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UK Rejects International Court of Justice Opinion on the Chagos Islands

By Craig Murray | February 26, 2019

In parliament, Alan Duncan for the government has just rejected yesterday’s stunning result at the International Court of Justice, where British occupation of the Chagos Islands was found unlawful by a majority of 13 to 1, with all the judges from EU countries amongst those finding against the UK.

This represents a serious escalation in the UK’s rejection of multilateralism and international law and a move towards joining the US model of exceptionalism, standing outside the rule of international law. As such, it is arguably the most significant foreign policy development for generations. In the Iraq war, while Britain launched war without UN Security Council authority, it did so on a tenuous argument that it had Security Council authority from earlier resolutions. The UK was therefore not outright rejecting the international system. On Chagos it is now simply denying the authority of the International Court of Justice; this is utterly unprecedented.

Duncan put forward two arguments. Firstly that the ICJ opinion was “only” advisory to the General Assembly. Secondly, he argued that the ICJ had no jurisdiction as the case was a bilateral dispute with Mauritius (and thus could only go before the ICJ with UK consent, which is not given).

But here Duncan is – against all British precedent and past policy – defying a ruling of the ICJ. The British government argued strenuously in the present case against ICJ jurisdiction, on just the grounds Duncan cited. The ICJ considered the UK’s arguments, together with arguments from 32 other states and from the African Union. The ICJ ruled that it did have jurisdiction, because this was not a bilateral dispute but part of the UN ordained process of decolonisation.

The International Court of Justice’s ruling on this point is given at length in paras 83 to 91 of its Opinion. This is perhaps the key section:

88. The Court therefore concludes that the opinion has been requested on the matter of decolonization which is of particular concern to the United Nations. The issues raised by the request are located in the broader frame of reference of decolonization, including the General Assembly’s role therein, from which those issues are inseparable (Western Sahara, Advisory Opinion, I.C.J. Reports 1975, p. 26, para. 38; Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, I.C.J. Reports 2004 (I), p. 159, para. 50).
89. Moreover, the Court observes that there may be differences of views on legal questions in advisory proceedings (Legal Consequences for States of the Continued Presence of South Africa in Namibia (South West Africa) notwithstanding Security Council Resolution 276 (1970), Advisory Opinion, I.C.J. Reports 1971, p. 24, para. 34). However, the fact that the Court may have to pronounce on legal issues on which divergent views have been expressed by Mauritius and the United Kingdom does not mean that, by replying to the request, the Court is dealing with a bilateral dispute.
90. In these circumstances, the Court does not consider that to give the opinion requested would have the effect of circumventing the principle of consent by a State to the judicial settlement of its dispute with another State. The Court therefore cannot, in the exercise of its discretion, decline to give the opinion on that ground.
91. In light of the foregoing, the Court concludes that there are no compelling reasons for it to decline to give the opinion requested by the General Assembly.

As stated at para 183, that the court did have jurisdiction was agreed unanimously, with even the US judge (the sole dissenter on the main question) in accord. For the British government to reject the ICJ’s unanimous ruling on jurisdiction, and quote that in parliament as the reason for not following the ICJ Opinion, is an astonishing abrogation of international law by the UK. It really is unprecedented. The repudiation of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention over Julian Assange pointed the direction the UK is drifting, but that body does not have the prestige of the International Court of Justice.

The International Court of Justice represents the absolute pinnacle of, and embodies the principle of, international law. In 176 decisions, such as Nigeria vs Cameroon or Malaysia vs Indonesia, potentially disastrous conflicts have been averted by the states’ agreement to abide by the rule of law. The UK’s current attack on the ICJ is a truly disastrous new development.

I have taken it for granted that you know that the reason the UK refuses to decolonise the Chagos Islands is to provide an airbase for the US military on Diego Garcia. If Brexit goes ahead, the Chagos Islands will also lead to a major foreign policy disagreement between the UK and US on one side, and the EU on the other. The EU will be truly shocked by British repudiation of the ICJ.

I have studied the entire and lengthy ICJ Opinion on the Chagos Islands, together with its associated papers, and I will write further on this shortly.

February 26, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Mauritius’ takes UK to court over Chagos Islands

RT | September 3, 2018

The UK claim over an archipelago in the Indian Ocean is being challenged by Mauritius in the International Court of Justice. The largest island hosts a US airbase, the construction of which saw mass deportations of the islanders.

Despite the UK’s attempts to go through official channels in the UN to block Mauritius’ claim to the Chagos Islands, the case is set to be heard in The Hague.

Judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will take four days hearing testimonies from the representatives of 22 countries arguing over colonialism and the rights of the deported Chagos Islanders to return. The ICJ’s judgement will be only advisory and have no legal binding.

Of the 22 states, only the representatives of the US, Israel and Australia are expected to support Britain’s claim to sovereignty to the Islands, which they name the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) and are some 5,799 miles from London.

The US support in part stems from the strategic value of their airbase, commonly referred to as Camp Justice, which is situated on the largest of the Chagos Islands, Diego Garcia. The airbase has played a crucial role in US operations in the Middle East, including during the Iranian Revolution and both Iraq Wars.

Last year Britain suffered a heavy defeat at the UN General Assembly, when 94 nations supported a Mauritian-backed resolution to take the matter before the ICJ. Only 15 countries supported the UK’s claim.

The ICJ is set to consider both whether the decolonisation of Mauritius from the British was completed lawfully, and secondly the ability of Mauritius to resettle deported Chagossians back onto the islands.

The UK decided to separate the Chago Islands from the remainder of its Indian Ocean colony three years before Mauritius gained independence in 1968. Mauritius is claiming that Britain was in breach of a UN resolution that banned the breakup of colonies before independence.

Britain deported some 1,500 islanders in order to lease the largest island, Diego Garcia, to the US which set up an airbase there in 1971. Chagossians have never been allowed to return.

Mauritius has been promised the return of the Islands by London but only when they are no longer needed for defense purposes. No date has been set for when that is.

The hearing’s outcome is expected to be a signal of the UK’s power, or lack thereof, in the international sphere. Last November, London failed to secure the re-election of Sir Christopher Greenwood to the ICJ. Britain will now be without a judge in the court for the first time since its inception.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman, quoted in the Guardian, said: “We are disappointed that Mauritius have taken this bilateral dispute to the international court of justice.

“This is an inappropriate use of the ICJ advisory opinion mechanism and sets a dangerous precedent for other bilateral disputes. We will robustly defend our position.

“While we do not recognise the Republic of Mauritius’s claim to sovereignty of the archipelago, we have repeatedly undertaken to cede it to Mauritius when no longer required for defence purposes, and we maintain that commitment.”

September 3, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

The depopulation of the Chagos Islands, 1965-73

By Mark Curtis – February 12, 2007

An edited extract from Web of Deceit: Britain’s Real Role in the World

During the decolonisation process in the 1960s Britain created a new colony – the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). This included the Chagos island group which was detached from Mauritius, and other islands detached from the Seychelles. Mauritius had been granted independence by Britain in 1965 on the barely concealed condition that London be allowed to buy the Chagos island group from it – Britain gave Mauritius £3m. “The object of the exercise was to get some rocks which will remain ours”, the Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign Office, its chief civil servant, said in a secret file of 1966. The Colonial Office similarly noted that the “prime object of BIOT exercise was that the islands… hived off into the new territory should be under the greatest possible degree of UK control [sic]”.

In December 1966 the Wilson government signed a military agreement with the US leasing the BIOT to it for military purposes for fifty years with the option of a further twenty years. Britain thus ignored UN Resolution 2066XX passed by the General Assembly in December 1965 which called on the UK “to take no action which would dismember the territory of Mauritius and to violate its territorial integrity”. Higher matters were at stake: Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Chagos group, was well situated as a military base. Britain allowed the US to build up Diego Garcia as a nuclear base and as the launch pad for intervention in the Middle East, notably in Afghanistan and Iraq. Diego Garcia’s role “has become increasingly important over the last decade in supporting peace and stability in the region”, a Foreign Office spokesman managed to say with a straight face in 1997.

To militarise Diego Garcia, Britain removed the 1,500 indigenous inhabitants of the Chagos islands – “the compulsory and unlawful removal of a small and unique population, Citizens of the UK and Colonies, from islands that had formed their home, and also the home of the parents, grand-parents and very possibly earlier ancestors”, as the Chagossians’ defence lawyers put it. The islanders were to be “evacuated as and when defence interests require this”, against which there should be “no insurmountable obstacle”, the Foreign Office had noted.

The Chagossians were removed from Diego Garcia by 1971 and from the outlying islands of Salomen and Peros Banhos by 1973. The secret files show that the US wanted Diego Garcia to be cleared “to reduce to a minimum the possibilities of trouble between their forces and any ‘natives’”. This removal of the population “was made virtually a condition of the agreement when we negotiated it in 1965”, in the words of one British official. Foreign Office officials recognised that they were open to “charges of dishonesty” and needed to “minimise adverse reaction” to US plans to establish the base. In secret, they referred to plans to “cook the books” and “old fashioned” concerns about “whopping fibs”.

The Chagossians were described by a Foreign Office official in a secret file: “unfortunately along with birds go some few Tarzans or man Fridays whose origins are obscure”. Another official wrote, referring to a UN body on women’s issues: “There will be no indigenous population except seagulls who have not yet got a committee (the status of women committee does not cover the rights of birds)”. According to the Foreign Office, “these people have little aptitude for anything other than growing coconuts”. The Governor of the Seychelles noted that it was “important to remember what type of people” the islanders are: “extremely unsophisticated, illiterate, untrainable and unsuitable for any work other than the simplest labour tasks of a copra plantation”.

Contrary to the racist indifference of British planners, the Chagossians had constructed a well-functioning society on the islands by the mid-1960s. They earned their living by fishing, and rearing their own vegetables and poultry. Copra industry had been developed. The society was matriarchal, with Illois women having the major say over the bringing up of the children. The main religion was Roman Catholic and by the first world war the Illois had developed a distinct culture and identity together with a specific variation of the Creole language. There was a small hospital and a school. Life on the Chagos islands was certainly hard, but also settled. By the 1960s the community was enjoying a period of prosperity with the copra industry thriving as never before. The islanders were also exporting guano, used for phosphate, and there was talk of developing the tourist industry.

Then British foreign policy intervened. One of the victims recalled: “We were assembled in front of the manager’s house and informed that we could no longer stay on the island because the Americans were coming for good. We didn’t want to go. We were born here. So were our fathers and forefathers who were buried in that land”.

Britain expelled the islanders to Mauritius without any workable resettlement scheme, gave them a tiny amount of compensation and later offered more on condition that the islanders renounced their rights ever to return home. Most were given little time to pack their possessions and some were allowed to take with them only a minimum of personal belongings packed into a small crate. They were also deceived into believing what awaited them. Olivier Bancoult said that the islanders “had been told they would have a house, a portion of land, animals and a sum of money, but when they arrived [in Mauritius] nothing had been done”. Britain also deliberately closed down the copra plantations to increase the pressure to leave. A Foreign Office note from 1972 states that “when BIOT formed, decided as a matter of policy not to put any new investment into plantations” [sic], but to let them run down. And the colonial authorities even cut off food imports to the Chagos islands; it appears that after 1968 food ships did not sail to the islands.

Not all the islanders were physically expelled. Some, after visiting Mauritius, were simply – and suddenly – told they were not allowed back, meaning they were stranded, turned into exiles overnight. Many of the islanders later testified to having been tricked into leaving Diego Garcia by being offered a free trip.

Most of the islanders ended up living in the slums of the Mauritian capital, Port Louis, in gross poverty; many were housed in shacks, most of them lacked enough food, and some died of starvation and disease. Many committed suicide. A report commissioned by the Mauritian government in the early 1980s found that only 65 of the 94 Illois householders were owners of land and houses; and 40 per cent of adults had no job. Today, most Chagossians continue to live in poverty, with unemployment especially high.

British officials were completely aware of the poverty and hardships likely to be faced by those they had removed from their homeland. When some of the last of the Chagossians were removed in 1973 and arrived in Mauritius, the High Commission noted that the Chagossians at first refused to disembark, having “nowhere to go, no money, no employment”. Britain offered a miniscule £650,000 in compensation, which only arrived in 1978, too late to offset the hardship of the islanders. The Foreign Office stated in a secret file that “we must be satisfied that we could not discharge our obligation… more cheaply”. As the Chagossians’ defence lawyers argue, “the UK government knew at the time that the sum given [in compensation] would in no way be adequate for resettlement.”

Ever since their removal, the islanders have campaigned for proper compensation and for the right to return. In 1975, for example, the islanders presented a petition to the British High Commission in Mauritius. It said: “We, the inhabitants of the Chagos islands – Diego Garcia, Peros Banhos and Salomen – have been uprooted from these islands because the Mauritius government sold the islands to the British government to build a base. Our ancestors were slaves on those islands but we know that we are the heirs of those islands. Although we were poor we were not dying of hunger. We were living free… Here in Mauritius… we, being mini-slaves, don’t get anybody to help us. We are at a loss not knowing what to do.”

The response of the British was to tell the islanders to address their petition to the Mauritian government. The British High Commission in Mauritius responded to a petition in 1974 saying that “High Commission cannot intervene between yourselves as Mauritians and government of Mauritius, who assumed responsibility for your resettlement”. This, as the British government well knew, was a complete lie, as many of the Chagossians could claim nationality “of the UK and the colonies” (see below). In 1981, a group of Illois women went on hunger strike for 21 days and several hundred women demonstrated in vain in front of the British High Commission in Mauritius.

The Whitehall conspiracy

The British response was: after removing the islanders from their home, to remove them from history, in the manner of Winston Smith. In 1972 the US Defence Department could tell Congress that “the islands are virtually uninhabited and the erection of the base would thus cause no indigenous political problems”. In December 1974 a joint UK-US memorandum in question-and-answer form asked “Is there any native population on the islands?”; its reply was “no”. A British Ministry of Defence spokesman denied this was a deliberate misrepresentation of the situation by saying “there is nothing in our files about inhabitants or about an evacuation”, thus confirming that the Chagossians were official Unpeople.

Formerly secret planning documents revealed in the court case show the lengths to which Labour and Conservative governments have gone to conceal the truth. Whitehall officials’ strategy is revealed to have been “to present to the outside world a scenario in which there were no permanent inhabitants on the archipelago”. This was essential “because to recognise that there are permanent inhabitants will imply that there is a population whose democratic rights will have to be safeguarded”. One official noted that British strategy towards the Chagossians should be to “grant as few rights with as little formality as possible”. In particular, Britain wanted to avoid fulfilling its obligations to the islanders under the UN charter.

From 1965, memoranda issued by the Foreign Office and then Commonwealth Relations Office to British embassies around the world mentioned the need to avoid all reference to any “permanent inhabitants”. Various memos noted that: “best wicket… to bat on… that these people are Mauritians and Seychellois [sic]”; “best to avoid all references to permanent inhabitants”; and need to “present a reasonable argument based on the proposition that the inhabitants… are merely a floating population”. The Foreign Office legal adviser noted in 1968 that “we are able to make up the rules as we go along and treat inhabitants of BIOT as not ‘belonging’ to it in any sense”.

Then Labour Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart wrote to prime Minister Harold Wilson in a secret note in 1969 that “we could continue to refer to the inhabitants generally as essentially migrant contract labourers and their families”. It would be helpful “if we can present any move as a change of employment for contract workers… rather than as a population resettlement”. The purpose of the Foreign Secretary’s memo was to secure Wilson’s approval to clear the whole of the Chagos islands of their inhabitants. This, the prime minister did, five days later on 26 April. By the time of this formal decision, however, the removal had already effectively started – Britain had in 1968 started refusing to return Chagossians who were visiting Mauritius or the Seychelles.

A Foreign Office memo of 1970 outlined the Whitehall conspiracy: “We would not wish it to become general knowledge that some of the inhabitants have lived on Diego Garcia for at least two generations and could, therefore, be regarded as ‘belongers’. We shall therefore advise ministers in handling supplementary questions about whether Diego Garcia is inhabited to say there is only a small number of contract labourers from the Seychelles and Mauritius engaged in work on the copra plantations on the island. That is being economical with the truth.”

It continued: “Should a member [of the House of Commons] ask about what should happen to these contract labourers in the event of a base being set up on the island, we hope that, for the present, this can be brushed aside as a hypothetical question at least until any decision to go ahead with the Diego Garcia facility becomes public”.

Detailed guidance notes were issued to Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence press officers telling them to mislead the media if asked.

The reality that was being concealed was clearly understood. A secret document signed by Michael Stewart in 1968, said: “By any stretch of the English language, there was an indigenous population, and the Foreign Office knew it”. A Foreign Office minute from 1965 recognises policy as “to certify [the Chagossians], more or less fraudulently, as belonging somewhere else”. Another Whitehall document was entitled: “Maintaining the Fiction”. The Foreign Office legal adviser wrote in January 1970 that it was important “to maintain the fiction that the inhabitants of Chagos are not a permanent or semi-permanent population”.

Yet all subsequent ministers peddled this lie in public, hitting on the formula to designate the Chagossians merely as “former plantation workers”, while knowing this was palpably untrue. For example, Margaret Thatcher told the House of Commons in 1990 that: “Those concerned worked on the former copra plantations in the Chagos archipelago. After the plantations closed between 1971 and 1973 they and their families were resettled in Mauritius and given considerable financial assistance. Their future now lies in Mauritius”.

Foreign Office minister William Waldegrade said in 1989 that he recently met “a delegation of former plantation workers from the Chagos Islands”, before falsely asserting that they “are increasingly integrated into the Mauritian community”. Aid minister Baroness Chalker also told the House that “the former plantation workers (Illois) are now largely integrated into Mauritian and Seychellese society”.

New Labour continued the lie into the twenty-first century, continuing to peddle the official line in the court case that the islanders were “contract labourers”. As I write this, the Foreign Office website contains a country profile of the British Indian Ocean Territory that states there are “no indigenous inhabitants”.

Another issue that the British government went to great lengths to conceal was the fact that many of the Chagossians were “citizens of the UK and the colonies”. Britain preferred to designate them Mauritians so they could be dumped there and left to the Mauritian authorities to deal with. The Foreign Secretary warned in 1968 of the “possibility… [that] some of them might one day claim a right to remain in the BIOT by virtue of their citizenship of the UK and the Colonies”. A Ministry of Defence note in the same year states that it was “of cardinal importance that no American official… should inadvertently divulge” that the islanders have dual nationality.

Britain’s High Commission in Mauritius noted in January 1971, before a meeting with the Mauritian prime minister, that: “Naturally, I shall not suggest to him that some of these have also UK nationality …always possible that they may spot this point, in which case, presumably, we shall have to come clean [sic]”. In 1971 the Foreign Office was saying that it was “not at present HMG’s policy to advise ‘contract workers’ of their dual citizenship” nor to inform the Mauritian government, referring to “this policy of concealment”.

Ministers also lied in public about the British role in the removal of the Chagossians. For example, Foreign Office minister Richard Luce wrote to an MP in 1981, in response to a letter from one of his constituents, that the islanders had been “given the choice of either returning [to Mauritius or the Seychelles] or going to plantations on other islands in BIOT” [sic]. According to this revised history, the “majority chose to return to Mauritius and their employers… made the arrangements for them to be transferred”.

Ministers in the 1960s also lied about the terms under which Britain offered the Diego Garcia base to the US. The US paid Britain £5 million for the island, an amount deducted from the price Britain paid the US for buying the Polaris nuclear weapons. The US asked for this deal to be kept secret and Prime Minister Harold Wilson complied, lying in public. A Foreign Office memo to the US of 1967 said that “ultimately, under extreme pressure, we should have to deny the existence of a US contribution in any form, and to advise ministers to do so in [parliament] if necessary”.

A Foreign Office memo of 1980 recommended to then Foreign Secretary that “no journalists should be allowed to visit Diego Garcia” and that visits by MPs be kept to a minimum to keep out those “who deliberately stir up unwelcome questions”. The defence lawyers for the Chagossians, who unearthed the secret files, note that: “Concealment is a theme which runs through the official documents, concealment of the existence of a permanent population, of BIOT itself, concealment of the status of the Chagossians, concealment of the full extent of the responsibility of the United Kingdom government…, concealment of the fact that many of the Chagossians were Citizens of the UK and Colonies… This concealment was compounded by a continuing refusal to accept that those who were removed from the islands in 1971-3 had not exercised a voluntary decision to leave the islands”.

Indeed, the lawyers argue, “for practical purposes, it may well be that the deceit of the world at large, in particular the United Nations, was the critical part” of the government’s policy.

February 10, 2018 Posted by | Book Review, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 3 Comments

Chagossians Have No Right of Self-Determination

By Craig Murray | November 17, 2016

“We do not agree the right of self-determination applies to the Chagossians”, says Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan, who later clarifies that they are not “a people”. If you can stand it, you can watch the urgent question in the Commons today which forced the government to defend the decision they had sneaked out via a written answer.

http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/99da1ec6-4cd2-4f51-9d90-41463e0ed657

The debate starts at 10.34 – if you put the cursor to the bottom of the picture a slider appears. It is excruciating to watch. In an unusually full House of Commons (not a high bar) there is indignation and real anger on all sides, with even Tories describing the decision to continue the eviction of the Chagos islanders as “dishonourable”.

The government argues that the Chagossians are not “a people” distinct from the Mauritians, therefore they do not have a right of self-determination. This piece of sophistry is designed to answer the obvious question of why the Chagossians have less rights than the Falkland Islanders or Gibraltarians. The actual answer – that the Chagossians are not white – is not one the government wishes to give. It also begs the question, if the Chagossians are Mauritians, why are the islands not a part of Mauritius?

The government produced a paper on prospective resettlement, imposing arbitrary conditions on where and how the Chagossians could live designed to make life as difficult as possible. Those conditions included that there could be no civilian use of the airstrip – which I am glad to see Alex Salmond challenged in the Commons. Chagossians could work at the US airbase, but only on condition their partners and children would not be permitted to be with them. Fishing – their traditional activity – will be banned by the UK government’s marine reserve.

Given these conditions, Duncan kept reiterating, only 223 Chagossians actually wanted to return. And that was not a viable population (which will be news to many inhabited islands).

Support for the government was very thin. The most notable contribution was from the Rt Hon Sir Desmond Swayne MP, who oozing contempt for dusky foreigners intervened solely to state that it would be impossible to return the islanders because the government would be put to the expense of building a prison for them. (He really did say this, I am not making it up, you can see it on the link.)

It takes New Labour however to win the lying through your teeth prize, which the unctuous Chris Bryant duly did. He deplored the deportation of the islanders, ignoring the fact that he had served as a minister in the 13 year Blair/Brown governments which did nothing to right the wrong and indeed fought against the islanders as hard as the Tories. But Bryant wished it to be known that the Labour government’s introduction of the marine reserve had no connection at all to denying the islanders the right of return, as was frequently wrongly claimed. Having said that the lying little bastard sat down.

The most amusing moment was when Kate Hoey stated that she knew Alan Duncan personally and he was a decent chap whose heart was secretly not in this despicable decision. Duncan felt the need to deny this vehemently, knowing that being less than totally heartless, particularly in matters relating to Imperial treatment of foreigners, was career death in the May government. I must say, from Duncan’s demeanour I saw no sign he has ever been troubled by humanitarianism.

I was proud that no less than five SNP MPs intervened and many more bothered to turn up, while another Scottish MP. Alistair Carmichael made a very good and principled point on the absolute right of the islanders to live on their islands. It was the SNP who made the most obvious point of all, that it made no sense for the government to claim that a population which had sustained itself on the islands in the 1960’s quite happily could not do so again. Indeed modern technology will make it rather easier.

November 17, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Leave a comment

End This British Atrocity

By Craig Murray | March 1, 2016

One of the worst atrocities of the British Empire occurred well within my own lifetime – the removal of an entire people, the Chagossians, from their homeland. Uprooted and deposited across the seas hundreds of miles away, many died from the physical and psychological effects of this crime against humanity. The thing is, it is still happening. The survivors have clung together as a community, and the British government are still actively preventing their return to their homeland – all to make way for an American military base on Diego Garcia. There is no reason other than simple Imperialism for America to maintain a military base in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Probably the most breathtaking piece of hypocrisy in modern history was when New Labour proudly announced that they had demarcated the waters around the Chagos Islands as the world’s first total marine conservation area – purely so they could make it impossible for the fishing based island community ever to return.

It is of course another example of the unparalleled talent for hypocrisy of the British state that the same politicians who declare their willingness to fight and die for the right of self-determination of the Falkland Islanders, will defend the deportation of the Chagos Islanders and their continued exclusion from their own islands. Again I would stress that Labour have been at least as guilty as Tories. The entire British state is complicit in this atrocity.

I would urge everybody who reads this immediately to use this link to send a message to your MP. I should welcome feedback through the comments section on any responses received.

March 1, 2016 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

What About Diego? What the Torture Report Missed

By Alyssa Röhricht | The Black Cat Revolution | March 20, 2015

The Senate Torture Report released in December 2014 reads worse than even the foulest imaginings of Hieronymus Bosch: sleep deprivation, isolation and sensory deprivation, forced nudity, rectal feeding and rectal rehydration, waterboarding, beatings, threatening detainees with the rape of their mothers and harm of their children, chaining detainees to the ceiling for days clothed in only a diaper, rape, even human experimentation.

The house of horrors detailed in the Senate report – which even in its over 500 pages doubtless only scratches the surface of the depravity of U.S. “War on Terror” tactics – has been discussed at length. But what is outlined in the report is only part of the story. What the report omits is almost equally important to understanding the lengths that the U.S. will go to maintain and expand its Empire. One such omission: Diego Garcia.

Despite it being one of the most strategically important U.S. military bases on the planet, few have ever even heard of Diego Garcia or the Chagos archipelago on which it sits. The chain of over 50 small islands (today known as the British Indian Ocean Territory, or BIOT) is in the center of the Indian Ocean and was once inhabited by a thriving population of indigenous islanders. Today, it is home to the US military base of Camp Justice or the Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia, nicknamed (ironically) the “Footprint of Freedom.” In some ways, the island looks like any American town – a bowling alley, tennis court, library, Post Office, gyms, a bank, a chapel, and even a 9-hole golf course. The B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers, 30 warships, satellite spy station, deep space surveillance system, nuclear storage facility, and the almost 5,000 U.S. servicemen and women that live there give lie to the façade, as do the crumbling homes, school, and church of the island’s previous inhabitants.

The Chagossians – the rightful inhabitants of the islands – have sustained a very different sort of torture. They were not beaten or raped, they were not waterboarded or forcibly deprived of sleep, but they were threatened, they were ripped from their homelands (ancestors, communities, schools, homes), they were forced onto the hull of a ship, and they were dropped on foreign islands and forgotten. And this didn’t happen in long ago history, it happened only 40 years ago – a slow and pronounced torture that continues today.

The first permanent inhabitants of the Chagos Islands were slaves brought by the French to work on coconut plantations around 1783. By 1814, one colonizer replaced another, and the British took control of Mauritius, including the Chagos Islands. In 1968, Mauritius received its independence from the U.K., but for a price. Mauritius would be freed from U.K. rule only if it did not lay claim to the Chagos Islands – thus the British Indian Ocean Territory was born. The U.S. and U.K. developed an informal lease agreement that would allow the U.S. to use Diego Garcia for a military base – prime real estate situated with eyes on the Middle East, Asia, and Russia. The agreement was hidden from both the U.S. Congress and the British Parliament and in direct contradiction to UN resolution 1514 and international law, which stated that colonies being decolonized had to be done as a whole – not carved up for profit.

The U.S./U.K. terror campaign was launched to have the islands “swept” and “sanitized” of the Chagossian people, first through an embargo aimed at starving the population out. Without basic supplies like milk, salt, and medication, many Chagossians left. In the Spring of 1971, officials in the U.S. military gave the order to round up all of the pet dogs on the island and have them killed. Thousands of pet dogs were murdered – some taken straight from screaming children – gassed with exhaust fumes from military vehicles. The Chagossians that had held out were then rounded onto a ship allowed to take only one suitcase. The horses took precedence and were put on deck. The Chagossians – women and children – slept in the hull on bird fertilizer – bird shit.

Marie Lisette Talate, a Chagossian, recalled in the documentary written and directed by John Pilger, Stealing a Nation, “All of us Chagossians, women, children, it was ourselves who were the animals on the Nordvaer.”

They were taken to the Seychelles and kept in prison cells until finally being transported to Mauritius where many Chagossians remain today. They were dropped there with nothing – no food, money, housing, jobs, water, or any institutional support in a country unknown to them. Unable to provide for themselves, many Chagossians began to die. Malnutrition, disease, and drugs plagued the community. But many islanders say that the Chagossian people were dying of sagren, sadness.

Marie Rita Elysée Bancoult, one of the Chagossian people, recounted her life after the forced relocation in an interview with Vine. After learning that they would never be returning home, her husband, Julien, suffered a stroke and died five years later. In the years that followed, her sons Alex, 38, Eddy, 36, and Rénault, 11, also died.

“My life has been buried… It’s as if I was pulled from my paradise to put me in hell. Everything here you need to buy. I don’t have the means to buy them. My children go without eating. How am I supposed to bear this life?”

This type of torture may leave no visible scars, but it is no less effective. The Chagossians have seen their homes destroyed, have left behind their land and belongings, have abandoned the graves of their ancestors, watched as their pets were ripped away and killed, and were left – deserted – on the shores of foreign lands, the forgotten refuse of Empire.

The torture continues today, as the Chagossians are ping-ponged back and forth between the two governments. The U.K. claims that the U.S. will not allow the islanders to live on the islands due to national security concerns of the base. Meanwhile the U.S. obviates responsibility, claiming it has no jurisdiction over the islands and that the Chagossians must direct their requests to the Crown. Justice, it seems, is only for the few.

What’s more, they must watch from afar as their homeland is destroyed and denigrated by the U.S. military. In addition to a recent admission by a senior Bush administration official to VICE News that the island of Diego Garcia has been used as a “transit site” where people were “interrogated from time to time,” studies of the waters surrounding the Diego Garcia military base as well have revealed massive environmental harms caused by the base, including decades of contamination from wastewater sewage, which the U.S. has been discharging into the water since at least the 1980s. The dumping of the treated sewage waters have resulted in elevated levels of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphates up to four times higher than normal and may be causing damage to the coral reefs.

Just the construction of Diego Garcia alone has eliminated much of the vegetation coverage on the island and decimated the coral reef – forests were bulldozed and coral reefs were blasted and dredged. As with most military bases, the usual nuclear contamination, fuel spills of millions of gallons of oil, carcinogenic pollutants in the soil and water, dangerous underwater sonars that harm marine life, and a litany of unexploded munitions plague the island. And yet, many argue against the Chagossian return to their native lands on environmental grounds, the implication being that the U.S. military is a better guardian of these islands than the people who had lived there in harmony for generations. The implicit racism in this notion is hard to ignore.

Despite the setbacks, Chagossians continue to fight, and while the U.S. and U.K. governments have continued to abdicate responsibility for their complicity in these crimes against humanity, the Chagossians seem better positioned for a return than at any other point in history. The U.K. government recently commissioned a feasibility study to determine whether a settlement may be achievable on the islands, which found “no insurmountable legal obstacles” to the Chagossians returning home. At the same time, negotiations over the military base are up for discussion between the U.S. and U.K. to decide if the informal lease of the land will be extended for the U.S. military.

The decades of torture imposed upon these people has yet to be adequately addressed or remunerated, and while the international community has expressed outrage over the U.S. use of some of the most vile and perverted means of torture against prisoners in rendition sites across the globe, the same international outcry must be directed at the decades of human rights abuses imposed upon the people of the Chagos Islands. Torture, after all, is not just carried out with drills, straps, and chains; there is also a psychological torture – the torture of neglect and marginalization that renders a people invisible – that can do just as much damage.

March 21, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment