Trade Unions Must Fight For Chagossians’ Right To Return!

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SAAD Iqbal Madni, was kidnapped by the CIA while visiting relatives in Indonesia. He was then transited through the British colonial possession of Diego Garcia, one of the Chagos Islands group, on his way to be tortured in Egypt, in the ‘black hole’ of Bagram in Afghanistan and in Guantanamo Bay, in occupied Cuba.

The Wilson government of 1966 began cleansing the Chagos Islands of its population so that Diego Garcia could be handed over to the US, to be turned into a giant base for waging imperialist war on the Middle East, East Africa and Central Asia.

Conscious that the ethnic cleansing was a criminal action, which would be opposed by the United Nations, the Wilson government never raised the matter in the House of Commons, which was never asked to decide the fate of the Chagossian people.

The dirty work, was done directly by an Order in Council signed by Queen Elizabeth II which provided the authority to rid the Chagos Islands of its human population, and destroy their homes, livestock, and plantations.

The population was forced into boats after a warning that if they did not go they would be dealt with in the same way as their animals. They were transported to the slums of Mauritius where many died of a broken heart, called locally ‘sadness’.

Diego Garcia still has a 12 mile exclusion zone around it, while having three miles of territorial waters, meaning that all strangers could be kept away, while a prison ship or ships could be anchored close to the shore but outside territorial waters.

Madni has now been released in Pakistan where he lives, crippled by torture, but fighting for justice.

Diego Garcia was and remains central to the US torture and rendition programme, and for its preparations to launch an attack on Iran.

It was ethnically cleansed of its inhabitants, who were warned never to try to return.

For over 40 years the British ruling class have been fighting to prevent the Chagos Islanders from carrying out their right to return.

In the years following the declaration of the ‘war on terror’ British and US administrations denied with great moral indignation that there was a top secret CIA torture chamber and prison on the island of Diego Garcia.

In February 2008, Foreign Minister David Miliband had to announce to parliament, that ‘recent US investigations have now revealed two occasions, both in 2002, when this had in fact occurred.’

The Spanish newspaper El País went much further and said that the US was holding kidnapped prisoners on prison ships in the waters around Diego Garcia.

The Chagos Islanders launched three fully contested court hearings in that 10 year period, where seven senior judges unanimously upheld their historic right in terms that were scathing of the government.

All three courts quashed Government Orders banning them from returning home.

However the last line of defence for the bosses, the House of Lords, stood firm and in 2008 decided that the Orders in Council are valid.

Many of the secret torture chambers and many of the illegal actions of the US and UK governments are being exposed before the world.

However one great wrong must be righted. Exposing the torture regimes, and exposing their political chiefs is not enough. The people of the Chagos Islands, from the elderly to the very young must be restored to their homes, and be adequately compensated for the terrible things that were done to them by successive British governments.

On Saturday, October 3, the Chagos Islanders will be marching to a mass rally in Trafalgar Square. They must be joined by thousands of workers and trade unionists.