Friday, June 30, 2006

Chagos Islands

Statement by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury, on the decision by the Foreign Secretary to appeal against the decision in the Chagos Islands case

This last-minute appeal against the decision of the High Court in favour of the Chagos Islanxders comes after the Government had asked for two extensions of time. The decision to lodge the appeal comes at the 11th hour of the second extension, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when no doubt they hope it will be ignored by the media. If they had a good case, that wouldn’t have been necessary.

The decision to evict the Chagos Islanders from their territory using an Order in Council 40 years ago was inhumane, and a breach of human rights and of international law. There is no precedent for using the ancient powers of the Crown to remove a whole population of British subjects from their homes and place of birth.

When Turkey removed villagers from their homes during the conflict in the Kurdish region, the European Court of Human Rights found that breaches of the Convention had been committed. We rightly expect these violations to be remedied and compensation paid to the victims before Turkey is admitted to the European Union. It is shameful that we are treating the Chagos islanders in the same way, and they are likely to win their case before the European Court, lodged in March 2005.

Is this another example of the Government’s determination to put the judges in their place, and by hook or by crook overturn judgements they don’t like?

Or is it merely an illustration of their subservience to Washington? Has Bush told us to pursue this case to the bitter end, so as to keep the islanders well away from their base on Diego Garcia, given to them by Harold Wilson in 1965?

This is a political case, and Parliament should defend the rights of the islanders, as well as the integrity of the judiciary against a Government case based on lies at the United Nations and an assertion of arbitrary power in our courts.

No comments: