP INTERNATIONAL
Our friends at Minority Rights Group International have published a new report ahead of our appeal into the Judicial Review which commences at the High Court in central London on the 31st March. The full document is attached with this month’s copy of the newsletter and calls on the British to avoid further delays in addressing the continuing injustice inflicted against the Chagossian community:
“A new MRG report says that the creation of the Marine Protected Area, and the subsequent banning of commercial fishing in its waters, effectively bars Islanders from returning to their homes. Under international law, the Chagossians have a right to return to their homeland, unless such return is not feasible, in which case they should be offered appropriate compensation.
‘The Court case highlights the pressing need for a new feasibility study to clarify, once and for all, the possible means and arrangements for return to the islands,’ says Lucy Claridge, MRG’s Head of Law.
‘Given that the 2002 investigation commissioned by the UK government on resettlement of the Chagos Islands was found to be seriously flawed, it is imperative that any new feasibility study must be carried out with the full participation of the Chagossians,’ she adds.
The Islanders’ struggle to return home has led to a decades-long legal battle in the UK courts, and culminated in a December 2012 European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) dismissal of their claims to return, citing reasons based on technical grounds.”
DEMONSTRATION AT THE HIGH COURT IN LONDON
We will once again be organising a demonstration outside the High Court in central London on Monday 31st March. This will commence at 10am and we hope as many of our incredible supporters as possible will be available to join us. The demonstration is to mark the two day appeal against the High Court rejection of the Judicial Review of the MPA brought by Olivier Bancoult last April.
CHAGOS FOOTBALL TEAM TOURNAMENT
We are delighted to confirm news of a football tournament which will be administered by the Chagos Football Association. The event is an opportunity to raise funds for our fledgling football side (we need all the support they can get after suffering our first ever defeat last month!)
The fundraiser will be taking place at the Hazelwick School on Hazelwick Mill Lane, Three Bridges, Crawley RH10 1SX. The entrance fee will be £100 per competing team and all money raised will be ploughed towards turning our up and coming side into the next Bayern Munich. Further details are available from Giany, Gino, Dorian or Sabrina.

UKChSA ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING (AGM)
A final reminder that we will of course be hosting our AGM at the Pimlico branch of the Pizza Express on Sunday 6th April at 12 noon.
The full address is: 46 Moreton Street, London SW1V 2PB.
As always all of our wonderful supporters are welcome to come along. We are delighted to confirm that Richard Gifford from our legal team will once again be addressing the AGM, which of course will be the week following our latest date at the High Court.