THE INTERNATIONAL Court of Justice (ICJ) known as ‘the Hague’ ruled yesterday that Britain’s ‘decolonisation and displacement’ of the Chagos Islanders from the Indian Ocean Archipelago was ‘unlawful’.
Judges ruled that Britain should relinquish control over the territory ‘as soon as possible’.
The case, brought by Mauritius, ruled on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965.
Although the decision is a ‘non-binding advisory opinion,’ reading a summary of a the 14-member tribunal’s decision, Presiding Judge Abdulqawi Yusuf said Britain was ‘under obligation to bring to an end the administration of Chagos Islands as rapidly as possible’.
During court hearings, Mauritius said it had been forced to give up the remote archipelago to gain independence from Britain during the decolonisation process. Britain maintained that Mauritius had given up the islands willingly.
After gaining the islands in the early 1960s, Britain evicted almost 2,000 residents to Mauritius and the Seychelles to make way for the US military base on the island of Diego Garcia.
Between 1968 and 1973 around 2,000 Chagos islanders were forcibly evicted from the island, their pets killed in front of them, with the British invaders burning their homes to the ground to make the island uninhabitable. They were forced onto ships and dumped in the slums of Mauritius and the Seychelles.
The Chagos people were described in a British diplomatic cable at the time as a ‘few Tarzans and Man Fridays’.
Today around 10,000 Chagossians and their descendants are divided among Mauritius, the Seychelles and Britain.
They demand the right to return to their island and appropriate compensation for the suffering of themselves, their families and their descendants.
Isabelle Charlot Chairperson Chagos Islanders Movement, told News Line yesterday afternoon: ‘This is a step forwards for our Chagos people to go back to our homeland.
‘However, we are disappointed because we thought the judges would use their knowledge and wisdom to give the right to the Chagossians to decide what they want.
‘This should have been about the Chagossians more, but again it is about politics. We are being neglected and forgotten again. Can we trust the Mauritius government? Will they let us back to our island, will they return Chagos to the Chagossian?
‘Will Great Britain honour what has been advised by the Hague?
‘We are going to keep fighting until we return. The fight continues!’