News Peeks: Diego Garcia Part 2

Posted in Campaign, coverage, Feasability Study, resettlement, Wikileaks on March 8th, 2015 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

A few weeks ago News Peeks, a newly established political analysis website aimed at young people, published part one of their excellent short documentary on the history of the Chagos Islands. Now they have published part 2, which you can watch below.


Whereas the first video focused on the grim reality of Chagossians’ forced deportation from their homeland, the latest offering details the sufferings and frustrations underwent during forty-plus years of exile. Testimony from a range of Chagossians and their supporters explains how, over the course of decades, the British Government has failed to live up to legal and moral obligations to the exiled Islanders.

Touched on towards the end of the film is the vital point that a feasibility study has recently demonstrated Chagossian return home could be successful economically, environmentally and socially. To support the return 2015 campaign, please sign the petition,  write to your MP and read more about how you can help win Chagossian justice here.

WikiLeaked diplomatic cable , judged as admissible evidence

Posted in Legal, MPA, Wikileaks on June 11th, 2014 by Mark Fitzsimons – 1 Comment

A leaked diplomatic cable published by a third party on the internet did not violate the archive and documents of the diplomatic mission which had sent the cable because it had already been disclosed to the world and, consequently, it was admissible as evidence in court. The Court of Appeal so held, inter alia. in dismissing the appeal of the claimant, Louis Oliver Bancoult, against the refusal of the Divisional Court of the Queen’s Bench Division (Lord Justice Richards and Mr Justice Mitting) ([2013] EWHC 1502 (Admin)) to grant judicial review of the decision on April 1, 2010, of the defendant, the Foreign Secretary, to create a no-take marine protected area for the environmental protection of the British Indian Ocean Territory. A summary of the judgement was published in the Times on 10 June 2014.

Disappointment at Appeal Court verdict on Chagos marine reserve

Posted in ConDem, conservation, FCO, Labour, MPA, resettlement, Wikileaks on May 26th, 2014 by Robert Bain – Be the first to comment

The Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court’s ruling that the Chagos marine reserve imposed by Gordon Brown’s government in 2010 was lawful.
Judges considered cables revealed by Wikileaks, which suggested the Foreign Office hoped the Chagos marine reserve would prevent the islanders from returning home.
The Chagos Refugees Group has made the following statement:

Chagossians welcome the important decision of the Court of Appeal that the Wikileaks cable, in which the Commissioner for British Indian Ocean Territory revealed the true purpose of David Miliband’s Marine Protected Area around the Chagos islands to be to prevent resettlement by us of our islands should have been admitted in evidence. It clearly showed that the UK was presenting the MPA to the USA as a means of preventing us from resettling our ancestral homeland. We condemn the last British government for the underhand way in which our dignity as an uprooted people has been further insulted. What we do not understand is that, having wrongly excluded this important evidence from the Court, it has now been decided that this exclusion “makes no difference” to the issue of this improper purpose. It seems that the whole world now knows what was said between officials in secret, but the Courts are alone in disregarding the clear message of deception which it reveals.
It should be recalled that the history of our exile is marked by serious acts of deception practised in order to disguise what is a clear breach of our rights of self determination. This history includes:

1. The deception of the UN in 1965, when the Colonial Office misrepresented our people as a transient population, despite their duty to help us towards self- determination, in order to evade fundamental rights and secretly deport our people into exile.

2. The secret documents that required us to surrender our right of return, which were not explained or translated to us, when small amounts of compensation were paid in 1982.

3. The now revealed interference by officials with the feasibility Study in 2000-2002 which Robin Cook promised as a means of providing for our return.

4. The secret abolition of our Right of Return, by Jack Straw, in 2004, when the false conclusions of the feasibility study were used to justify this attack on our identity as an island people. Chagossians will never give up our fundamental right to return to our homeland. We welcome the decision of the coalition government to make a second study of the Return of the population, provided that this is a sincere effort to achieve real resettlement. We deplore the last Government’s tricks to cheat us of our return, after the High Court declared our exile to be illegal in 2000.

David Miliband ignored official advice on MPA timing

Posted in APPG, Diego Garcia, ECHR, FCO, ITLOS, Labour, Legal, Mauritius, MPA, USA, Wikileaks on June 21st, 2013 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

In an article for the Mauritius Times (No. 3124), David Snoxell, coordinator of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group, reviews the outcome of the judicial review of the Chagos Marine Protected Area (MPA) and the way in which the then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, rushed through the declaration of a no-take MPA against official advice:

The documents released for the judicial review provide fascinating insights into the advice being submitted to the Foreign Secretary, leading up to the announcement of the MPA on 1 April 2010. Officials cautioned that the results of the public consultation should be announced but not rushed, pending careful “management” of the Chagossians and Mauritius. “There was further work to do with stakeholders before establishing an MPA.” Officials warned that “Our best defence against the legal challenges which are likely to be forthcoming is to demonstrate a conscientious and careful decision making process. A rapid decision now would undermine that… We would expect to recommend a phased introduction of a no-take MPA which would give time to put a sustainable funding package in place.”

Within hours David Miliband brushed aside official advice and decided on an immediate designation of a full ‘no-take’ MPA. On 31 March senior officials made last ditch attempts to head the Foreign Secretary off. One noted, “I think this approach risks deciding (and being seen to decide) policy on the hoof for political timetabling reasons rather than on the basis of expert advice and public consultation. That’s a very different approach to the one we recommended yesterday… to be developed over time with the involvement of many stakeholders and to be based on science as well as politics.” That evening officials were instructed to prepare a statement announcing the MPA the following day just as Parliament went into the Easter recess. It sparked emergency debates in both Houses five days later.

The judgment observes that “it was the personal decision of the Foreign Secretary to declare an MPA on 1 April 2010, against the advice of officials.” So his green legacy was secured but at much cost in terms of worldwide perceptions of the MPA, the UK’s reputation, the deepening mistrust, felt by the Chagossians and Mauritius, and the litigation which three years later is still with us.

Further discussions, as officials recommended, could have resulted in an MPA that accommodated Chagossian and Mauritian interests. The Coalition Government would probably have insisted on it anyway.

Justice is a very long time in coming

Posted in APPG, conservation, Diego Garcia, FCO, ITLOS, Labour, Mauritius, MPA, Parliament, USA, Wikileaks, William Hague on June 3rd, 2013 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment
The US air base that now occupies Diego Garcia (copyright holder unknown)

The US air base that now occupies Diego Garcia (copyright holder unknown)

“A fair settlement for some dispossed people may just be on the horizon”, writes David Snoxell in an article for Tribune, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the last boat load of Chagossians to be deported from their homeland.

While noting that, five months after its announcement,  there is little evidence of progress regarding a promised review by William Hague on resettlement of the Chagos Islands, Snoxell sees reasons for optimism.

There is a significant sign of progress. After four years of pressure from the APPG. FCO Minister Mark Simmonds has abandoned the official mantra that arguments against resettlement are “clear and compelling” and that “it’s not possible to put the clock back” and agreed to an independent study. This should revisit the flawed science and assumptions of the 2002 feasibility study, on which the FCO largely based its opposition to resettlement, an argument also intrinsic to its cases before the Law Lords in 2008 and Strasbourg in 2012. The study should be above board. In 2002, the Chagossians were not consulted. This time, it is vital that they and Parliament are involved. The timescale, terms of reference and the choice of consultants should be agreed with them.

35th Meeting of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group – Co-ordinator’s Summary

Posted in APPG, conservation, CRG, Diego Garcia, FCO, Legal, MPA, Parliament, USA, Wikileaks, William Hague on April 25th, 2013 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

Photo: Gail Johnson

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its postponed 35th meeting on 24 April 2013.  Olivier Bancoult, the Chairman of the Chagos Refugees Group, visiting the UK for the Judicial Review of the Chagos MPA, was invited to address the Group. He was accompanied by the new chair of the UK Chagos Support Association, Sabrina Jean.

In closed session members discussed the Foreign Secretary’s reply to the Chairman, in which Mr Hague had said he would be happy to meet the APPG later in the year once progress had been made with the review of policy on British Indian Ocean Territories (BIOT). Members noted that it was now 4 months since Mr Hague had announced on 20 December 2012 that he would take stock of the policy towards the resettlement of BIOT. They questioned how it was possible for such a review to take so long given that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had been considering the options since an earlier review announced by the new Foreign Secretary in June 2010. Members wanted to discuss their proposals with the Foreign Secretary before decisions were taken.
The Group discussed the 21 Parliamentary Questions and Questions on Chagos tabled since the last meeting on 13 February. They felt that, although largely repeating the same positions, the tone was more positive. They were encouraged by the reply of Mr Simmonds to a PQ on 25 March from Andrew George MP in which the Minister had stated that “Ministers and officials continue to engage with Chagossians as part of our review of policy. This will include the costs, benefits and other consequences of any kind of resettlement”. Members felt that Baroness Warsi’s replies to Lord Avebury’s letters, regarding diplomatic solutions concerning Mauritius and the Chagossians, rather than litigation, were not positive.
Members took note of Dominic Kennedy’s interview with Henry Bellingham MP, the previous Foreign Office Minister in charge of BIOT and now a member of the Group, in The Times of 29 March. They were pleased to see his suggestions for moving towards a limited resettlement. These included a private sector led initiative, an eco-tourism project, a centre on the Outer Islands for research, enhanced mooring facilities, a jetty, an eco hotel and a visitors centre on Diego Garcia for Chagossians. Members agreed with Mr Bellingham that it would give the Chagossians “a feeling that Britain and America were atoning for the sins of the past”.
The scientific review (Oct 2012) by Dr Paul Kench of the 2002 Feasibility Study was discussed. Members agreed that his report demonstrated that the Feasibility Study, on which the FCO had always based their policy against resettlement, had been seriously flawed, contained contradictory evidence and was lacking in transparency and tested scientific data, resulting in incorrect conclusions. The Group reiterated their wish for a new scientifically rigorous and up to date study.
The Coordinator briefed the Group on the current Judicial Review of the MPA (15-24 April). The Group took note of the judges’ ruling concerning the inadmissibility of wikileak evidence (which had been allowed in an earlier judgment by a High Court judge) on the grounds that  Article 24 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations precluded the use of communications belonging to diplomatic missions. Members wondered if  FCO Ministers had properly considered the wider implications of such a ruling before it was raised by the FCO legal team in court.
The next meeting will be on 5 June 2013.

Wikileaks and the Chagos MPA

Posted in FCO, Legal, MPA, Wikileaks on April 24th, 2013 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

David Snoxell, former British high commissioner to Mauritius, wrote a letter to the Guardian in response to its Editorial, making further pertinent points in relation to the judges ruling on the admissibility of Wikileaks evidence:

If the judges rule (Editorial, 19 April) that communications (eg WikiLeaks) emanating from diplomatic missions are protected by the Vienna convention, all such material held by their receiving governments will also be protected. The purpose of the convention was to protect diplomatic missions, not the archives of home governments which have more effective means of security protection. Do judges have the power to extend the scope of internationally negotiated UN conventions and would the Foreign and Commonwealth Office agree that this is desirable? Judges and government probably need more time to consider fully the implications of such a ruling than a complex judicial review on the legitimacy of the Chagos marine protected area allows.

Chagos Islands: open secrets

Posted in conservation, FCO, Legal, MPA, USA, Wikileaks on April 23rd, 2013 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

A recent Guardian article and editorial highlight the latest attempt by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to suppress the truth about its motivation for the creation of a Marine Protected Area around the Chagos Islands, by insisting that evidence sourced from Wikileaks was inadmissable as evidence according to Diplomatic Privileges Act. This is the latest example of how the FCO, through its taxpayer-funded lawyers, has used every trick in the book to avoid facing up to the truth of Wikileaks. The Guardian states:

Clumsy vanishing tricks are back on the stage, this time in connection with the Chagos Islands. In a shaming chapter of British colonialism, the islands’ inhabitants were cleared away as part of a deal to create a US airbase, in which US backhanders and the misleading of parliament are established facts. Even William Hague is not trying to deny it all; his more modest – but still audacious – ambition is to get the courts to pretend that they have never seen a devastating memo that emerged as part of the 2010 US embassy cables. It records Colin Roberts – a mandarin now set for installation as the governor of the Falklands – allegedly explaining that a purportedly environmental scheme to create a “marine conservation park” including the islands will in fact “put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago’s former residents”, breathtaking evidence of a gulf between public policy and private motivation.

Faced with litigation concerning the lawfulness of the conservation policy, at the start of this week the Foreign Office was following its customary tactic of refusing to engage on the basis that it never confirms or denies leaks. Suddenly, however – and apparently without written argument – it switched strategies and announced that the memo could not be considered without violating the Vienna convention, which protects diplomatic correspondence.

We await the court’s written ruling, but the judges have already indicated they may accept an argument, which in effect recognises that the memo is authentic. That is only one bizarre implication of what could prove a very British cover-up. For if the law requires that this newly authenticated document be put back under wraps, where does that leave the likes of the Guardian, which has already released it? Must it now be “unpublished”, and taken down from the web? It is of course a ridiculous prospect, but then fear of ridicule never gets in the way of a good English scramble to pretend unfortunate things have never been seen.

Hague 'should say sorry to the Chagos islanders and let them return'

Posted in APPG, Crawley, CRG, ECHR, FCO, Legal, MPA, Parliament, Wikileaks, William Hague on December 26th, 2012 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

So says Dr Sean Carey, a research fellow at the University of Roehampton, UK, in an article for The Independent. The article was written in the wake of the seven-judge chamber of the European Court of Human Rights deciding by majority that the case regarding the right of return of the exiled Chagos Islanders was inadmissible.

The article charts the campaign for justice waged by the Chagossians over the years, and the tactics used by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to block them, the most recent being the creation of a Marine Protected Area.

The article concludes:

“Although recent UK governments have expressed “regret” about the past, it is very revealing that no formal apology has been made to the Chagossians. Irrespective of the decision of the Strasbourg court, on moral and ethical grounds, it is time for a change in tone and policy. That should include a debate in Parliament in the New Year, and the Foreign Secretary working in close collaboration with the Chagos All Party Parliamentary Group. William Hague should also take the opportunity to invoke the spirit of William Wilberforce by apologising for the mistakes of previous UK governments and allow the islanders to return to their homeland.”

30th Meeting of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group – Co-ordinator's Summary

Posted in APPG, Legal, Mauritius, MPA, Parliament, USA, Wikileaks on July 12th, 2012 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

Photo: Gail Johnson

The Chagos Islands (BIOT) All-Party Parliamentary Group held its 4th Annual General Meeting and 30th meeting on 11 July 2012.

The Group re-elected the current office holders (Chairman, Jeremy Corbyn MP; Vice Chairs, Lord Avebury, Lord Ramsbotham, Henry Smith MP, Andrew Rosindell MP; Secretary, Andrew George MP). David Snoxell was reappointed Coordinator and Richard Gifford Legal Adviser – they were thanked for their dedicated support and service to the Group.

The Group discussed developments in the 4 legal cases. There was no news from Strasbourg; final submissions had to be in by the end of July for the UNCLOS case brought by Mauritius; the appeal to the Information Tribunal was heard on 10/11 July and pre-trial applications were currently under way for the Judicial Review of the MPA. The BIOT Commissioner and another officer had been cross-examined at the Information Tribunal – the judge might give his decision by the end of July. In the pre-trial applications for the MPA Judicial Review it had been decided that wikileaks was admissible evidence.The judge was considering whether the BIOT Commissioner and the Administrator, who were quoted by the US Embassy in their 2009 cable to Washington, would be required to give evidence under oath. This was being opposed by the FCO. It looked as if the MPA JR would therefore drag on until October.

Note was taken of Lord Avebury’s intervention in the debate on the Queen’s speech on 17 May, concerning a just and fair settlement, the MPA, the wikileaks and the mounting cost of continuing to fight legal cases. Lord Avebury was asked to draw his comments to the attention of Ministers.

The media reports and the Answers to PQs on the outcome of the meeting between the Mauritian Prime Minister and Mr Cameron on 8 June were discussed. It was noted that both sides had different understandings of what was discussed.The Group was surprised at the apparent contradiction of the two accounts of the meeting between the Prime Minister and Dr Ramgoolam. Members felt that the meeting had raised expectations and offered a unique opportunity, during the Diamond Jubilee week, to begin to address an overall political settlement. They were disappointed that the British side seemed to prefer to prolong the legal battles. It was agreed that in view of the sensitivities of the situation members would talk personally to Ministers.

The Group discussed the chapter on BIOT in the White Paper on the Overseas Territories released on 28 June. They were unhappy about the way some aspects of BIOT had been described and decided to raise these points when the White Paper is debated.

A recent statement by Olivier Bancoult concerning the difficulties over passports, visas and benefits had been circulated to members. The Group was very sympathetic and would continue to raise these issues, most recently on 22 February when Mr Corbyn, Mr Rosindell and Lord Avebury had a meeting with the Immigration Minister.

The next meeting of the Group will be after the summer recess on 17 October 2012.