Chagossians: Wikileaked cable admissible after all

Diego_garcianBancoult v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs  [2014] EWCA Civ 708 – read judgment

Rosalind English (here) has summarised this unsuccessful appeal against the rejection of the Chagossians’ claims by the Divisional Court, and I have posted on this litigation arising out of the removal and subsequent exclusion of the population from the Chagos Archipelago in the British Indian Ocean Territory: see hereherehere and here. The photograph is from 1971 – the last coconut harvest for the Chagossians.

There were three remaining grounds alleged against the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in this judicial review

(i) its decision in favour of a Marine Protected Area  was actuated by an improper motive, namely an intention to prevent Chagossians and their descendants from resettling in the BIOT;

(ii) the consultation paper which preceded the decision failed to disclose that the MPA proposal, in so far as it prohibited all fishing, would adversely affect the traditional and historical rights of Chagossians to fish in the waters of their homeland, as both Mauritian citizens and as the native population of the Chagos Islands; and

(iii) it was in breach of the obligations imposed on the United Kingdom under article 4(3) of the Treaty of the European Union.

I want to look at (i), the improper purpose grounds, and (iii) the TEU/TFEU grounds, because in both respects the CA took a different course than the Divisional Court, even though the outcome was the same.

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Richard III and Chagossian judicial review claims all dismissed

p180vajuda12ijjc57ac1qhh37s1The Plantagenet Alliance Ltd (R o.t.a) v. Secretary of State for Justice and others [2014] EWHC 1662 (QB) 23 May 2014 – read judgment

The facts of this application for judicial review were set out in David Hart QC’s post on the original permission hearing. To recap briefly, the Plantagenet Alliance, a campaigning organisation representing a group of collateral descendants of Richard III were given the go ahead to seek judicial review of the decision taken by the respondents – the Secretary of State, Leicester Council and Leicester University, regarding his re-interment at Leicester Cathedral without consulting them. More specifically, the claimant’s main case was that there was an obligation, principally on the part of the Ministry of Justice, to revisit or reconsider the licence once the remains had been conclusively identified as those of Richard III.

The Divisional Court (of three judges) unanimously rejected this argument on all grounds. It could not be said in public law terms that the Secretary of State failed to act as a reasonable or rational decision-maker when deciding not to revisit the exhumation licence in the light of the information which he already had. The Court hammered the final nail  on the consultation coffin by declaring that there was

no sensible basis for imposing a requirement for a general public consultation, with leaflets, on-line petitions, publicity campaigns, nor for advertisements trying to ascertain who is a relative and then weighing their views against the general public, when there are, in reality, only two possible contenders (Leicester and York)

A short summary of the decision in Bancoult follows.

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Chagossians update

330px-Chagosmap

A lot is happening in various challenges related to the long-running and shameful exclusion of the Chagossian people from their islands in the Indian Ocean. 

Here are the headlines, with a reminder of what these cases are about:

First, the Court of Appeal has just (2 April 2014) heard an appeal by the Chagossians against the dismissal of their challenge to the designation of the waters around the islands as a Marine Protected Area. 

Second, the closed hearing of the UNCLOS Arbitral Tribunal on the merits of the Chagos dispute (Mauritius v UK) is to be held at Istanbul on 22 April 2014. This also concerns the designation of the MPA.

Thirdly, the public hearing in the UK Information Tribunal on access to Diego Garcia pollution data appeal under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, which the FCO — contrary to the view of the Information Commissioner — says is inapplicable to overseas territories) is to be held on May 1st, 2014.

Now to a little more detail.

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The Chagossian Wikileaks cable judgment, fishing rights and a dose of EU law

330px-ChagosmapBancoult v. Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Divisional Court, Richards LJ and Mitting J, 11 June 2013 read judgment

The Divisional Court has now dismissed  the claim by Mr Bancoult on behalf of the Chagossian islanders. He had challenged the designation of the waters around the islands as a “no take” Marine Protected Area, i.e. one which could not be fished. 

Mr Bancoult said that the decision was flawed (i) by having an improper purpose (it would put paid to the Chagossians’ claims for resettlement); (ii) by inadequate consultation and (iii) by amounting to a breach of an EU obligation to promote the economic and social development of the islands. The Court ruled against all these claims.

The case has, to say the least, quite a back-story. It started with the Chagossians’ eviction from their islands in the Indian Ocean in the late 1960s and early 1970s,  on which I have posted here, here, and, in Strasbourg, here. After a judgment from the courts in 2000, the Foreign Office accepted that the original law underlying their departure was unlawful, and agreed to investigate their possible resettlement on some of their islands.

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Chagossians: Wikileaks cables not admissible in court

9780199275670Bancoult v. Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Divisional Court, Richards LJ and Mitting J, 16-24 April 2013, judgment awaited, but see 25 July 2012, Stanley Burnton LJ for an earlier judgment   UPDATED

A quick update at the end of the recent judicial review on 24 April by Mr Bancoult on behalf of the Chagossian islanders, but before judgment. The challenge was to the designation of the waters around their islands as a “no take” Marine Protected Area, i.e. one which could not be fished.

I have posted on this saga before, which started with the Chagossians’ eviction from their islands in the Indian Ocean in the late 1960s and early 1970s, here, here, and, in Strasbourg, here. After a judgment from the courts in 2000, the FCO accepted that the original law underlying their departure was unlawful, and agreed to investigate their possible resettlement on some of their islands.

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Chagossians hit the buffers in Strasbourg – but not over yet

_64878328_005205708Chagos Islanders v. United Kingdom, ECtHR 4th Section, 11 December 2012 read admissibility decision

The set of injustices which led to these claims is well known – and see my posts here and here. For the uninitiated, in the 1960s, the US wanted Diego Garcia (one of the Chagos Islands) as a major air base. It spoke nicely to the UK, its owners, who consequently evicted and banned all the inhabitants from it and the neighbouring islands. The constitutional arrangements were apparently decorous. A new UK colony was established (the British Indian Ocean Territory or BIOT) with a Commissioner to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Territory.

The UN was told that the population consisted of migrant workers, their position had been fully protected, and they had been consulted in the process – none of this in fact happened. Those evicted mainly went to Mauritius and the Seychelles. So the peace, order and good government in fact forthcoming from the UK amounted to total depopulation for military objectives.

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A Chagossian double bill: an environmental information contest, and a touch of Wikileaks

The Chagos Refugees Group in Mauritius v. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, First Tier Tribunal, 4 September 2012, read judgment

and Bancoult v. FCO, 25 July 2012, Stanley Burnton LJ, read judgment

The manoevres by which the Chagossians were evicted from their islands in the Indian Ocean, the late 1960s and early 1970s, so to enable the US to operate an air base on Diego Garcia, do not show the UK Foreign Office in its best light. Indeed, after a severe rebuke from the courts in 2000, the FCO accepted that the original law underlying their departure was unlawful, and agreed to investigate their possible resettlement on some of their islands.

The first of these new cases is an environmental information appeal concerning the next phase of the story – how the FCO decided that it was not feasible to resettle the islanders in 2002-2004.

This decision was taken in the modern way – backed by a feasibility study prepared by consultants supporting the stance which the FCO ultimately were to take. And this case concerns the islanders’ attempts to get documents lying behind and around the taking of this decision.

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