The Chagos Refugees Group, who were expelled from their homeland to make space for a US air base in 1971, have suffered defeat in the latest round of their long legal battle over their exile.
Former inhabitants sought a ruling that a decision to create a marine park around the British-controlled islands was for the improper purpose of preventing their future resettlement. The UK’s highest court dismissed an appeal on Thursday following a hearing in London last year.
However, the Court of Appeal ‘unanimously held’ that Wikileaks-obtained diplomatic cables, which were rejected as evidence by the Administrative Court, should have been permitted. The cables in question show that the UK contrived to set up a ‘marine protected area’ that would ‘effectively end the islanders’ resettlement claims’ without affecting the US airbase.
This creates a precedent that could enable the use of Wikileaks diplomatic cables as evidence in future UK legal cases, and possibly ‘affect many court proceedings around the world’ according to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Big win at UK Supreme Court today in a judgment that will affect many court proceedings around the world: leaked diplomatic cables are admissible as evidence https://t.co/cFPoj86GsK
— Julian Assange ⌛ (@JulianAssange) February 9, 2018
The UK leased the atoll of Diego Garcia to the US military in 1966 in return for a $11 million discount on their purchase of a Polaris nuclear missile system. The airbase has proved extremely useful for the US extraordinary rendition program, with several abductees tortured on the island when other black sites were too ‘dangerous or insecure’, according to former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson.
The use of of the UK overseas territory for US torture was denied by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw at the time, before his successor David Miliband admitted that ‘two rendition flights stopped there to refuel’. A report later published by the US Senate intelligence committee, however, contradicted both UK ministers in admitting that several cases of torture occurred on Diego Garcia.
Between 1968 and 1971 nearly 2,000 native Chagos Islanders were expelled from their homeland and largely migrated to nearby Mauritius and the Seychelles, where they overwhelmingly experience discrimination and serious poverty. In 2016 the UK Foreign Office issued an apology to the Chagos Refugees Group, but declared that returning Chagossians home would be ‘prohibitively expensive’.
Wikileaks released a cache of diplomatic cables obtained by whistleblower Chelsea Manning in 2010. This trove included 09LONDON1156_a, which suggested that the UK purposely endeavoured to create a marine reserve on the island in order to make it ‘difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement’, allowing the US to continue waterboarding Iraqis in peace without any natives hanging around or getting up in their hair.
Naturally, the Chagos Refugee Group thought that this cable – which clearly refutes then-Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s claims that the marine reserve on Chagos constituted a ‘major step forward for protecting the oceans’ rather than a cynical political ploy – would prove useful in their court case against the UK government. They were not successful in submitting the cables as evidence, and the Court of Appeal agree that they were wronged in this instance.
David Miliband now heads the International Rescue Committee, a charity which assists refugees ‘displaced by war, persecution or natural disaster’ according to its manifesto. I would argue that the Chagos Islanders whom he deceived and denied justice fall under the ‘persecution’ category in the described remit of the charity that nows pays him $600,000 a year.
A member of the Rockefeller Trilateral Commission and now a resident of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the Right Honourable David Miliband additionally earns £20,000 per night on the after dinner speech circuit and is good mates with George Clooney. Call it bitterness, but I can’t escape the sneaky feeling that he may have got off lightly for his past transgressions.
Amity Underground | Chagos Refugee Group | Wikileaks