Britain’s “outright defiance” of a UN deadline to hand the Chagos Islands to Mauritius by Friday, in a final act of African “decolonisation”, has been condemned by Mauritius and the globally-scattered communities of exiled islanders.
The Labour party’s election manifesto, published on Thursday, pledges to allow Chagossians to resettle in their homeland.
Earlier this year, the UN general assembly voted by an overwhelming majority of 116 to six countries in favour of a motion condemning Britain’s occupation of the remote islands and demanding what the Foreign Office terms British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) be reunified with Mauritius.
An advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in The Hague, found the islands had been illegally severed from Mauritius in the 1960s. The president of the ICJ, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, urged the UK and other member states to “complete the decolonisation of Mauritius”.
The UK regards neither the ICJ judgment nor the UN motion as binding.
Diego Garcia, the largest island in the archipelago, is now a strategically-important US military base used by American bombers on long-range missions and, in the past, for rendition flights carrying terrorism suspects.
Speaking at the UN last month, Jagdish Dharamchand Koonjul, the permanent representative of Mauritius, said: “The response of the United Kingdom to [the UN deadline of 22 November] has been one of outright defiance.”
About 1,500 islanders were forcibly deported from 1968 to 1973 so Diego Garcia could be leased to the US for an airbase. They have never been allowed to return apart from a few short “heritage” visits.
Prof Philippe Sands QC, who represented Mauritius at The Hague, said: “The failure to give effect to the [ICJ] ruling and general assembly decision is lawless and deeply regrettable, a reflection of a continuing colonial mindset. It undermines the UK’s supposed commitment to the rule of law.Africa in relation to Namibia in the 1970s.
“In the eyes of many, the forcible removal of the Chagossians, and the continuing refusal to allow them to return, after the ICJ and general assembly have spoken so clearly, is akin to a crime against humanity – all the more so after 22 November. The court has made crystal clear that Chagos is and has always been a part of Mauritius.”Seychelles or the UK, where there have been attempts to deport third-generation Chagossians on the grounds that even if their grandparents would have been entitled to UK residency they are not.
Olivier Bancoult, the leader of the Chagos Refugees Group UK, said protests were planned outside the British high commission in Port Louis on Friday.
He said: “[We] call on all world leaders – and particularly the UK government – to take this opportunity to engage directly with the Chagossian community … and to recognise Chagossians’ right to determine their own future, and the future of their islands. Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who sent a letter to Theresa May in the summer expressing concern that “the government appears ready to disregard international law and ignore a ruling of the international court and the right of the Chagossians to return to their homes”. can face deportation. The Home Office initially told Jeanette Valentin, who lives in Milton Keynes, that both of her daughters, Taniella and Nesta, would be removed when they reached the age of 20.
“We hope the Home Office will review its policy towards third-generation Chagossians recognising their unique historical connection to Britain.”
- Norway Sets iTunes Deadline
- UK set to adopt controversial “three strikes” rule to fight online piracy
- O2 UK sets the release date of the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY to April 1st
- Report: UK Set for Cybercrime Surge
- Brexit court defeat for UK government
- Brexit: Philip Hammond warns UK will lose control in no-deal scenario
- Gina Miller named UK's most influential black person
- Game of Thrones season 6, episode 2 recap: murder, more murder, and a big return
- What is the GDPR, its requirements and deadlines?
- Watch a bald eagle freak out during the Channel Islands earthquake