Chagossians appeal to Supreme Court: All the action and reaction

Posted in Campaign, coverage, Exile, Supreme Court on June 25th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

sc1On Monday 22nd June another important chapter in history of the Chagossian people’s fight for justice may just have been written. Led by Chagos Refugee Group founder and President Oliver Bancoult, Chagossians’ lawyers, including long-time Chagossian supporter Richard Gifford and counsel Ed Fitzgerald QC, Paul Harris SC and Amal Clooney from Doughty Street Chambers, challenged a 2008 decision by the Law Lords which upheld a Government ban on their right to return home.


The Background of the Case

Oliver Bancoult after High Court victory in 2000

Oliver Bancoult after High Court victory in 2000

Although the challenge relates to a 2008 decision by the Law Lords (officially the Appellate Committee of The House of Lords), the genesis of the case stretches back to a historic High Court decision in 2000. This adjudged the expulsion of the Chagossian people unlawful and supported their right to return to their homeland. The Foreign Secretary at the time, Robin Cook, and the Government accepted the court’s ruling. But in 2004 on the day of the European elections, the Government quietly passed new law using Orders-in-Council (under the Royal Prerogative which allows Parliament to be bypassed)- making it illegal for anyone to set foot on the islands without a permit. Needless to say, permits for Chagossian return were not forthcoming.

Chagossians’ and their lawyers challenged this measure in the High Court and won, with the court finding in 2006 that the section of the 2004 Order-in-Council which had abolished the Chagossian right of abode law was not lawful. The Government appealed and lost again in 2006 in the Court of Appeal.

The final Government appeal to the Law Lords (since replaced by the Supreme Court) in 2008 was narrowly successful with a 3:2 verdict that the Government’s actions in 2004 had been legal, and that the abolition of the right of abode was not unreasonable given the findings of a 2002 feasibility study that had shown resettlement to be precarious and too costly.

That brings us to Monday’s action. The 2008 verdict was challenged on the basis that key documents were withheld from lawyers for the Chagossians and the judges, which would have impacted significantly on the case.

Specifically these documents included a copy of the draft of the 2002 feasibility study, correspondence, and the comments of an FCO scientific adviser, Charles Sheppard. Lawyers for the Chagossians had suspected that these documents existed and had been asking for them since 2005 but the FCO and the Government lawyers (Treasury Solicitor) had claimed that they had all been destroyed. This was untrue and they were finally disclosed in May 2012. The documents show that FCO officials were highly critical and doubtful about the quality of the draft report in areas which supported resettlement, and called for a strengthening of the report in other areas. These criticisms then led the consultants to alter the report so that the final version appeared more robust and the faults were hidden. The manner in which this was done has brought into question the so called “independence” of the report, with suggestions of political interference. In addition the documents also showed that the FCO’s scientific adviser was in fact unqualified to comment on the key areas of the report concerning present and future storms and wave-overtopping and flooding of the islands. As a result he endorsed a report whose science was fundamentally flawed and whose final conclusion, on which the Government’s case in the House of Lords was based, was also wrong.

New and up-to-date scientific evidence also demonstrates just how wrong the conclusions of the 2002 study also were.

The fact that such important documents which completely undermine the Government’s case in the House of Lords were not disclosed at the time is a very serious matter. In law this is called a breach of the “Duty of Candour”. As a result, counsel for the Chagossians in the Supreme Court, Ed Fitzgerlad QC, told the court that a serious injustice had occurred and invited the judges to overturn the 2008 decision and to restore the right of abode.

Government lawyers tried to argue that the new 2015 feasibility study into Chagossian resettlement, by consultants from KPMG, had overtaken events and demonstrated that the Government was willing to reconsider the matter and that accordingly there is no need to correct the injustice. Their arguments however fail to recognise that the real reason for the new study may in fact be the widespread cynicism about the 2002 report. The Supreme Court judges clearly accepted that if the 2008 decision is allowed to stand then Chagossians effectively remain banned from their homeland.

Judgment was reserved. We hope to have judgment in 1-2 months.

The Media Coverage

Even we were pleasantly surprised by the media interest in the Supreme Court case which we hope was not solely because Amal Clooney was present. Whilst it may be slightly galling the likes of the Daily Express chose to focus more of Mrs Clooney’s dress than the acute legal analysis of the terrible injustice suffered by Chagossians, other outlets provided genuinely informative coverage.

The BBC reported that lead QC Edward Fitzgerald noted Chagossians had suffered a “significant injustice” which had “no alternative remedy” than revoking the 2008 Law Lords judgement which effectively banned their return home. In the Guardian, prominent lawyer Richard Gifford, who has worked with Chagossians for almost two decades, argues that “Iraq changed everything,” tracking the reluctance to support Chagossian return to the Diego Garcia US military base’s role in to the controversial 2003 US-UK led invasion of Iraq.

Poet and our own Patron Benjamin Zephaniah is quoted in The Independent calling for the Government to take decisive action, regardless of the court decision.

“I’m optimistic the court will see sense and recognise previous Government attempts to prevent Chagossian return have been totally illegitimate and undemocratic.” Benjamin Zephaniah, Patron of UK Chagos Support Association

Further video coverage of genuine quality was provided by ITV News. In an interview outside the court room, Oliver Bancoult stridently affirms that he and Chagossian people will “never give up” in their fight to return home.

Coverage of the verdict event stretched internationally. US broadcaster Fox News ran a story. Most definitely at the other end of the political spectrum, RT (Russia Today) and Press TV (Iran’s state broadcaster) also reported on the case. Surely proof the Chagossian fight for justice should transcend traditional political boundaries.

almaThere’s no escaping though that the majority of media attention was due to the presence of Amal Clooney. Although already a prominent human rights lawyer, much of the attention sadly focused on what she wore rather than the case itself where she had joined the legal team earlier this year, offering her services for free. If headlines in E!, Hello and the Daily Express though win even one more supporter to the Chagossian cause it will all be worthwhile.


We should take this opportunity to thank the entire legal team for their extensive efforts to win justice for Chagossians in the face of powerful, often unreasonable opposition. That the case has returned to the Supreme Court is also a testament to the relentless efforts of Richard Gifford over many years to discover the true facts and reveal what appear to be attempts to conceal information.


The full case can now be watched online here.

AGM Minutes

Posted in AGM on June 24th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment


Minutes from our recent Annual General Meeting. These are not exhaustive but reflect the main points of the meeting. Our Treasurer’s Report and Chair’s Report are linked to within the report and are available for download.

If you have any questions about the meeting or would like further details, please do get in touch.


UK Chagos Supporters Association Annual General Meeting Saturday 13 June, 2015

Present: Stefan Donnelly, Philippa Gregory, Robert Bain, Peri Batliwala Saradha Soorrayen, Paul Grice, Lesley Nelson John Random Martin Stanley Warren Paull Richard Sparrow Amanda Flett, R.Asad.

Apologies : Sabrina Jean, Bernadette Dugasse, David Simon, Celia Whittaker, Chris D-B Scott, Sean Carey, Lou Dawson, Ann Hooker, Ann Littlefair, Richard Dunne, David Snoxell, Prof. David Simon, Marcus Booth, Robin Townsend.

1. Chair Stefan Donnelly gave his report (attached) on the main events of the last year (attached), in the campaign, in the community and for the Association. Speaking of the 2 legal actions currently being undertaken one to challenge the 2008 law lords ruling and the other to challenge the establishment of the MPA.  He spoke of the Feasibility Report which states that return to Diego Garcia is a possibility and suggests 3 options for establishing a Chagos community.

He reported on a number of fund-raising initiatives which have been successful this year, and the establishment of a new website. Content for the website should be sent to

2. Treasurer Peri Batliwala presented her report. (attached) which showed increased fund raising and disbursements to funeral expenses, community projects and campaigning costs.

3. Chair Stefan Donnelly spoke of a community meeting he had attended on behalf of the UKCHSA and it was agreed that UKCHSA representatives should meet with the community in Crawley in July. It was agreed we could use this meeting to discuss some of the below initiatives with the Chagossian community directly. Date to be confirmed.

4. New initiatives: for 2015-2016 it was agreed that UKCHSA funds should be spent on hardship, community projects, campaigning costs and inward investment e.g. advertising on social media which this year has repaid the investment and raised money. Philippa Gregory noted the importance that the community attach to funding for funerals. Chair Stefan Donnelly encouraged the possibility of establishing connections between experts and Chagossian students for skills and resources. Warren undertook to establish some pro bono workers and to investigate the possibility of Chagos branded merchandise.

Paul Grice agreed to explore the possibilities of a Credit Union type organisation for funding Chagossian funerals and explore charitable trusts and possible donors. Saradha agreed to prepare a calendar of key dates for Chagos publicity and events.

Philippa Gregory reminded everyone that Chagos Day falls on November 3 and we should focus publicity and events at that time, and agreed to locate the constitution of UKCHSA and the list of possible donors.

5. Election of Officers: Chair warmly thanked retiring officers Robert Bain who has worked for UKCHSA for 12 years, and Philippa Gregory who is retiring as Secretary but remaining Patron. Officers elected for 2015-2016 are Chair: Stefan Donnelly, vice chair Warren Paull and Richard Sparrow, Treasurer Peri Batliwala, secretary Martin Stanley.

In accordance with the policy of avoiding conflict of interest in the Chagos community none of the above are members of a Chagossian group, but it was felt that Chagossians might help as advisors and liaison officers with the community to advise on projects and funding.

6. There was no Any Other Business and the meeting closed at 4pm.

Supreme Court hears Chagossian calls to back their right to return

Posted in coverage, Legal, Supreme Court on June 23rd, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

Supreme-Court-of-UK-001The Supreme Court will hear evidence on Monday in a major new case related to the UK-ordered deportation of the Chagossian people in the early 1970s. Chagossians were forced from their Chagos Islands homeland so a US military base could be built on Diego Garcia, as part of a deal which saw the UK receive a discount on the Polaris nuclear weapons system.

This new case appeals the 2008 Law Lords decision which supported the legitimacy of the Government’s use of Royal Prerogative in 2004 to ban Chagossians from returning to their homeland. This effectively nullified a High Court verdict several years previously which condemned the deportation as illegal and restored Chagossians right to return. You can watch the case live via the Supreme Court website.

In the case before the Supreme Court on Monday, however, Chagossians, led by Chagos Refugee Group President Oliver Bancoult, will argue the 2008 verdict must be declared invalid.

Two major factors undermine the legitimacy of the 2008 verdict, Chagossian representatives will argue. Firstly Chagossians’ lawyers have claimed that it has since emerged that appropriate documents were not disclosed to them in the 2008 House of Lords Appellate Committee case.

The use of a 2002 feasibility study into Chagossian return in the 2008 case has also called the verdict into question, as this study has since been widely discredited as highly flawed.

A significant number of UK-based Chagossians are expected to accompany Oliver Bancoult to the Supreme Court on Monday. A verdict in favour of the Chagossians’ appeal would be a huge
milestone in their decades-long struggle to win the right to return home.

Similarly, a defeat for the Government could have a major impact on Government policy. A Government-commissioned feasibility study into Chagossian return reported last year. Despite reporting their were no fundamental obstacles to return, the Government failed to respond fully to the report before the election as Ministers had indicated they would.

Commenting on the historic case, our Patron Benjamin Zephaniah stated that “”I’m optimistic the court will see sense and recognise previous Government attempts to prevent Chagossian return have been totally illegitimate and undemocratic.”

“Regardless of the verdict though, the Government has a great opportunity to deliver a measure of justice by supporting Chagossians right to return home. Not only is it the obviously right thing to do, a Government-commissioned feasibility study has just this year confirmed it is possible.”

Chagos Solidarity Trust Fund Open Letter: UK has "flouted" Magna Carta for almost 50 years

Posted in Uncategorized on June 16th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
Mr Uteem is the former President of Mauritius and the founder and Chair of the Chagos Solidarity Trust Fund

Mr Uteem is the former President of Mauritius and the founder and Chair of the Chagos Solidarity Trust Fund

The Chagos Solidarity Trust fund, chaired by former President of Mauritius Cassam Uteem, has released an open letter marking the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.

In the letter, which can be read below or downloaded here Mr Uteem and his fellow trustees call on the UK and the US to act to finally end the exile of the Chagossian people in accordance with the principles that lay behind Magna Carta. The right to be exiled without due process is a key clause of the 800 year-old document, widely seen as the cornerstone of human rights legislation.

The letter also calls on a multi-lateral support for Chagossians managed return to their homeland. Referencing a feasibility study earlier this year which assessed that return was possible, the signatories criticise the UK’s hesitancy over the cost of allowing Chagossians to return, stating that any costs would be ” a small price to pay for repairing the immeasurable wrong done to Chagossians.”

Mr Uteem is the former President of Mauritius and the founder and Chair of the Chagos Solidarity Trust Fund

Chagos Solidarity Fund Open Letter

15 June 1215 is a memorable date of glory for Britain’s Magna Carta, with its Human  Rights Clauses 39 and 40 which are still valid and read as follows in the modern English

(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful  judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.

(40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

15 June 2015 is an inglorious date for the newly elected British government and for its predecessors for having flouted the Magna Carta in the 1960s and 1970s, when they stripped the free native Chagossian people of their rights and possessions, exiled them, and continued
to deny their rights and to delay justice being done to them.

The spirit of these Human Rights clauses enshrined in the Magna Carta is present in the UN 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which is the foundation of international human rights law. In its Article 9, the UDHR says that ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile and in Article 13 (2): Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

It is also present in the 1965 United Nations Resolution 2066 (XX) on sovereignty and integrity of the national territory of Mauritius:

2. Reaffirms the inalienable right of the people of the territory of Mauritius to freedom and independence in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 1514

3. Invites the administering Power (NB: UK) to take no action which would dismember the Territory of Mauritius and violate its territorial integrity.

These UN Resolutions too were flouted by Britain when the Chagos was detached from Mauritius in 1965, then a British colony, prior to independence.

On 9 June 2015, on the occasion of the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta, the Chagos All-Party Parliamentary Group of the House of Commons published an appeal in The Times addressed to “the new government to honour the feasibility study which found that there were
no legal or climatic reasons why resettlement should not be achieved”.

The Chagos Solidarity Trust Fund (CSTF) for its part considers that:

 The resettlement process flows from the recognition of the right of return – a fundamental Human Right, as we have quoted above – of the Chagossian people to

ï‚· The requirements and costs (economic opportunities, infrastructure development, support services) are, on balance, a small price to pay for repairing the immeasurable wrong done and therefore have to be borne.

ï‚· The Chagos resettlement project, based on Human rights promotion and sustainable development combined with environment (sea, land, air) protection, subscribes to the principles and ideals that we all want the world to abide by progressively.

In this endeavour, three sovereign countries are directly concerned: Britain, USA and Mauritius. For historical reasons, the responsibility and cost of establishing and maintaining the resettlement lie first and foremost with the British Government. With regard to the USA, the legal and political factors mentioned in the Feasibility Report should be defined in terms of the responsibility and participation of the US Government in the resettlement process.

The inclusion of Diego Garcia is a clear indication that there have been prior consultation and agreement between the US and the UK.  It may be expected therefore that sharing the costs of resettlement on Diego Garcia would be on the agenda of the renewal of the UK-US treaty.

The Feasibility Report opposes two extreme options: at one end, US contractors “providing extremely robust and high standard engineering services to the US Navy (…) likely to propose high costs”; and at the other end, “small family businesses on, say, Mauritius, (who)
will claim to be able to build houses for a fraction of the costs being proposed.” (p. 68). This is not correct: there are long-established building contractors with proven track record in Mauritius and also in the Indian Ocean region. Regional partnerships should therefore be explored in order to help lower the costs.

We therefore propose that the estimated costs mentioned in the Feasibility Report be reviewed and scaled down, and that funding sources be diversified to include US, Europe, the international community as well as the private sector. In the same vein, the Mauritius Government’s claim of sovereignty, systematically acknowledged in the British Government statements that the Chagos will be returned to Mauritius when no longer needed for defence and security purposes, carries the need and obligation for Mauritius to be involved in the resettlement process.

The Feasibility Report identifies a number of areas (environmental impact, economic prospects, access issues, training and administration) in which Mauritian stakeholders, including Chagossians, could intervene.

Resources and expertise are also available within the South-West Indian Ocean insular region in the areas of fisheries, marine protection, oceanographic research, climate change, disaster management systems (cyclones, tsunami).

For all theses reasons, the Chagos Solidarity Trust Fund is convinced that the Chagos resettlement should not be viewed as a one-state affair and therefore makes an earnest appeal to the British, USA and Mauritius Governments to adopt a multinational approach so that the Chagos  resettled by its native people is also integrated within the South-West Indian Ocean.

Cassam Uteem, President (former President of the Republic of Mauritius)

Reverend Mario Li Hing, Chaplain/Adviser

Professor Vinesh Y. Hookoomsing (former Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of Mauritius)

Thierry Leung, Accountant/Auditor

Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn's full interview on Chagossian people's fight for justice

Posted in Uncategorized on June 15th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

A few months ago Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn spoke to us at length about the horrors of Chagossians’ deportation. Mr Corbyn has long been an advocate for Chagossian justice, chairing the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands since its formation in 2008. Select clips from the below interview can be found here or on our Youtube channel.



"No man shall be exiled" Chagossians & Magna Carta

Posted in APPG, Campaign, Exile, Feasability Study, Jeremy Corbyn, Letusreturn, Magna Carta, Parliament, Return, Return 2015 on June 15th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment
This letter, published in The Times, was signed by all current members of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group signed by all current members of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group

This letter, published in The Times, was signed by all current members of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group signed by all current members of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group

“No man shall be exiled except by the lawful judgement of his equals or the law.”

On the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, some clauses in the document are particularly poignant when considering the heartless deportation of the Chagossian people just over 40 years ago. Chagossians’ expulsion from their homeland never went through Parliament nor did it go before a jury. Rather the Government used Royal Prerogative to force Chagossians from their homes; precisely the sort of unchecked power the Magna Carta is intended to prevent. Such measures were used again in 2004 to effectively nullify a High Court decision to permit return.

The Magna Carta is celebrated as laying the foundation for the most basic human rights. Celebrations, however, must be tempered by the fact that 800 years after the document was signed in Runnymede, Chagossians -British citizens- do not enjoy its protections.

Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn was amongst the members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands which wrote a letter to this effect in The Times several days ago. A copy of the letter can be downloaded here or viewed above.

There is no legal or climatic reason why the Chagos Islanders should not return home – so why won't the UK Government act?

Posted in APPG, Exile, Feasability Study, Jeremy Corbyn, Lord Prescott, Mauritius, resettlement, Seychelles, Uncategorized on June 11th, 2015 by Mark Fitzsimons – Be the first to comment

parliamentThis was the title of a letter from the British Indian Ocean Territories All Party Parliamentary Group published in the Times on 9th June 2015. A copy of the letter can be downloaded here or viewed below.




This letter was signed by all current members of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group

This letter was signed by all current members of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group

Chagos All-Party Parliamentary Group: Coordinator's Summary

Posted in Uncategorized on June 4th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

parliamentThe All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Chagos Islands has reconvened for the first time this Parliament. Below is a summary of their first meeting and a list of re-appointments and new members. Thanks as ever are due to voluntary Coordinator David Snoxell for providing the below summary.


The Chagos Islands APPG held its inaugural meeting of this Parliament and 49th meeting on 3 June. The following officers were re-elected:

Chairman, Jeremy Corbyn MP; Vice Chairs: Lord Avebury, Lord Ramsbotham, Andrew Rosindell MP, Henry Smith MP. A decision on a new Secretary will be taken in due course. The Group re-appointed David Snoxell as Coordinator, Richard Gifford as Legal Adviser and Oliver Taylor as administrative support officer. They were thanked for their work in the last Parliament. The Chairman also thanked members who had left the Group and welcomed two new members, Steve Baker MP (Cons) and Alan Brown MP (SNP).
Members discussed developments since the last meeting on 23 March. They took note of the ministerial statement of 24 March, and the PM’s letter to the Chairman which had been received on 26 March. The Group noted that the follow-up work on costs and liabilities and on likely demand for resettlement, which a Cabinet level meeting in mid March had asked for, was being coordinated by the FCO. They were pleased to learn that DfID economists would be involved. Members were concerned to note that officials had been asked to develop non-resettlement options. They asked about the length of time this further work would take, what the timetable for completion was and whether it would be published. This would be the subject of a PQ.
Members present commended the intervention on resettlement and Magna Carta by Henry Smith in the debate (1 June) on the Queen’s Speech. In view of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta members decided that they would follow up  their public statement of 23 March (sent by the Chairman to the PM), to which there had been no reaction, with a letter to the press.
The Group was apprised of the applications concerning the right of abode and the MPA which would be considered by the Supreme Court on 22 June.
The next and 50th meeting of the APPG will take place on 15 July.

Jermey Corbyn Interview on UK's "disgraceful" treatment of Chagossians

Posted in APPG, coverage, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour on June 4th, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment

Just before the election we completed an in-depth interview with Jeremy Corbyn MP, the Chair of the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group since its creation in 2008.  Jeremy has long been been a strident campaigner for the rights of the Chagossian people.

Jeremy Corbyn on “lies and deception” that surrounded Chagossian expulsion from their homeland

“Deportation forced Chagossians into a marginalised existence”


We’ve a full 20 minute plus interview to come with the Labour leadership candidate but in the meantime enjoy these further taster clips


Jeremy Corbyn on his hopes for the future

“For me what’s really important is that right to go back”


On working with Chagossians in the fight for justice over the last decade

You feel, at last the British Establishment, for all its arrogance will finally have to face up to what it did to these people who it thought were expendable. All the racist comments, branding them “Man Fridays,” all these things eventually come home to roost.


On Government claims Chagossians received “generous compensation”

You take away someone’s right to live and way of living, you can’t just ‘buy it out’ of them”

Coverage & Pictures from Chagossians' recent trip home

Posted in Chagos visit, coverage, Environment, Exile, Seychelles on June 2nd, 2015 by Stefan Francis Donnelly – Be the first to comment


Rubbish left behind by yachtspersons, who regularly visit the islands

Rubbish left behind by yachtspersons, who regularly visit the islands

A small selection of Chagossians’ recently took part in the  annual Government-supported brief trip to their homeland. This trip has been covered and photographed in excellent detail by Seychelles News Agency.

The article naturally focuses on the Seychelles-based Chagossians who made the return journey, but Chagossians living in the UK and Mauritius were also involved. Most were native-born Chagossians.

???????????????????????????????Members of the group commented that they were “impressed by the beauty of the islands.” Concerns were raised though at the pollution left by visiting yachtspersons, as was “dismay” at the general principle Chagossians were only permitted to return on strictly controlled visits whilst wealthy pleasure-sailors were frequent visitors.

It is reported Chagossians were “unanimous” that return would be possible with appropriate investment. One recognised the obvious potential for tourism, considering a de facto industry already exists.

For more wonderful pictures, see the original Seychelles News Agency article.


An abandoned graveyard on the Chagos Islands

An abandoned graveyard on the Chagos Islands

An abandoned house on the now totally overgrown Peros Banhos

An abandoned house on the now totally overgrown Peros Banhos