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Chagos Islanders: ‘a historic and landmark judgment’

Zerbanoo and Richard Gifford have worked long and hard on this issue – see one of several references on this website.

A Moseley reader recently sent a link leading to the good news that the UK’s claim of sovereignty over the  Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean has been ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice at the Hague (above), the United Nations’ highest court, which ordered Britain to hand them back as soon as possible. The full article may be read here.

The case was referred to the court, which hears rival legal submissions over international boundaries, after an overwhelming vote in 2017 in the UN assembly in the face of fierce opposition from a largely isolated UK.

Delivering the lengthy judgment, the president of the ICJ, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said the detachment of the Chagos archipelago in 1965 from Mauritius had not been based on a “free and genuine expression of the people concerned”.

He added: “The UK has an obligation to bring to an end its administration of Chagos archipelago as rapidly as possible.”

The UK retained possession of the Chagos archipelago, which includes the strategic US airbase of Diego Garcia, after Mauritius gained its independence in 1968, effectively paying Mauritius more than £4m for the islands.

About 1,500 native islanders were deported so the largest island could be leased to the US for the airbase in 1971. They have never been allowed to return home.

In its submission to the ICJ last year, Mauritius argued it was coerced into giving up the Chagos Islands. That separation was in breach of UN resolution 1514, passed in 1960, which specifically banned the breakup of colonies before independence, lawyers for Mauritius said.

Prof Philippe Sands QC, who represented Mauritius at The Hague, said: “The court has given a crystal-clear verdict, which upholds the rule of law. This a historic and landmark judgment. It will be for Mauritius and the UK to sit down and implement this advisory opinion. It will be for Mauritius now to decide on the resettlement of the islanders. There’s no veto at the UN general assembly. It will decide how to go forward with the matter”.

David Snoxell, coordinator of the all-party parliamentary group in the Chagos Islands, said:Opinion in the UN and the Commonwealth is highly critical of our policy towards Chagos. The UK’s reputation and human rights record suffer. Litigation costs to the taxpayer multiply. Her Majesty’s government should seize the opportunity to engage in serious discussions with Mauritius for an overall settlement. There is no defence, security, political or legal reason to delay it any longer.”

 

 

 

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News from Zerbanoo Gifford

In May, Zerbanoo, with her biographer, Farida Master, spread the word about ASHA on a biography tour in America.

In November, she was invited to speak at Dublin University Undergraduate Awards because of her book on Thomas Clarkson, the abolitionist, after whom they have named their global awards.

  • Asha’s Erasmus+ courses and volunteering programme have continued throughout the year and we have again welcomed hundreds of young people from European countries to engage in meaningful and life-changing activities. Zerbanoo comments, “There is certainly no Brexit at ASHA!”

To see a summary of this course’s activity and explore a little of the site. click on the link below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7msanLMu_D4

  • In August the seventh batch of 24 young Indian women came for their annual visit, culminating in a spectacular graduation performance at a theatre in Gloucester.
  • Since summer the Asha team has been joined by a number of younger team members to help to diversify and expand their work; each one of them is managing an exciting new project. Next year in March, they are hosting the first ever World Zoroastrian Youth Leaders Forum to help envision and shape the future of the Zoroastrian community.

  • Asha has been chosen by the British Council in Poland to be their UK partner in a two-year Interfaith programme focused on intercultural dialogue, tolerance and interreligious diversity.
  • A new and timely initiative develops the ongoing Middle East connection. The ‘Peace Laureates Israel Palestine Summit’ aims to bring to ASHA 24 of Israel and Palestine’s most successful young leaders across politics, civic society, culture, faith and the media for a 10-day Summit led by some of the world’s most eminent experts in their fields. This is a bold attempt to help support and prepare the next generation of leaders for a more peaceful solution in the region.

  • This year a two-year Biodynamic Apprenticeship scheme was launched in association with the Biodynamic Agriculture College. Asha already has one apprentice (from a Syrian and Bulgarian parentage), and another will start in April next year after completing his time in the British army.

Zerbanoo ends with an update on the Chagos exile:

(For many years, since meeting exiled Chagos islanders when Zerbanoo and her husband Richard were on holiday in Mauritius, Richard has given his services as a solicitor in the long struggle to enable those who wish to do so to return to Diego Garcia).

The disputes over the continuing exile of the islanders has reached the worldwide stage this year. In June a large majority of nations at the UN passed a resolution, fiercely resisted by the UK Foreign Office, to ask the International Court of Justice for an “Advisory Opinion” on the legal consequences of snatching the islands from Mauritius and deporting the population.

Meanwhile, Theresa May’s refusal in November to resettle the islanders, but offer £40m for them to stay put away from the islands, has been shunned by them, and Richard is starting yet another Judicial review (the fifth in twenty years!) of Government intransigence. Full retirement seems to be a diminishing prospect for him.

 

 

 

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