A group of islanders “callously and shamefully” evicted from their homeland by Britain received a bitter blow yesterday in their marathon legal battle for the right to return when judges in Strasbourg rejected their case.
The Chagos Islanders, 1,500 of whom were thrown off their archipelago in the 1960s and 1970s when Britain handed Diego Garcia over to the US to use as a military base, had fought their way to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). But the judges ruled their case inadmissible, as they had already received compensation and waived their right to further claims.
In 1982, the Thatcher government paid compensation to the islanders in a full and final settlement of all their claims. But they insist that many of those who signed with a simple thumbprint were illiterate and desperate for money, unaware they were signing away their right of return. The exiled Chagossians lost their case before the House of Lords in 2008 and appealed to Strasbourg.
But yesterday, the ECHR said the case had been settled definitively in UK courts: “In accepting and receiving compensation, the applicants had effectively renounced bringing any further claims to determine whether the expulsion and exclusion from their homes had been unlawful and breached their rights.”
Last night, the UK Chagos Support Association said: “Now that the European Court of Human Rights has decided that it does not have jurisdiction, we appeal to the Coalition Government to stand by their pre-election promises to bring about a just and fair settlement to one of the great tragedies of the 20th century, perpetrated by the UK on the defenceless.”