Current Date: 28 May, 2024

U.K., U.S. Accused of "Crimes Against Humanity" Over Chagos Islands by Rights Group

A human rights organization has accused the British government of lying and the governments of the United States and Britain of committing crimes against humanity. This resulted from the establishment of a crucially vital U.S. military facility on Diego Garcia Island in the Indian Ocean.

Human Rights Watch, a New York-based organization, made the allegations in a 106-page study released on Wednesday (February 15, 2023) about the forcible eviction of Chagos archipelago residents in the 1960s and 1970s. 

After losing two legal battles in international tribunals over the legitimacy of the islands' occupation, the British government is currently trying to negotiate a deal with Mauritius over their future.

In the 1960s, as the British colony of Mauritius was negotiating its independence, Britain severed the archipelago from Mauritius, proclaimed it a new colony called British Indian Ocean Territory, and leased the largest island, Diego Garcia, to the United States. 

As a result, the American air and naval station are crucial to military activities in the Persian Gulf, Southwest Asia, and the Indian Ocean. That's When the Nightmare Started.

The U.K. and U.S. Forced Displacement of the Chagossians and Ongoing Colonial Crimes, a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), is based on interviews with various international experts, Chagossians in Mauritius, Seychelles, and Britain, as well as an examination of documents and court records.

Beginning in the 18th century, French and British colonial troops moved enslaved individuals from Mozambique and Madagascar to the Chagossians, who comprise most of the population today.

The HRW report highlights documents from the British government from the 1960s. The document states, among other things, that the primary goal of acquiring these islands was to ensure that Her Majesty's Government had full title to and control over these islands.

This is so that they could be used to construct defense facilities without hindrance or political agitation.

These islands were picked because of their strategic location as well as the fact that they had, in all actuality, no permanent population. 

This purpose implied—and it was acknowledged then—that we could not accept the ideas guiding our ordinarily universal behavior in our dependent regions, such as that the locals' needs came first and that we should establish self-government there.

According to the report, Britain misled the U.N. by claiming that islanders did not reside there permanently, abdicating their obligation under the UN Charter to uphold the ideal of "equal rights and self-determination of peoples."

The report says the Foreign Office stated that "the islands chosen had essentially no permanent residents" in a minute submitted on November 8, 1965, to the U.K. Mission to the U.N. 

However, the U.K. ambassador to the U.N. requested that the word "virtually" be omitted at this point because, if Chagos had a population, the U.K. would be accused of failing to uphold its commitments under the UN Charter to this population.

As a result, the prefix "virtually" was dropped." As a result, state authorities of the U.K. and U.S. governments deliberately compelled all Chagossians to leave their homeland for 50 years, resulting in a wide range of human rights violations, including the impediment to their return," continued Human Rights Watch.

According to Human Rights Watch, these violations still occur today and constitute crimes against humanity.

These crimes are systemic and pervasive, affecting the whole Chagossian people. They are the consequence of purposeful state policy in both countries that started at the highest levels. 

Both nations keep their motivations for displacing Chagossians and preventing their return, which is illegal, hidden. Apart from the crimes against forced displacement and preventing people from going home, according to HRW, Britain has also persecuted the Chagossians due to their race and heritage. 

Here, the report made a disparaging comparison between the circumstances of the Chagossians and how the Falkland Islanders and Cypriots were treated when living under British rule.

The report states, "the U.K. and its authorities bear the main responsibility for the atrocities committed against the Chagossians." 

Furthermore, "Officials from the United States are also accountable for planning and carrying out the forced relocation and aiding and encouraging the subsequent crimes against humanity committed against Chagossians.

"In the study, the U.K. government is urged to guarantee the Chagossians' access to their homes, including Diego Garcia, and to make up for the suffering they have endured. In addition, it demands that both countries apologize for their abuse of the Chagossians and pay compensation.

In addition, Human Rights Watch calls on Mauritius to permit Chagossians to return to the islands. The importance of the facility cannot be understated, according to Jagdish Koonjul, the Mauritian ambassador to the U.N., who stated that Mauritius has "no issue whatsoever to the U.S. station in Diego Garcia" in 2020.

He further stated that Mauritius would insist on the Chagossians' right to repatriation, except for Diego Garcia. However, his government favored allowing Mauritians—including Chagossians—to look for work on Diego Garcia.

Excellence Chukwuma Chukwunaedu

Excellence Chukwuma Chukwunaedu

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