Chagos Islands


1815:

Treaty of Vienna gives United Kingdom legal title to Mauritius and its dependencies, including Chagos Archipelago. [2]

1950's:

A British colonial film shot in the 1950's notes that the people of the islands "live their lives in surroundings of wonderful natural beauty and in conditions most tranquil and benign". It also states that the islands are inhabited "mostly by men and women born and brought up on the islands". [13]

1952:

August - Tony Freeborn pilots his Shackelton from 205 Squadron at RAF Gan over Diego Garcia to photograph possible seaplane mooring sites for a proposed survey crew (which arrives in November). Tony's aircraft is the first aircraft to be seen in the skies of Diego Garcia since WWII. [9]

November - An RAF survey crew arrives in a Sunderland flying boat and surveys the northwest tip for a possible 6,000 foot airstrip. [9]

1960:

The United Nations General Assembly adopts Declaration 1514 (XV) on the Granting of Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples. UN Declaration Paragraph 5 clearly states that the transfer of powers to the peoples of those territories which have not yet attained independence should be effected “without any conditions or reservations....” [2]

1961:

’A Special Committee on Decolonisation is created by United Nations’ General Assembly (resolution No 1654), to monitor and report on the progress of all “ trust and non self-governing territories” and their movement towards independence. [2]

1962:

The Chagos Agalega Company of the Seychells buys the coconut plantation from the previous owners, the Societe Huiliere de Diego et Peros (a French firm based in Paris). [9]

1964:

August - A joint US/UK military survey of the islands takes place. [13]

1965:

Resolution 2066 (XV) is passed : “Noting with deep concern that any step taken by the administrative power to detach certain islands from the territory of Mauritius for the purpose of establishing a military base would be in contravention of the Declaration and in particular paragraph 6 thereof ...Invites the administrating power to take no action which would dismember the territory of Mauritius and violate the territorial integrity ...” [2]

Chagossians visiting relatives and friends in Mauritius, are not allowed to return to the Chagos. They are informed that “The Islands are closed”. This, and other tactics, continue until 1973. [2] [13]

In the run up to full independence, a Mauritius Constitutional Conference is held at Lancaster House, London. Mauritius delegation is comprised of representatives from the Mauritius Labour Party (PT), the Parti Mauricien Social Democrate (PMSD), the Independent Forward Block (IFB), the Muslim Committee of Action (CAM), and two Independent Legislative Assembly’s members. [2]

BIOT Order in Council of the Court of Buckingham Palace to dismember the territory of Mauritius and violate its territorial integrity. Date of the actual legal implement of the “stealing” of the Islands. [2]

The Colonial Office states that the "prime objective of BIOT exercise was that the islands...hived off into the new territory should be under the greatest possible degree of UK control". The Foreign Office states that the islanders were to be "evacuated as and when defence interests require this", against which there should be "no insurmountable obstacle". [13]

First public announcement in regard of excision was made in the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. [2]

£ 3 million paid by the British Government to Mauritian Government for supposed “sale of Chagos Islands” [2] [9]

Following the Constitutional Conference, the Chagos Archipelago is detached from Mauritius and, along with three islands from the British colony of Seychelles, they are made into the new Colony of British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). [2]

1966:

December - Britain secretly leases Diego Garcia to the US for 50 years, with the option of an extension. This is done in exchange for a discount of millions of dollars on Polaris nuclear submarines - a way of concealing the payment. The US pays rent of one dollar per year. The deal was not disclosed to the US Congress, the British Parliament, or the United Nations. [2] [9] [10] [13]

Forcible evictions of Chagossians from now onwards, by the British and US authorities. [2]

The Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign Office notes in a secret file: "We would not wish it to become general knowledge that some of the inhabitants have lived on Diego Garcia for at least two generations". [13]

One official notes that British strategy towards the Chagossians should be to "grant as few rights with as little formality as possible". In particular, Britain wants to avoid fulfilling its obligations to the islanders under the UN charter. [13]

1967:

February - BIOT Ordinance No 1, the Compulsory Acquisition of Land for Public Purposes Ordinance, is made. It empowers the Commissioner to acquire land compulsorily for a public purpose, notably and explicitly the defence purposes of the UK or Commonwealth or other foreign countries in agreement with the UK. [9]

March - The Commissioner makes the BIOT Ordinance No 2, the Acquisition of Land for Public Purposes (Private Treaty) Ordinance, enabling him to acquire land by agreement for the same public purposes. [9]

April - Acting under the provisions of BIOT Ordinance No 2, The British Government buys ALL the plantations throughout the Chagos archipelago for 660,000 pounds from The Chagos Agalega Company. [9] [10]

1968:

The colonial authorities cut off food imports to the Chagos islands. After 1968 food ships do not sail to the islands. [13]

Britain begins illegal and secret removal of 1,500 population of Chagos islands, including Diego Garcia, following agreement to lease islands to US. Whitehall conspiracy begins, contending there are no indigenous inhabitants. [1] [10]

The Foreign Office legal advisor notes that "we are able to make up the rules as we go along and treat the inhabitants of BIOT as not 'belonging' to it in any sense". [13]

The Foreign Secretary warns of the "possibility...(that) some of them might one day claim a right to remain in the BIOT by virtue of their citizenship of the UK and the Colonies". [13]

Diego Garcia Islanders given two months to pack up and leave forever. Most are placed on the other Chagos Islands of Peros Banos and Salomon. [2]

The Colony of Mauritius which had comprised, inter alia, the Chagos Archipelago is granted independence but without Chagos. [2]

August - The British Commissioner for the BIOT issues a regulation forbidding the killing of Green Sea Turtles, or the possession or sale of any turtle or turtle product. [9]

1969:

April - The Foreign Secretary secures Prime Minister Harold Wilson's approval to clear the whole of the Chagos Islands of their inhabitants. [13]

1970:

Non-Aligned Summit Resolution adopts to make the Indian Ocean a Zone of Peace. [2]

January - A Foreign Office legal advisor notes that it is important "to maintain the fiction that the inhabitants of the Chagos are not a permanent or semi-permanent population". [13]

1971:

The US Navy begins construction of the military base. The first runway is completed in July. [9] [13]

The British Indian Ocean Territory Immigration (BIOT) Ordinance exiles all the people of Chagos. [2] [10]

A Foreign Office minute reads "In the matter of the Ilois, there may be an awkward problem of presentation. Meanwhile, the less said the better". [13]

United Nations General Assembly adopts Indian Ocean Peace Zone Resolution 2832. [2]

1972:

United Nations Ad-Hoc Committee is set up so as to implement the Indian Ocean Zone of Peace resolution. [2]

A US/UK agreement is made to establish a communications facility on Diego Garcia. This allows the US to construct and operate a naval communications facility on the island, with Britain assisting in manning the facility. [13]

1973:

March - US Naval Communications Station, Diego Garcia, is commissioned. [9]

October - The last of the plantation workers (commonly refered to as the Ilois) and their families are shipped out on the MV NORDVAER, ending 178 years of continuous civilian habitation. As part of the eviction of the Ilois, the U.S. Navy kills all the islanders' dogs. [9] [13]

Christian Simon, in despair, commits suicide on the boat trip. [2]

The confused and frightened exiles have to find what accommodation they can. Most of them end up in slums, some in windowless animal huts. The last shipload of islanders stage a sit-down strike on board the ship and are rewarded with small payments of money from the High Commission, which deepens resentment among earlier exiles. [2] [10]

Housing estate houses and dockers flats are made available to some families because of demonstration onboard of Nordvaer. [2]

The British government transferes 650,000 to the Mauritian government for the aid of the Chagossian exiles. Some of this money is intended to be used to resettle the exiles on farm land but there is much disagreement and the exiles are so desperate for money, that the resettlement plan is abandoned and, eventually, in 1978 the money was disbursed. Although this money helps some of the exiles to obtain better housing, most of them are left no better off. All of them have been forced to borrow money in order to survive and their share has to be used to discharge their debts. [9] [10]

1974:

The British High Commission on Mauritius refuses to act on a petition presented by the islanders indicating their wish to return home. The British state that the "High Commission cannot intervene between yourselves as Mauritians and the government of Mauritius, who assumed responsibility for your resettlement". This despite the fact that many of the Chagossians could claim nationality "of the UK and its colonies". A similar petition is refused in 1975. [13]

Britain approves US proposals for the development of the communications facility on Diego Garcia into a support facility of the US navy, which plans are incorporated into a new agreement in 1976. [13]

1975:

George Champion sets up “1966 Society for Diego Garcia” in UK to support Chagossians. [2]

1976:

Seychelles gains an important victory when Aldabra, Desroches and Farquhar Islands are returned to the Seychelles. The US cancels its 60-year lease agreement with the UK. [2]

Chagossian, Michel Vencatessen puts court action against British Government. He is assisted by his lawyer, Bernard Sheridan. [2] [13]

Organisation Fraternelle supports Chagossians, sets up Comité Ilois OF. [2]

An "exchange of notes" takes place allowing the extension of the runway (an 8,000 foot runway had by then already been built) as Diego Garcia is gradually turned into a fully functioning US military base. [13]

1977:

October - US Naval Support Facility, Diego Garcia, is commissioned. [9]

1978:

At Bain Des Dames in Port-Louis 6 women go on hungerstrike, including Marie Lisette Talate, Charlesia Alexis and Louise Latouche. Supporters who stayed overnight include Ragini Kistnasamy, Lindsey Collen, Marie France Favory, Rajni Lallah, Serge Rayapoullé, Lindsay Aza. Ram Seegobin assisted as medical practitioner. [2]

Demonstration in the streets of Port-Louis, organised by the MMM and others, over Diego Garcia and Tromelin. [2]

1979:

A “Comité” asks Sheridan (Mr. Vencatassen’s lawyer) to negotiate more compensation. British Government offers £ 1.5 m on the express condition that (i) Vencatassen withdraw his case (ii) sign a “full and final” and “never to return” document. [2] [13]

Visit of sailors (Mauritians and Mauritians of Chagossian origin) to Chagos. [2]

1980:

Organisation for African Unity passes resolution calling for the unconditional return of Diego Garcia to Mauritius, as its continued occupation represents a permanent threat to Africa as a Zone of Peace. [2]

A unanimous resolution is taken at the Heads of State OAU Conference at Freetown, Sierra Leone, 1-4th July 1980, to demand dismantling of the Diego Garcia base, and the retrocession of Chagos to Mauritius. [2]

April - The Diego Garcia base is used as a stop off for the mission to rescue US personnel held hostage in Iran. The mission is unsuccessful, but provides the first positive proof of the value of Diego Garcia's strategic position for the US. [9]

Especially after the Iranian revolution of 1979, "Diego Garcia saw the most dramatic build up of any location since the Vietnam War era", according to the US Navy. The US spends $500 million on a construction programme and prepositions equipment in the island for rapid deployment. [13]

1981:

Chagossian women’s hungerstrike at Company Gardens. 3 days street demonstration by 200 women including MLF and Lalit women. Arrest of 8 women and detention in Line Barracks for three days. [2]

Trial of 8 women arrested at the demonstration under the POA (Public Order Act). [2]

Front National de Soutien aux Ilois set up. [2]

Publication of Hervé Silva’s Report on the “Survey on the Conditions of Living of the Ilois Community Displaced from the Chagos Archipelago”. [2]

Delegation of Chagossians goes to London for negotiations, as a direct result of street demonstrations and massive mobilisation. [2]

Lagazet Lalit de Klas publishes proof of nuclear materials being transshipped at Diego Garcia. [2]

July - The US Navy awards a contract to the Houston-based firms of Raymond International Builders, Inc., Brown and Root, Inc., and the Middlesex, England firm of Mowlem International Ltd. (RBRM) to construct facilities for the US Navy and US Air Force over the next five years, consisting of 128 projects at a cost of more than $400 million. [9]

1982:

Select Committee of Parliament set up by a Standing Order, with terms of reference to look into the circumstances which led to and followed the excision of the Chagos Archipelago including Diego Garcia, from Mauritius in 1965 and at the exact nature of the transactions that took place. [2]

As a result of the popular mobilization, street demonstrations, arrests and trials of women demonstrators, and after the 1981 negotiations, UK pays Rs75,880,000 compensation to the Chagossians. Ilois Trust Fund is set up. [2] In order to obtain a share the exiles have to sign away their right to ever return to their homeland. But they don't know that this is what they are signing. [10] [13]

1983:

Report of the Select Committee on the Excision of the Chagos Archipelago is published. [2]

The 7th Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, when it meets in Delhi, votes a resolution for the dismantling of the base and for the retrocession of Diego Garcia and Chagos to Mauritius. [2]

September - The last SEABEE Detachment (from NMCB-62) departs. In 12 years, the SEABEES have completed 220 projects for the US Navy and US Air Force valued at $200 million - the largest peacetime Naval construction project in history. [9]

1987:

August - The US Air Force deploys B-52s to Diego Garcia for the first time during OPERATION ERNEST WILL, which was in response to the Iranian mining of the Persian Gulf. [9]

1989:

The US, UK and France pull out of the Indian Ocean Zone of Peace Ad-Hoc Committee to prevent the Colombo Conference of 1990 from going ahead. [2]

1990:

Hungerstrike of the Organisation Fraternelle is held at Pointe aux Sables. [2]

The Mauritian State tables an official motion to put Diego Garcia and the Chagos Archipelago on to the United Nations General Assembly agenda. Some weeks later , it withdraws this motion. [2]

August - The first three ships of Marine Prepositioned Ship Squadron TWO depart Diego Garcia and reach Saudi Arabia on August 15. The remaining two ships of MPS Squadron TWO departed shortly thereafter. They carried everything required for 16,500 men of the 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, who flew in and married up with their equipment. The 7the MEB was combat ready by August 25 - the first heavy combat unit ready for action during OPERATION DESERT STORM. This was the first use of the MPS in an actual crisis. [9]

1991:

US launches bombing missions against Iraq from Diego Garcia base. [2] [9] [13]

1992:

Mauritian new Republican Constitution names Chagos including Diego Garcia as part of Mauritius. [2]

The US uses Diego Garcia as a staging post for its intevention in Somalia. [13]

1994:

Agreement is signed between Britain and Mauritius on Fishing. This is the first official agreement in which the Mauritian State accepts the existence of a military base on its territory. [2]

1995:

The UN Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee draws attention to the fact that self determination has not been implemented in the case of Mauritius because of illegal occupation of Chagos in its Concluding Observations, when Mauritius country report is being reviewed. [2]

1996:

Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear-Arms-Free Africa is drawn up and signed. The Mauritian State accepts that dotted lines be put around Diego Garcia in the Treaty map. [2]

September - More bombing runs against Iraq fly from Diego Garcia in "Operation Desert Strike". [9]

1997:

From here onwards, Official Secrets Act in UK 30-year secrecy rule expires. Documents now public. [2]

Rann Nu Diego Committee is set up by Lalit and Grup Refizye Chagos. Some 12 organizations members. Negotiations with Greenpeace to visit Diego Garcia by boat. [2]

1998:

Ferdinand Mandarin and his legal advisor, Hervé Lasemillante, present case for Chagossians as “autochtone” at United Nations Committee in Geneva. [2]

September - The Chagossians launch a new case against the British government. [13]

December - More bombing raids against Iraq fly from Diego Garcia, this time in "Operation Desert Fox". [9]

1999:

Lalit runs international campaigns for electors in their countries to put pressure on US President Clinton and UK Prime Minister Blair to close the US base, compensate Chagossians, and make way for re-uniting Mauritius. [2]

Victory in Bancoult v Queen case, granting Chagossians permission to fight for the right to return. [2] [14]

2000:

African Growth and Opportunity Act is passed. [2]

Ram Seegobin, Lalit member, exposes link between AGOA and Diego Garcia at international workers’ meetings in San Francisco and Los Angeles. [2]

The US government continues to make plain its opposition to the resettlement of the islands. For example a confidential letter from the State Department to the Foreign Office says that such resettlement "would significantly downgrade the strategic importance of a vital military asset unique in the region". [13]

November - High Court rules against government that Chagos islanders be allowed to return to some of their homeland islands, but not Diego Garcia. When asked about actually returning, the UK and the US both say it is the other's responsibility. [1] [3] [4] [9] [10] [13]

2001:

October - Bombing missions against Afghanistan from Diego Garcia commence in "Operation Enduring Freedom". [2] [9] [13]

United Nations General Assembly adopts new Resolution on Indian Ocean Zone of Peace. [2]

December - A suit is filed in the USA on behalf of descendants of the island's workers for compensation for "Forced Relocation, Torture, Racial Discrimination, Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment, Genocide, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Negligence, and Trespass". The suit is expected to take years, or even decades, to conclude. [2] [9]

A UN Human Rights Committee report states "The State Party (ie the United Kingdom government) should, to the extent still possible, seek to make exercise of the Ilois' right of return to their territory practicable. It should consider compensation for the denial of this right over an extended period." [13]

2002:

Mauritian government for the first time officially receives an official of the BIOT. [2]

Chagos Refugees Group and their legal advisor, Robin Mardaymootoo, sue the British state for damages and reparations. [2]

Sahringon holds Strategy Workshop in Mauritius. Organizations and individuals present vote a resolution for US Base Closure, for reunification of Mauritius, for reparations and resettlement, for an ecological assessment, and for the Mauritian Government to create a 22nd Constituency for Chagos, and to present a bold resolution at the UN. The resolution is circulated for Africa-wide endorsement. [2]

US uses African Growth and Opportunity Act (Trade Law) to silence Mauritian State.

US Armed Forces prepare Diego Garcia for war against Iraq. [2]

Foreign Office website continues to lie that there are ‘no indigenous inhabitants’ of the Chagos islands, while Foreign Office continues in effect to block islanders’ return. [1]

There are allegations n the US press that Diego Garcia is being used as a location for the interrogation of "al-Qaeda suspects". [13]

May - British passports are granted to Chagossians. [10]

June - A feasibility study into resettlement of the islands is completed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It concludes that resettlement would be difficult, precarious and costly ,and mentions floods, earthquakes and global warming as possible hazards. But Harvard resettlement expert Jonathan Jenness says the study's conclusions are "erroneous in every assertion" He also criticises the study for its lack of data, lack of objectivity, and a complete failure to consult the Chagossians themselves. It has been pointed out that a settled population lived there happily for generations, and that the Americans live there now without worrying unduly about natural disasters. [10] [13]

2003:

March - Bombers fly from Diego Garcia to bomb Baghdad in "Operation Iraqi Freedom". [9] [13]

October - The Chagossian's right to return to the Diego Garcia is denied by the British Courts as is their right to compensation. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

2004:

June - On Thursday 10 June 2004 (better known as "Super Thursday" - local election day) royal orders are suddenly passed banning anyone from setting foot on the Chagos islands. The government makes sure no one knows about this shocking move until it is too late. Not only do they pass the laws secretly as "orders in council" - requiring no prior consultation or debate - they also bury the move on a day when the news is dominated by the elections. The orders amount to a new act of exile, overruling the court victory in 2000. This blow is followed a few days later by the refusal of permission to appeal a High Court ruling from October 2003 which denied the Chagossians compensation. [10]

July - Diego Garcians living temporarily in the UK pressurise the UK Government to allow them to return home. UK Prime Minister says that Diego Garcia is strategically important to the UK and therefore the Islanders cannot be allowed to return home. [11] [13]

October - One of the Islanders, Nicholas Antoine, is challenging the Government to help the exiles as Reigate & Banstead Council is ordered by the High Court to continue to provide accommodation. This is seen by many as a test case on which the remainder rest. [11]

2006:

May - On Thursday 11 May 2006 the High Court overturns the orders in council of 2004, giving the Chagossians back the right of return that they won in 2000. The islanders' solicitor Richard Gifford says: "The British Government has been defeated in its attempt to abolish the right of abode of the islanders after first deporting them in secret 30 years ago...This is the fourth time in five years that Her Majesty's judges have deplored the treatment inflicted upon this fragile community." [10] [12]

2007:

April - The US Navy upgrades its submarine base at Diego Garcia. [15]

May - The Chagossians again win the right to return home. The British High Court rules that the government had acted unlawfully in using its royal prerogative powers to make an Order in Council, not subject to parliamentary debate, to prevent the islanders from returning. [16]

October - It is claimed that the CIA have a secret prison on Diego Garcia. [17]

The US upgrades its stealth bomber hangers on Diego Garcia. [18]

2008:

February - The UK government blocks access to papers giving information about the use of the Diego Garcia base as a secret prison. [19]

The UK government admits that "rendition" flights stopped at Diego Garcia. [20]

March - The UN says that the base on Diego Garcia has been used as a prison. This is later apparently confirmed by US sources. [21] [22] [23] [24]

October - The UK House of Lords overturns an earlier High Court decision giving the Chagossians the right to return home. The US had put pressure in the UK to arrive at this decision. [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30]

The Chagossians declare their intentions to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. [32]

2009:

May - The identities of two people allegedly tortured while imprisoned on Diego Garcia, are revealed. [31]

June - The European Court of Human Rights' investigation into the case of the Chagossians right of return is under way. [33]