UK, US guilty of 'crimes against humanity' over Chagos Islands: HRW
In a new 106-page report, HRW acknowledges that the UK's "racial persecution, and continued blocking of their return home" with Washington's support, constituted an "ongoing colonial crime."
"Britain and the United States are guilty of crimes against humanity in the forced displacement of indigenous people from the Chagos Islands."
This is what Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday almost 55 years since the UK and the US forcibly evicted Chagossians from Diego Garcia.
Better late than never
In a new 106-page report, HRW acknowledged that the UK's "racial persecution, and continued blocking of their return home" with Washington's support, constituted an "ongoing colonial crime."
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HRW urged the two countries to make full reparations to the Chagossian people, including the right to return to their homeland in the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean.
Clive Baldwin, HRW's senior legal advisor and lead author of the report, said, "The UK is today committing an appalling colonial crime, treating all Chagossians as a people without rights."
"The UK and the US, who together expelled the Chagossians from their homes, should provide full reparations for the harm they have caused," he added.
Another "ongoing colonial crime"
In 1965, London chose to detach the archipelago from Mauritius, which was then part of the British colonies, and establish a joint military facility with the US on Diego Garcia, the largest of the isles.
It pursues administering them but Mauritius, which became an independent Commonwealth country in 1968, has long fought to return the islands to its territory and has gained international support for its cause.
A 2019 judgment by the International Court of Justice upheld its claim and declared Britain should relinquish control of the remote archipelago.
Later that year, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution declaring that "the Chagos Archipelago is an important part of the territory of Mauritius" and recommending that Britain leave within six months.
The Mauritian Prime Minister announced last month that talks have begun over the islands' sovereignty, following the UK's confirmation in November that it had agreed to discuss the islands' future.
However, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly affirmed in a written ministerial statement at the time that the countries had agreed the military base on Diego Garcia would continue to operate whatever the outcome.
HRW noted that there had been "no clear commitment to meaningful consultation with the Chagossians and to guarantee their right to reparations, including their right to return, in any settlement."
For its report, the New York-based organization interviewed dozens of people, including Chagossians and UK, US, and Mauritian authorities, and studied various documents.
It stated that it had discovered three crimes against humanity: a continuing colonial crime of forced displacement; the UK's refusal to allow their return home; and their persecution on the basis of race and ethnicity by the UK.
The UK's Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) responded to the report by saying, "We respect the work Human Rights Watch does around the world, but we categorically reject this characterization of events.
Meanwhile, the US State Department did not respond to requests for comment on the HRW report.
This comes a few days after Olivier Bancoult, Lisbey Elyse, Marie Suzelle Baptiste, Rosemonde Bertin and Marcel Humbert -- who were kicked out of the archipelago's inhabitants to make way for a US military base on the island, Diego Garcia -- came back for a visit to their birthplace.
At the time, the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth, told The Guardian that the trip to the Chagos islands was not in any way a "hostile act" aimed to "embarrass the UK," but rather than an "exercise of our sovereignty over part of our territory and that is in accordance with international law.”
He continued, “The UK has acted in violation of human rights and international law when it forcibly removed the Chagossians. Uprooting people from their place of birth and where they were living without any warning and putting them on a ship and just leaving them at the quay in Mauritius. And preventing them going back … That’s clearly a crime against humanity and it’s extraordinarily serious.”
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