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Stealing a Nation: An Open Letter by Dr Sean Carey, a Research Fellow at Cronem, Roehampton University, to the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, about "One of the Worst Violations of Fundamental Human Rights Perpetrated by the UK in the 20th Century"-The Land Grab in the Chagos Archipelago

By Carey, Sean | New African, January 2009 | Go to article overview

Stealing a Nation: An Open Letter by Dr Sean Carey, a Research Fellow at Cronem, Roehampton University, to the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, about "One of the Worst Violations of Fundamental Human Rights Perpetrated by the UK in the 20th Century"-The Land Grab in the Chagos Archipelago


Carey, Sean, New African


Dear Foreign Secretary

I notice that you have been involved in a diplomatic wrangle with the Israeli government about the export of avocados, herbs and cosmetically enhancing Dead Sea mud from Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which the UK considers illegal under international law.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

You will have known this was coming. What you may not have anticipated, however, was the argument put forward by Michael Freund writing in the Jerusalem Post accusing you and Gordon Brown of "barefaced hypocrisy" for trying to put an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands while doing next to nothing for the exiled Chagos islanders.

Last month, the Law Lords decided by a majority verdict to endorse your appeal and block the islanders' right of return to their Indian Ocean homeland. You then issued a statement saying that the islanders had been paid "fair compensation".

I cannot agree.

Can I remind you that it was only when details of what happened to the Chagossians emerged after a US Congressional Committee hearing in 1975, that the then British government was shamed into offering any kind of financial help to the islanders. Each adult received a little over [pounds sterling]2,000 in 1982 in "full and final settlement of all claims ... with no admission of responsibility". I don't think that was a lot of money even in those days. In fact, I would go even further and say that no amount of money could compensate the Chagossians for what they have been through.

Since 2000, seven senior British judges unanimously found in favour of the islanders' right of return and variously found the government's case "irrational", "repugnant", "unlawful" and "an abuse of power".

Unfortunately for the islanders, three of the five Law Lords did not agree. We can only speculate as to what the result might have been had a different panel of legal personnel been selected.

Nevertheless, some simple arithmetic revcals that nine senior British judges have found for the islanders and only three against. So your government has won a narrow legal victory but I am not convinced that it is a fair result. I am not alone.

Members of the Foreign Affairs Committee recently declared "there is a strong moral case for the UK permitting and supporting a return to the British Indian Ocean Territory for the Chagossians".

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Stealing a Nation: An Open Letter by Dr Sean Carey, a Research Fellow at Cronem, Roehampton University, to the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, about "One of the Worst Violations of Fundamental Human Rights Perpetrated by the UK in the 20th Century"-The Land Grab in the Chagos Archipelago
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