05 February 2007

Victory in sight for the Chagos Islanders?

The Chagos Islanders, who were evicted over 30 years ago to make way for the Diego Garcia air and naval base, are hoping finally to win the right to go home through a court case that starts today. They had previously won two court decisions, in 2000 and 2006, declaring the evictions unlawful. This court case will see the government appealing against the 2006 decision.

Olivier Bancoult, chairman of the Chagos Refugees Group, said yesterday: "We believe this will be the final round. What we are asking for is our fundamental rights and dignity as human beings." He said that he was not worried that the government could take the case to the Lords if it lost this one.

With regard to American security concerns Mr Bancoult pointed out that the islanders were not asking to return to Diego Garcia, but other islands in the chain. He rejected American arguments that a return to those outlying islands could compromise the base's security. "Some of these islands are 200-300 miles from the base," Mr McKinnon said. "That's a wide security perimeter."

A Foreign Office spokesman said yesterday: "At present the matter remains sub judice. It remains inappropriate to comment on the grounds for the appeal, in view of the legal proceedings starting this week."

Click here , here and here for previious posts on this subject


Bryan said...

This entire situation will be moot shortly as the islands disappear beneath the waves as a result of global warming induced rising sea levels.

Diego Garcia is not much more than a sinking aircraft carrier out in the middle of nothing. It should have been evacuated decades ago for a more sustainable field somewhere else.

jams o donnell said...

Unfortunately this is true Bryan. The whole Chagos Archipelago is about as doomed as the Maldives.

However, The treatment of the Islanders was disgraceful and the continuing opposition to their return does not reflect well on the government. By exstension it does not reflect on the US government which has been urging ours to keep up the opposition.

THe islanders win will probably be symbolic and temporary becasue of rising sea levels, sadly....

Bryan said...

I have been there and can say that it is stupid of the US to continue to maintain the base. It got washed over by the tsunami; it is a waste of fuel because it is so far away from anything.

It is criminally stupid that the US didn't arrange basing somewhere else long before. Not all of Africa is in rebellion, and a base on Africa would have made a great deal more sense.

jams o donnell said...

It doesn't seem to be in a good strategic place. Not sure where in Africa though? Kenya perhaps

Bryan said...

We have a base in Djibouti which doesn't have much of anything going for it and could use the money that would be generated. It would provide the same coverage for a lot less fuel if it were expanded and it wouldn't be as exposed to surveillance as Diego Garcia.

I would think that the government would appreciate the desalination plant and electrical output that a major base could provide to the local area.

jams o donnell said...

Ah I had forgotten that the US had a base there. As it happened I noticed earlier on that it is up for expansion anyway.