Some time ago, David Cameron (at the time, Prime Minister of the UK) raised concerns over alleged human rights abuses in Sri Lanka.
It has been well documented that other countries over the years have had poor records on Human Rights, but perhaps we in the UK should look closer to home….
Diego Garcia is a tropical, footprint-shaped island located south of the equator in the central Indian Ocean.
It is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) and comes under a group of islands referred to as the Chagos Archipelago.
In 1971, The British Government decided to relocate all of the inhabitants (who were, incidentally British subjects who had lived on the island for generations) against their will to Mauritius so they could lease the Island to the United States to build an Army Base on.
This is in stark contrast to the British Government’s attitude to the Falkland Islands:
Inhabited by British subjects, we went to war with Argentina to protect the rights of the inhabitants to live on that particular island.
The majority of Diego Garcia’s Islander’s who haven’t died waiting to go back to their homeland currently live in squalor in Mauritius.
They have lodged appeals through the courts in the UK, and won, only to be overruled by successive British Governments using archaic secret powers you don’t get to read about in the mainstream media.
To add insult to injury, our government first stated the island wasn’t inhabited in the first place, declared the island a Marine Nature Reserve, and went on to say the island was not capable of supporting human life – despite the fact that there is a military base on it, complete with restaurants, shops, and army personnel.
In 2000 the British High Court granted the islanders the right to return to the Archipelago.
On 10 June 2004 the British government made two Orders in Council under the Royal Prerogative forever banning the islanders from returning home, to override the effect of the 2000 court decision.
On 11 May 2006 the British High Court ruled that the 2004 Orders-in-Council were unlawful, and consequently that the Chagossians were entitled to return to the Chagos Archipelago.
On 23 May 2007, the UK Government’s appeal against the 2006 High Court ruling was dismissed, and they took the matter to the House of Lords.
On 22 October 2008, the UK Government won on appeal, the House of Lords overturned the 2006 High Court ruling and upheld the two 2004 Orders-in-Council and with them the Government’s ban on anyone returning.
This story of Diego Garcia and the forced removal of an entire generation of people is covered in John Pilger’s excellent documentary “Stealing a nation.”
So the next time our government tries to highlight another country’s Human Rights record, remember that here in the UK, many things go unreported…
Copyright © Mark A. McPherson 2013, 2018
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