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House of Lords judgement Upholds banishment of Chagossians by Queen's Order


The judgment from the House of Lords Judicial Committee by a 3/2 majority delivered 22 October, 2008 in London has denied the Chagossians the right to return to the Chagos Islands. In fact, there are five separate speeches in the judgment. Olivier Bancoult of the Chagos Refugees Group has expressed his sadness at the legal defeat, and his determination to continue the struggle. He has also re-iterated the fact that he and other Chagossians are Mauritians, despite having brought the case as British subjects.

The judgment is reproduced in toto in the DOCUMENTS section of our website.

If you read the judgment, you will notice that LALIT is in fact mentioned on a number of occasions, in fact LALIT is mentioned by name by three judges and by another one, though not by name. The references are all to do with LALIT and the Chagos Refugees Group's setting up of a PEACE FLOTILLA in 2004 to take the Chagossians to Diego Garcia and Chagos once the right of return had been granted by the Courts in 2000. This PEACE FLOTILLA process was, in fact, only interrupted by the fact that the Mauritian Government came forward and supplied a ship for a visit of 100 Chagossians to the Chagos Islands. In fact, the LALIT movement against the base was no more than the Foreign Secretary's excuse as to why the Cabinet had introduced the Order in Council (a type of "legislation") behind the back of Parliament, in secrecy and in a hurry, and in fact banning people from living on any of the Chagos Islands. He said they resorted to this undemocratic method because LALIT and the Chagossians were planning to do a landing there and this was a grave security risk for the US military base there. The real reason was probably too truthful and too abject to say straight out in public: that the US State had "forced" the British Cabinet to pass the Order in Council. So the British State continues an updated version of the pretences that passes for truth just as it did 40 years ago and is now so ashamed of having done.

LALIT has since the judgment taken a public stand to say that the struggle continues. The Chagossians will continue with their appeal to the European Human Rights Court. However, it is now important, LALIT representative, Lindsey Collen said, to link the struggle for the right to return with the struggle for the re-unification of the Republic of Mauritius and for the closure of the base. It is because of the base that the Chagossians were expelled and that Mauritius was illegally dismembered. It is time now for the Chagossians once again to unite with peoples' organizations in Mauritius, this time to force the Mauritian Government to rally support to put a case before the UN Tribunal at The Hague. In the past the main gains in the struggle around Diego Garcia were always the result of the peoples' struggles. First in 1978-81, there were the hunger strikes and street battles that put the issue on the national agenda, and then years later the RANN NU DIEGO! Committee built up the Chagos Refugees Group to a position strong enough to put in the case. However, Lindsey Collen pointed out, the legal strategy often became legalistic, and this weakened the struggle.

The argumentation of the Law Lords is varied, but contains intricate legal arguments on two very interesting issues, one relating to the State in Britain in the past and one to the State in Britain in the present and future. The majority of Lords are both conservative in their relative support of the Queen's Orders in Council, which are, in fact, ancient Cabinet edicts behind the back of elected Parliamentarians, and are also ultra-liberal in their relative acceptation of the "raison d'etat" of foreign policy, in particular that demanded by the USA. The first issue was part of the process of the British State giving changing weight over time to the Queen's prerogative, the Legislature, the Judiciary, the Executive. The second issue was to do with Britain now being a very junior partner relative to its giant ally, the US.

Please refer to the documents section for the whole judgment.