Court fight over removal ends in loss for islanders

Court fight over removal ends in loss for islanders

LONDON: The European Court of Human Rights has dismissed an action against the British government over the removal of Indian Ocean islanders from their homes.

The inhabitants of the Chagos Islands were moved between 1967 and 1973 to make way for a US military base on the largest island, Diego Garcia.

Marking the final chapter of a legal saga, the court dismissed a claim for further compensation and the right of return, filed in the name of 1786 former inhabitants of the Chagos Islands.

It was found to be inadmissible because they had already received recompense for their deportation. The court said they were technically no longer victims of human rights violations.

The British Foreign Office welcomed the decision, saying in a statement: ''We have made clear our regret for the wrongs done to the Chagossian people over 40 years ago. Nevertheless, it was right for the government to defend itself against this action.''

Campaigners for the Chagossians said they were ''saddened and shocked'' by the ruling, but pledged to continue to campaign to allow Chagossians the right to resettle on two outer islands in the archipelago.


A spokesman for the UK Chagos Supporters Association said: ''We appeal to the Coalition to stand up to their pre-election promises and bring about a just settlement to one of the tragedies of the 20th century, perpetrated by the UK.''

As the British Empire was broken up and colonies gained independence, the Chagos Islands remained in British hands.

A secret deal was struck with the US that allowed Diego Garcia to be used as an air base for strategic nuclear bombers.

The 1500 islanders were deported en masse and took up residence primarily in Mauritius, the Seychelles and Crawley, in West Sussex. In the early 1980s they accepted compensation from the government.

Telegraph, London

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