LALIT and those present at the Second International Conference on Diego Garcia held on 1 and 2nd October 2016 have submitted the first-ever request for inspections under the UN Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa. On 27 October a letter was sent to Dr. Mohamed Derdour who is the first executive Secretary of AFCONE to set up office under the Treaty. Here is the content of the letter.
Dr Mohamed Derdour
executive Secretary, African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE)
African union Commission
27 October, 2016
The 2nd International Conference on Diego Garcia organized by Lalit was held on 1 & 2 Oct, 2016 in Port Louis, Mauritius, six years after a 1st such Conference.
The Conferences of 2010 and of 2016 were opened by former President of the Republic, Mr Cassam Uteem, a signatory to this letter. The 2nd Conference mandated us, the five signatories below, to write this letter to you, as executive Secretary to the AFCONE. We thus write in the name of the 160 participants, representing civil society organizations in Mauritius, and including the Chagos Refugees Group. Chagossian Mauritians had inhabited Diego Garcia and the other Islands of Chagos for generations and generations, until their forcible removal as an illegal condition for Mauritian Independence, and after the Islands had been illegally detached in 1965 from the rest of Mauritius by Britain. By Queen’s Order-in-Council, Britain then set up the British Indian Ocean Territory, a new colony created in 1966 by cobbling Chagos together with three Islands belonging to Seychelles – Islands which subsequently returned to the Seychelles with the help of Mauritian lawyers.
This letter puts into effect one of the resolutions in the 2nd Declaration of Grande Rivière, which was voted at the end of the 2nd Conference. The relevant clause reads: “and we also commit ourselves to sending, in the name of the Conference, a request to the executive Secretary of AFCONE, Dr Mohamed Derdour, for an investigation on Diego Garcia [under the Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa]”. The 2nd Declaration is appended. (Plus FYI the 1st Declaration.)
Our request to AFCONE is because we, who attended the 2nd International Conference on Diego Garcia, have reason to believe that nuclear materials are stored on Diego Garcia, that nuclear submarines are serviced there, and that nuclear arms may be stocked there.
We have a second request to make. We would like to know whether it would be possible for a small delegation from our Conference to attend and perhaps address the coming Conference of States Parties, in order to outline our concerns about the presence of nuclear materials on Diego Garcia in violation of this Treaty.
The Tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as you will be aware, in March 2015 found that Britain does not have the kind of “sovereignty” over Chagos that could enable it to declare a Marine Protected Area there. The Minority Judgment went further, saying that the Tribunal had jurisdiction to decide who had sovereignty and that it is Mauritius that has. Both these findings mean that the Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa covers the Chagos Archipelago, which, as you may know, is part of the Republic of Mauritius, which is a member of the African union. The UNCLOS decision, binding as it is, thus throws doubt on the “dotted lines” around Diego Garcia in the Pelindaba Treaty.
Thank you very much for considering these two requests.
We will, for your information, and in accordance with the 2nd Resolution of Grande Rivière, also be requesting the Mauritian State to take action as a State party to the Treaty.
Cassam Uteem, former President of the Republic; Jean-Claude Bibi, former Attorney General; Alain Ah-Vee, Lindsey Collen, Ragini Kistnasamy (organizers).
For the Second International Conference on Diego Garcia,
c/o LALIT, 153 Main Road, Grande Rivière Nord West,
Port Louis, Republic of Mauritius.