Magazine article New African

Diego Garcia: USA Is Telling London What to Do

Magazine article New African

Diego Garcia: USA Is Telling London What to Do

Article excerpt

After losing spectacularly in the British high court in May to the people of the Chagos Islands, Tony Blair's government has lodged an appeal against the unlawfully uprooted Chagossians returning to live in their homeland, hoping that the ensuing legal wrangle would break the back of the Chagossians. And the British, as usual, have American support. Dr Sean Carey reports.

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The joy of Olivier Bancoult and his fellow Chagossians, after their historic victory in the British high court on 11 May allowing them the right of return to the Chagos islands, was tempered somewhat when they learned on 30 June of the British government's decision to lodge an appeal against the judgment issued by Justice Cresswell and Lord Justice Hooper, who memorably described the forced exile in Mauritius and the Seychelles of around 2,000 Chagossians between 1965 and 1973 as "irrational" and "repugnant".

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"The suggestion that a [British] minister can, through the means of an order in council, exile a whole population from a British Overseas Territory and claim that he is doing so for the 'peace, order and good government' of the territory is, to us, repugnant," the judges said.

The verdict overturned the "orders in council" issued under the royal prerogative in 2004 while Jack Straw was foreign secretary, which, in turn, quashed an earlier high court ruling in 2000 allowing the Chagossians the right of return to their homeland, a group of stunningly beautiful islands some 1,200 miles north of Mauritius, the largest of which, Diego Garcia, has been turned into one of America's most important military bases.

"We expected this," said Bancoult. "We know that the British government likes to make it difficult for us. They always do something at the last minute but that's because their case is not strong. If it was, they would have come forward much earlier than they did. The last judgment was very bad for them."

The reasons for the UK government's decision have yet to be revealed. Nick Sheppard, spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told New African: "We cannot say what the legal reasons are for our appeal--it's now sub judice."

In any event, the case will be heard in the UK Court of Appeal some time in the autumn of this year or early in 2007. If Bancoult, the plaintiff, wins, the British government could then seek to appeal to the House of Lords. If he wins there again, there could be a further appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. …

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