Levy: UK in Violation of Anti Slavery Act in Indian Ocean Dispute
AS CHAGOSSIANS APPROACH BRITISH INDIAN OCEAN TERRITORY WATERS
ANY ATTEMPT TO STOP THEM MAY VIOLATE CENTURIES OLD LAW
February 11, 2021
A Mauritian chartered research vessel is fast approaching the national security zone known as the British Indian Ocean Territory with five Chagossians on board seeking to visit their home waters for the first time since the 1970s without British permission and more importantly to fish in the Indian Ocean which once supported their peaceful way of life.
The United Nations General Assembly, African Union, and International Court of Justice have all found that the forcible deportation of the Chagos Islanders in the 1960s and 1970s to make way for the US military base at Diego Garcia was unlawful and the continued military occupation is a serious violation of international law. The islanders, known as Chagossians who are of African heritage are prevented from returning by Apartheid laws which allow them only brief visits under military guard while US and UK military, contractors, yachtsmen, and scientists are permitted to remain in and visit the disputed archipelago.
Relying on a 2003 English court ruling, the UK government has considered Chagossians to be a mere collection of itinerant laborers and not a people native to the islands. The 2003 court ruling found that the Chagossians despite having lived on the disputed islands for up to 8 generations had no claim to the land or right to return to their homes.
However, another court case filed last year in the British Indian Ocean Territory Supreme Court by Chagossian natives, Solomon Prosper and Bernard Nourrice, seeking compensation for lost fishing rights, has established that The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 which freed the slaves in the Chagos Archipelago granted them not only the right to live there but initially required judicial permission to remove them. The Slavery Abolition Act was repealed in England in 1998 but the islanders maintain the Act is still the law in the British Indian Ocean Territory colony which has a separate government and constitution.
According to the Chagossians’ lawyer, Dr. Jonathan Levy: “The 1833 Slavery Abolition Act specified that freed slaves were attached to the land and were initially barred from being relocated without the permission of two judges and gave them rights to sustain themselves by fishing and farming. It is clear that freed slaves were to be allowed to remain in the Chagos Archipelago. Now that we have discovered the law is still effect, any further attempts to bar Chagossians from their homeland is unlawful under the territory’s own law. Not only are the British occupiers in violation of international law but unless they permit the Chagossians to fish in their own waters, they have violated the 1833 law as well.”
For a copy of the claim see:
For more information contact:
Dr. Jonathan Levy, Attorney