POLITICS IN DIEGO GARCIA

POLITICS IN DIEGO GARCIA

In 2000 the British High Court upheld the claims of the islanders that the Ordinance which had been enacted to ensure their removal (although it was never in fact invoked for that purpose) was unlawful. Robin Cook, the British Foreign Secretary at the time, did not appeal. In 2002, the UK Parliament enacted legislation which gave all Chagossians the right to obtain British citizenship, granted the islanders the right to return to the Archipelago and granted them UK citizenship. In 2002, the islanders and their descendants, now numbering 4,500, returned to court requesting compensation, after two years of delays by the British Foreign Office. The Chagossians began proceedings to seek additional compensation payments from the British Government (they had been granted £650,000 compensation on removal in the 1970s, and a further £4 million in the early 1980s). The High Court and Court of Appeal upheld the Government's position that the compensation already paid was fair and lawful, and struck down the Chagossians claims for additional payments. Subsequently, on June 10, 2004, the British government enacted two Orders-in-Council re-establishing immigration controls on the islands and effectively banning the islanders from returning home, reversing the 2000 court decision. Some of the Chagossians are making return plans to turn Diego Garcia into a sugarcane and fishing enterprise as soon as the defence agreement expires, and there have been discussions about the development of a commercial tourism industry on the islands, which may raise environmental concerns. A few dozen other Chagossians are still fighting to be housed in the UK, although they have the same rights as all British citizens.

On May 11, 2006, the High Court ruled that the 2004 Orders-in-Council were unlawful, and that the Chagossians were entitled to return to the Chagos Archipelago.The judges, Lord Justice Hooper and Mr Justice Cresswell concluded: "The suggestion that a 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." Olivier Bancoult, the representative of the Chagossians, called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to honour the decision of the court and allow his people to go home.

"We have always believed that a human being has the right to live in the place of his birth. Everywhere, the British government paints itself as the champion of human rights - so what about the human rights of the Chagossian people?"

This judgment was upheld by the Court of Appeal on May 23, 2007. The British Government then appealed to the House of Lords, which on 22 October 2008 overturned the earlier decision and ruled that the evicted islanders could not return to the archipelago. The Chagossians may now take their legal battle to the European Court of Human Rights.

Prison site allegation

Human rights groups claim that the military base is used by the U.S. government for the controversial extraordinary rendition of prisoners. This claim was supported by the Council of Europe in June 2007. The British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw stated in Parliament that U.S. authorities have repeatedly assured him that no detainees have passed in transit through Diego Garcia or have disembarked there. In October 2007 the all-party Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament announced that it would launch an investigation of the claims, which it is reported were twice confirmed by General Barry McCaffrey.

On October 19, 2007 The Guardian reported: "The all-party foreign affairs committee is to examine long-standing suspicions that the agency has operated one of its so-called 'black site' prisons on Diego Garcia..." The Guardian quoted British Member of Parliament Andrew Tyrie, "Time and time again the UK government has relied on US assurances on this issue, refusing to examine the truth of these allegations for themselves. It is high time our government took its head out of the sand and looked into these allegations."

On July 31, 2008 Time Magazine reported that a former White House official stated that the U.S. had imprisoned and interrogated at least one suspect on Diego Garcia during 2002 and possibly 2003.

Rendition admission by F.O.

On February 21, 2008, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband admitted that two US extraordinary rendition flights refuelled on Diego Garcia in 2002. Further, it has been implied that these actions constituted a direct breach of the treaty between the US and the UK concerning Diego Garcia.

Further allegations from U.N. Official

Manfred Nowak, the United Nations' special rapporteur on torture, says that credible evidence exists supporting allegations about the use of Diego Garcia as a prison black site for alleged terrorists. Clara Gutteridge, an investigator with human rights group Reprieve, states that US-operated ships moored outside the territorial waters of Diego Garcia were used to incarcerate and torture detainees.

Arrests

On 12 March 2008, The Guardian reported that two British protesters had been arrested for "entering the waters illegally".