Sunday, 26 October 2008

The Chagossians

I am disgusted by the actions of House of Lords, this week, over-turning a 2006 High Court ruling which would have allowed the Chaggosians home.

For those who are not aware of the case, the Chaggosians were forcibly evicted from their island homes in the Indian Ocean between 1967 and 1973 by the British Government so that they could lease the largest of their islands, known as Diego Garcia, to the United States for the construction of one of the biggest military bases in the world.

Over the last thirty years, the islanders have campaigned hard to regain access to their original homes. Led by Olivier Bancoult and lawyer Richard Gifford, they won a historic victory in the High Court in 2000, which ruled their expulsion illegal. They had to deal with Blair’s decision to invoke an archaic royal prerogative in order to dismiss the 2000 High Court judgment.

The islanders refused to give up and went back to the High Court in 2006 and once again won the right to return home. In a damning verdict, the High Court even condemned the actions of the British government as “repugnant.” In May 2007, the government lost again at appeal.

But the House of Lords has overturned the islanders' earlier victory in a three-two majority. Lord Hoffmann ruled that the government was entitled to legislate for a colony in the security interests of the United Kingdom. The US state department had argued that the islands might be useful to terrorists and Lord Hoffmann even said: "Some of these scenarios might be regarded as fanciful speculations, but in the current state of uncertainty the Government is entitled to take the concerns of its ally into account."

The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, had the nerve to welcome the most recent judgement as a vindication of the government's decision to appeal, saying that: "We do not seek to excuse the conduct of an earlier generation … It was about decisions taken in the international context of 2004.”

These actions make me truly ashamed of the British Government.

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