The Group held its fiftieth meeting on 15 July. Its first meeting had been on 16 December 2008. Members decided to mark the occasion by issuing a statement on the progress made, since the first meeting, towards bringing about a resolution of the issues concerning the future of the Chagossians and of the Chagos Islands.
The Group was formed in response to the House of Lords 3:2 majority verdict of October 2008 which ruled that the 2004 Orders in Council that had deprived the Chagossians of their right of abode were lawful. The Group was pleased to note that on 22 June the Supreme Court considered an application to set aside that judgment on the grounds that it was based on a false premise and a flawed resettlement study in 2002. Judgment is expected soon.
Members reflected on the last six and a half years and the progress that had been made in three Parliaments towards restoring justice and the right of return and abode. There had been numerous Questions, interventions, debates and Early Day Motions in both Houses. At its second meeting in January 2009 the Group agreed objectives which included “A truly independent study of the practicalities of resettlement which was transparent and drawn up in consultation with the Chagossians and other interested parties”. This had been achieved.
Members were pleased that the Coalition Government had agreed to a new feasibility study in 2013 which was completed by KPMG in 2014 and published in February 2015. That study had shown there to be no legal or environmental reasons why resettlement should not be achieved. The Group looked forward to the implementation of the study following the further work on costs and take-up commissioned by the FCO. They expected this to be decided by the autumn. Members were concerned that decisions should not be taken during the summer recess and that Parliament should be consulted.
Another of the 2009 objective was “Discussions with Mauritius on the future sovereignty of the Outer Islands so that this question is resolved before 2016 when the UK/US fifty year agreement comes up for renewal”. Members hoped that following the Award to Mauritius by the UNCLOS Arbitral Tribunal in March, and bearing in mind the judgments of two of the five judges supporting the Mauritian case on sovereignty, the FCO would be charged with taking forward these discussions as soon as possible.
A third objective was “Re-negotiation of the Agreement with the US to reflect the right of the Chagossians to live on the Outer Islands and any changes to the sovereignty of those Islands”. While noting that resettlement on Diego Garcia, as recommended by KPMG, now seemed the best option, Members expected these issues to be part of the negotiations leading to the renewal of the Agreement in December 2016.
The Group noted that its final objective had been “HMG to apologise for the fundamental breach of human rights that the Chagossian people have suffered over four decades and to offer reparations”.