By contributor Sean Carey
The case concerning the right of return of the Chagos Islanders, who were forcibly removed from their homeland by the British authorities between 1968 and 1973 to make way for the U.S. base on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, is before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. In the near future, the judges will rule whether the case falls within the court’s jurisdiction. If it does, a verdict is expected by July or August.
In the meantime, a petition to the Obama Administration is calling for the Chagossian exiles to be able to return to the outer islands of the Chagos Archipelago like Peros Banhos and Salomon, along with financial compensation and targeted employment programs. The petition has just been launched by the SPEAK Human Rights and Environmental Initiative. The organization was founded in 2010 by a small group of Mauritian lawyers, and is working with the Port Louis-based Chagos Refugees Group led by Olivier Bancoult.
The aim of the petition is to collect at least 25,000 signatures by April 4. A successful number of signatories on the “We the People” website will oblige White House staff to review the issue, seek expert opinion and provide an official response. Details can be found here.
For a comprehensive study of Diego Garcia and the Chagossians’ situation, see the books Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia by David Vine and Chagos Islanders in Mauritius and the UK: Forced Displacement and Onward Migration by Laura Jeffery. Vine is a cultural anthropologist and professor at American University in Washington, DC. Jeffery is a social anthropologist at the University of Edinburgh.