Sunday, 23 December 2012

Sad setback for Chagos Islanders

The news that the Chagos Islanders or Chagossians have failed in their latest legal bid to return to their homeland is truly saddening.

The Islanders lived on the Chagos Islands, a British territory in the Indian Ocean, until they were evicted in the 1960s and 1970s by the UK government in order to allow the United States to build a military base on the largest island, Diego Garcia.

They took their case to Strasbourg after a long-running legal battle in the UK, with the Law Lords ruled against the Islanders by a majority of 3-2 in 2008.

But last week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the case was inadmissible. It stated: "The court notably found that the heart of the applicants' claims under the European Convention on Human Rights was the callous and shameful treatment which they or their antecedents had suffered during their removal from the Chagos Islands."

But the court added that because the claims had been settled "definitively" in domestic courts with a small amount of "compensation," the applicants had "effectively renounced bringing any further claims to determine whether the expulsion and exclusion from their homes had been unlawful and breached their rights".

A spokesman for the islanders has appealed to the Coalition Government to “stand by their pre-election promises to bring about a just and fair settlement to one of the great tragedies of the 20th century, perpetrated by the UK on the defenceless - the brutal removal of an entire people from their homeland and their way of life, into a life of exile, poverty and hardship."

Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the latest ruling, two-facedly adding: "We have made clear our regret for the wrongs done to the Chagossian people over 40 years ago.”

Mr Hague. Now is not a time for platitudes. Now is the time for your Government to end this shameful and sordid episode in British history. Now is the time to allow the Chagos Islanders to go home. 

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