Diego Garcia

Coral Frontiers: Towards a Post-Military Landscape- Architecture Project on Chagossian Return on Show Now

Posted in Cultural, Diego Garcia on June 26th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
A 3D model of Diego Garcia, part Coral Frontiers project currently on show at RCA Battersea Campus

A 3D model of Diego Garcia, part Coral Frontiers project currently on show at RCA Battersea Campus

An exciting new architecture project centered around Chagossian return to their homeland can now be seen at the Battersea Campus of the Royal College of Art. As part of the university’s degree show, Rosa Rogina’s work Coral Frontiers: Towards a Post-Military Landscape can be seen between 25th June and 5th July, at Howie Street, London SW11 4AS.

A few months ago we reported on and went to an ‘in progress’ exhibition of the project, which Ms Rogina comments looks at “a possible shift in the balance of power” from the previously dominant colonial powers to the Chagossian people.

Having initially looked at how Chagossians were stripped of the most fundamental human rights by their forced exile, Rosa expanded her project to look at how infrastructure projects could have a positive social, environmental and economic benefit for resettled Chagossians.

Coral Frontiers: Towards a Post-Military Landscape imagines how integrating a resettled Chagossian society into the Coral Frontier programme, supported by UN Environmental Programme for biodiversity, could act as an “environmental healer” for Diego Garcia whilst providing skills and income for returned Chagossian exiles.

Roch Evenor with a mocked-up paper reporting Chagossian returning home

Roch Evenor with a mocked-up paper reporting Chagossian returning home

The military past of Diego Garcia is contrasted with a potential sustainable civilian future for Chagossians

The military past of Diego Garcia is contrasted with a potential sustainable civilian future for Chagossians

The project focuses on the potential for the a “progressive transition from a landscape dominated by an occupying army to one defined by a community of returning exiles.” Acknowledging that a continued military presence is likely at least in the short-term, Rosa is adamant that Chagossians themselves should define the new spatial configuration and architecture of their renewed society as exiles and their descendents reconnect with their homeland:

“I chose not to impose a design solution for the resettled community and leave to the Chagossians to decide how to inhabit the island. Instead, this project is a proposal for their first means of survival – the infrastructure that may sustain their resettlement,

The imagined scenario in 2036 as a successful Chagossian society replaces US military dominance of the islands

The imagined scenario in 2036 as a successful Chagossian society replaces US military dominance of the islands

One central aspect of the current exhibition looks at how coral regeneration in the lagoon of Diego Garcia, contrasting this environmentally-conscious civilian future with its role in recent years as a military hub (pictured above centre).

 

“Chagossians were not only exiled from their homeland, they have been continuously manipulated within the legal framework in order to never come back. For me, not to atone for the committed crime is often more monstrous than committing a crime in the first place.” Rosa Rogina on the recent history of the Chagossian people.

Creating the project took months of hard work and Rosa worked with a number of Chagossians, including Roch Evenor, former Chairperson of UK Chagos Support Association (pictured above right) and David J. Simon (right). As can be seen, an earlier part of the project involved Chagossians holding detailed mock-ups of a Guardian report on Chagossian return home and their renewed society’s progress.

As Rosa explained in her previous interview, her initial interest in the Chagossian story centered on just how “media plays a crucial role in the production of space.”

Speaking about her hopes for the project, Rosa adds that “I definitely hope I can help raise awareness of the cause. Even speculative architecture projects can be a very powerful tool. Resettlement of these islands is possible, its just a question of whether the people in power are willing to make it happen.”

You can see Rosa Rogina’s Coral Frontiers: Towards a Post-Military Landscape at the Battersea Camps of the Royal College of Art until 5th July (open every day 12-6PM with the exception of 3rd July).

 

 

New allegations that Diego Garcia used as a “secret prison”

Posted in coverage, Diego Garcia, Rendition on May 14th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
Click to read Hersh's full essay containing the allegations

Click to read Hersh’s full essay containing the allegations

In an essay on his new book for London Review of Books, investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh quotes a retired US military official referencing “secret prisons like we still have in Diego Garcia.”

The oppression of Chagossians is publicly admitted, if not well-known, but there have long been allegations the UK & US have used Diego Garcia to support so-called ‘rendition’ and torture.

Other US officials, including a senior aide to former Defence Secretary Colin Powell, have recently alleged Diego Garcia was used to support “nefarious activities.”

Asides from two cases in 2003, the UK Government has continued to deny allegations Diego Garcia has played any role in supporting such practices.

Diego Garcia Flight Record Publication Delay

Posted in coverage, Diego Garcia, Rendition, USA on April 8th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
US warplanes in Diego Garcia

US warplanes in Diego Garcia

Human Rights legal charity Reprieve have released a statement accusing the Government of “stalling” over their request to publish complete flight logs of arrivals and departures from the US military base on Diego Garcia.

Reprieve’s attention was drawn to Diego Garcia following consistent allegations that the base was used to support ‘rendition’ flights and torture, most recently raised by former senior Bush-administration Lawrence Wilkerson.

Reprieve report that following their official request for the records over 8 months ago, they were recently informed the Government was still “assessing their suitability for publication.” The Government has continued to deny that Diego Garcia has had any role in supporting rendition, with the exception of two cases in 2003 which were acknowledged in 2008 by then Foreign Secretary David Miliband having previously been denied.

Donald Campbell, a representative from the organisation, stated that:

“It is hard to see how such a long delay could be justified. We need to see full publication of those records without delay, in order to reassure the public that Britain is not involved in the cover-up of torture evidence.”

The failure to publish these records has also been picked up by VICE News and Sputnik News.

The reports also feature previous controversy concerning Diego Garcia flight records. Last year in which the Government first claimed certain records were water damaged, before stating this was a mistake and no relevant data had been lost.

Our Thoughts

This delay immediately follows another Government’s ‘delay’ in deciding upon support for Chagossian resettlement of their homeland. Regardless of the truth of these rendition allegations, the native people of Diego Garcia were forced from their homes so this military base could exist. The human rights of Chagossians must also feature in any discussion about Diego Garcia.

Although the coalition Government initially took the positive step of setting up a feasibility study into return, their legacy will be one of inaction. We urge the next Government, whoever they may be, to act urgently and engage fully with the growing concerns of UK citizens on their nation’s treatment of the Chagos Islands and their people.

Chagossians on "shaky ground": Seychelles News Agency

Posted in coverage, Diego Garcia, Mauritius, MPA, Philippa Gregory, resettlement, Return, Seychelles, UN on March 27th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Diego_Garcia_Abandoned_PlantationA new report from Seychelles News Agency highlights the uncertainty felt by Chagossians after a turbulent week. On Wednesday the UK Government refused to live up to their promise to decide on supporting Chagossian return before the election. Earlier in the week the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) judged that the UK had acted illegally in creating a Marine Protected Area around the Chagos Islands in 2010.

Although the PCA decision has been reported as a positive development for Chagossians, the Seychelles News Agency quotes Chairperson of the Chagossian Committee in the Seychelles Gilberte Grendron arguing it remains “quite unclear” what the consequences are for Chagossians.

The PCA case was really about Mauritian sovereignty, not Chagossian rights, she notes. Ms Grendron also adds there are concerns about what would happen to Chagossians’ UK citizenship if their homeland became Mauritian territory. Although she acknowledges the verdict of the PCA was probably correct, Ms Grendron adds that there are worries that with significant alteration to the MPA the environment of their homeland could be damaged.

Ms Grendron is entirely right to raise these concerns. If we did not already know already, one thing we should have learned in recent weeks is that Chagossian politics is extremely complex.

Elsewhere in the article our reaction to the Government’s failure to support Chagossian return is referenced, with a quote from our Patron and Secretary Philippa Gregory.

Statement on 23 March 2015 issued by the Chagos Islands (BIOT) APPG on prospects for Chagossian resettlement and the future of the Chagos Islands.

Posted in APPG, Diego Garcia, ITLOS, Mauritius, Parliament, resettlement, USA on March 25th, 2015 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

portThe Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group was established in December 2008 to help bring about a resolution of the issues concerning the future of the Chagos Islands and of the Chagossian people. Considerable progress has been made towards this aim.

The KPMG report on the feasibility of resettlement, published last month, concluded that there were no legal obstacles to resettlement.

The Group held its 48th and final meeting of this Parliament on Monday 23 March 2015. In the absence so far of a statement by the Government on the KPMG report members concluded that:

  1. 1: Notwithstanding the period of purdah, between the dissolution of Parliament and the general election, the Government should consult and agree with the main political parties a statement on the future of the exiled Chagossian people to be made before the election, setting out the intentions of parties likely to form the next government.

  1. 2: The APPG believes that, following the KPMG study, there should be agreement to a pilot resettlement on Diego Garcia, work on which should begin immediately when the next government comes to office, with a view to the first settlers arriving in early 2016.

  1. 3: The APPG urges the political parties to seize this opportunity, during the year of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and the 50th anniversary of the creation of the British Indian Ocean Territory, to bring about a fair and just settlement to which Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were committed before the 2010 election, and rectify one of the worst violations of fundamental human rights perpetrated by the United Kingdom in the twentieth century.

  1. 4: The APPG considers that any renewal next year of the 1966 UK/US Agreement on the use of BIOT for defence purposes should be conditional on a commitment by both parties to facilitate and support resettlement.

  1. 5: The Group welcomes the Arbitral Tribunal’s conclusion of the international arbitration between the UK and Mauritius and its finding that the undertakings given by the UK in 1965 are legally binding in international law. It calls upon the Government to open discussions with Mauritius concerning fishing rights which until the declaration of the MPA were operated by Chagossian owned and operated vessels.

  1. 6: In consequence of the above finding which gives Mauritius an “interest in significant decisions that bear upon the possible use of the Archipelago” the APPG urges the Government to consult Mauritius over future arrangements both for the MPA and for the US base on Diego Garcia, and also on plans for the resettlement of Chagossians, in view of the facilities available on Diego Garcia. The Government should also draw on expertise and experience available in Mauritius.

  1. 7: The APPG will be re-established after the election and continue to promote its aim of an overall settlement of the issues.

Permanent Court of Arbitration rules on Chagos Islands

Posted in conservation, coverage, Diego Garcia, MPA, resettlement on March 20th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

The Permanent Court of Arbitration has ruled that the UK breached its international obligations in creating a Marine Protected Area around the Chagos Islands in 2010. Guardian correspondent Owen Bowcott  reports that the UK “acted illegally” and suggests the ruling offers “hope of return” to exiled pcaChagossians. In the verdict, the court notes that the MPA was created in “haste…dictated by the electoral timetable.” Read our reaction in the below statement.

The court ruled, by a vote of three to two, that it did not have jurisdiction to rule on what amounted a challenge to the UK’s sovereignty over the Chagos Islands. Two judges did though issue a dissenting comment, saying that the UK “showed complete disregard for the territorial integrity of Mauritius”and had used the “language of intimidation.” The full details of the case and the final judgement can be read here.

Chagossians in the UK, Mauritius and The Seychelles were not properly consulted about the creation of the Marine Protected Area. As we stated at the time, the failure to work with all relevant stakeholders, Chagossians included, meant that the decision ultimately lacked moral and legal legitimacy. Diplomatic documents released by Wikileaks later revealed that the creation of the Marine Protected Area was, at least in part, an attempt to prevent Chagossians from returning to their homeland.

Environmentalists, including our Patron Ben Fogle and Greenpeace, who had initially supported the measure condemned the manner of the creation of the Chagos Marine Protected Area when the full facts came to light.

 

Our Statement

This must draw a line under the failures of the past, and the UK Government must now focus on supporting Chagossians’ right to return to their homeland.

The Marine Protected Area, whatever its intention, does not prevent Chagossian return home. It does not apply to Diego Garcia at all and only starts three miles from land. An artisan fishing industry could then be sustained without significant alteration to the MPA.

More importantly, a Government-commissioned feasibility study has already found that return is entirely feasible in environmental, defence, social and economic terms. Notably it emphaised that Chagossians are deeply passionate about protecting the environment of their homeland and wished to be actively involved in conservation efforts upon their return.

The Government committed to making a decision on Chagossians’ right to return before the 2015 election and time is running out. We urge Parliamentarians to engage fully with all stakeholders to end decades of human rights abuse and remove a terrible stain on the UK’s character. This administration has a unique opportunity to deliver justice for Chagossians by ending over forty years of enforced exile and supporting return.

 

"Chagos Islanders May Finally Return Home" Allgov Article of Chagossian Campaign

Posted in Campaign, Diego Garcia, resettlement on March 1st, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Keeping our focus on the other side of the Atlantic, US Government scrutiny news site Allgov has published a new article on the fight of the All GovChagossian people to return home.

The short piece takes quotes from this website about the heartlessness of the deportation and the appalling conditions of exile. It also notes the comments of Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group Coordinator David Snoxell to The Observer that failure to restore the right of return was becoming “inconceivable.”

With the agreement allowing the US use of Diego Garcia set to expire in 2016, anything our American friends can do ensure the US Government accept their moral responsibility to the Chagossian people is hugely appreciated. We need to raise awareness all around the world.

The official flag of the British Indian Ocean Territory-the UK's official name for the Chagos Islands

The official flag of the British Indian Ocean Territory-the UK’s official name for the Chagos Islands

Of course Diego Garcia and the other Chagos Islands in the end remain British Overseas Territories. The responsibility for their future then in the final reckoning lies with the UK Government who should insist any extension of the deal is conditional on US support for Chagosssian return.

John Prescott: Return "a small price to pay for the injustice we dealt Chagossians"

Posted in Ben Fogle, Campaign, coverage, Diego Garcia, Feasability Study, Labour, Lord Prescott on February 15th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

Ex Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has made a powerful intervention in the campaign to grant Chagossians the right to return to their homeland. Writing in the The Mirror, he notes with the 50 year UK-US agreement on US military use of Diego Garcia coming to an end in prescott2016. now is the perfect time to grant Chagossians the opportunity to return home. As we have consistently argued, any renewal of the agreement must include US support for Chagossian resettlement.

As Lord Prescott notes, the UK received an £11 million discount on Polaris nuclear weapons in exchange for deporting the Chagossians in the original UK-US deal. Adjusted for inflation, this would be worth £200 million today. This would be more than enough to pay for resettlement of the islands.

On costs, Lord Prescott makes the very reasonable point that KPMG estimates, which begin at £60 million over three years, are “a small price to pay for the injustice we dealt Chagossians.” That these cost estimates are thought overly high by a range of experts only makes any opposition to return even more unreasonable.

The ‘cost’ of Chagossian return, to say nothing about the UK’s moral obligation, is also interestingly compared with the cost of maintaining the Falkland Islands. Resettlement of the Chagos Islands could be accomplished for less than the UK spends on the Falkland Islands in one year. The UK has obligations to all its Overseas Territories.

Speculating why the Government has been so keen to support the Falkland Islanders and so opposed to Chagossian return, Lord Prescott notes that the former are “white.” Considering the history of Chagossians’ deportation, in which they were dismissed as “Tarzans” and “Man Fridays” by UK and US Government officials, and only this were week referred to as “so-called Chagossians” in a Telegraph article, this is not an unreasonable conclusion.

The work of Ben Fogle, one of our Patron’s and a veteran Chagossian campaigner, is also acknowledged in the Daily Mirror piece.

We are glad to have the committed support of Lord Prescott, Ben Fogle and a growing list of people who recognise there is no longer a sensible argument for denying Chagossians justice and the right to return. Add your voice by signing the petition

"Chagossians have waited more than forty years for justice, there should be no delay now." Our response to Government Statement on Chagossian Return

Posted in APPG, Ben Fogle, Benjamin Zephaniah, Campaign, coverage, Diego Garcia, FCO, Feasability Study, Philippa Gregory, resettlement on February 10th, 2015 by Robert Bain – 1 Comment

Earlier today (10th February) the Government made a statement announcing the publication of the Foreign Office-commissioned KPMG report into the feasibility of Chagossian resettlement of their homeland. Our initial reaction is broadly positive and can be read below. The

Foreign Office Statement is cautious; but clear return is possible

Foreign Office Statement is cautious; but clear return is possible

Government’s statement, which announces the beginning of a “policy review,” can be read in full here.

The UK Chagos Support Association very much welcomes KPMG’s report into the feasability of Chagossian return to their homeland and its conclusion that there are no practical, security or environmental obstacles to resettlement. The Government’s confirmation that it will now engage in a serious and thorough policy review is also welcome.

The indication that the unique history of the Chagossian people will be a primary factor in this policy review is especially pleasing. The forced deportation of Chagossians and their neglect in exile by successive administrations places an unavoidable moral obligation on the UK Government to deliver justice to a much abused community.

The report rightly recongises any resettlement programme is complex, but it also demonstrates that there are no challenges to return which can not be overcome with appropriate planning and management.

Buildings like this beautiful church could soon see life again

Buildings like this beautiful church could soon see life again

We understand the Government’s concern that disproportionate costs should not fall on UK taxpayers. We are confident, however, that by efficiently managing processes, utilising a wide variety of funding sources and exploring income generating opportunities, Chagossian return can be delivered with extremely minimal cost to UK citizens.

Upon receiving the report, UK Chagos Support Association Patron and Novelist Philippa Gregory also reacted positivity, commenting;

“I am so pleased that KPMG has consulted the Chagossians as to their future and suggested ways that they could return to their rightful homeland at last. The Chagossians have waited more than forty years for justice, there should be no delay now.”

“While there is work to do on the detail of return, the Government can agree to the principle at once and make a commitment to these people who have been cruelly exiled for too long. The older people want to see their homeland before they die and the younger people are eager to make a start on their new lives. I urge the Foreign Office to make a commitment to return now.”

We accordingly look forward to working with the Chagossian community, Government officials and other stakeholders to develop and deliver a practical resettlement project in the near . Recognition of wider concerns of the Chagossian people beyond resettlement is also highly welcome and it is only right these are addressed simultaneously with central aim of return.

If you have any further queries about this issue do not hesitate to get in touch. Contact details can be found in the ‘contact us’ tab in the top left.

Chagos Islands: The ‘point of return’ beckons for Chagosians

Posted in APPG, Ben Fogle, Benjamin Zephaniah, CCT, CRG, Diego Garcia, EU, FCO, Feasability Study, Labour, Legal, Mauritius, MPA, Parliament, Philippa Gregory, Phillip Hammond, resettlement, UN, USA, William Hague on February 9th, 2015 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

chagos

 

Over four decades ago, citizens of the picturesque Indian Ocean archipelago of Chagos were tricked or forcibly removed from their land by the UK to make way for a US military base following a secret deal between the two countries. The suffering of the forcibly exiled Chagossians, and their fight to return home is well documented. Now a new report brings hope their ordeal could soon be over. Dr Sean Carey finds out how.