UK trade unions must take action to end the UK’s criminal treatment of Chagossians – they must be allowed to return home!

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THE prime minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth has indicted the UK government for committing ‘crimes against humanity’ for refusing to allow Chagossians to return to their former homes on the Chagos Islands, despite a ruling earlier this year by the United Nation’s highest court.

He described Britain’s behaviour as ‘shameful’, and said that he was exploring the possibility of bringing charges of crimes against humanity against individual British officials at the International Criminal Court (ICC). This could see the UK in the dock at The Hague!

Earlier this year, Mauritius won a major victory against Britain when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ruled that the Chagos Islands should be handed over to Mauritius in order to complete its ‘decolonisation’.

The United Nations General Assembly then voted to give Britain a six-month deadline. Britain has steadfastly refused to comply.

It is half a century since Britain under the Labour government of Harold Wilson took control of the Chagos Islands, and evicted the entire population of more than 1,000 people in order to make way for an American military base to dominate the Indian Ocean. The massive base also includes a secret prison, where terrorist suspects have been tortured with British officials allegedly present.

Philippe Sands, a lawyer representing the Mauritian government, said: ‘Britain is on the edge of finding itself as a pariah state.’ The UK government has begun to take small groups of Chagossians back to the archipelago for brief ‘heritage’ visits!

‘I boycott those trips. The British are trying to buy our silence. That’s why we say our dignity is not for sale,’ said Olivier Bancoult, who heads the Chagos Refugees Group. In 2016, Britain renewed a lease agreement with the United States for the use of Diego Garcia until 2036.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn vowed to ‘end colonial rule’ if he won the December 12 election and stated: ‘It’s clear that in refusing to return the Chagos Islands to Mauritius and defying the UN General Assembly and International Court of Justice, this Conservative government shamefully considers itself to be above international law.’ The lease for the US base on Diego Garcia comes up for renewal at the end of this year.

The Chagos Islanders Movement says: ‘We were threatened with being shot, bombed and to be starved if we did not leave our islands. Our dogs/pets were gassed in front of our own eyes. Meanwhile, food stores on the island were allowed to deplete in order to pressure us to leave.

‘We were dumped on the slums of Mauritius and the Seychelles to fend for ourselves, made homeless and received no help, from either the British government, nor the Mauritian government. Many families were separated. We were forced to find whatever accommodation we could, forced to live in the slums in poverty …

‘Today, no Chagossians live on the island of Diego Garcia, as it is now the site of the military base Camp Justice. The main island is America’s largest military base outside the US. There are more than 4,000 troops, two bomber runways, thirty warships and a satellite spy station. The Pentagon calls it an indispensable platform for policing the world.’

The UK trade unions were lobbied by the Chagossians at the 2018 TUC Congress – so they are well aware of the issue. The trade unions must take strike action to secure the rights of the Chagossian people to return to their own homes in their own country, and to terminate the giant US base.

If the trade unions just stand aside and thus vindicate the foul and illegal way that the Chagossian people have been treated since the Wilson Labour government they will be creating a rod for their own backs.

The bosses and their Johnson-led ‘People’s government’ will assume that they are pushovers and just give them the ‘Chagos treatment’ as far as their rights are concerned! The TUC and all trade unions must insist with the Tory government that the Chagossians must be allowed to return and that they will not tolerate 19th-century-type British colonialism in the 21st century! The TUC must call political strike action to secure the rights of the Chagossians, and safeguard their own rights!