the Disillusioned kid: The case for the Defense (Department)
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Sunday, April 23, 2006

The case for the Defense (Department)

Things were starting to look up for the Chagossians; a handful have been allowed to visit the islands for the first time since their eviction and there are rumours of a second trip. Problem is, it was never likely to last and it's fallen to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to do the dirty.

The court ruled that federal courts were powerless to grant compensation to the islanders for the disposession because this entailed reviewing 40-year old Defense Department decisions. Quoth Judge Janice Brown (who incidentally happens to be a Bush apointee):
If we were to hold that the executive owed a duty of care toward the Chagossians, or that the executive's actions in depopulating the islands and constructing the base had to comport with some minimum level of protections, we would be meddling in foreign affairs beyond our institutional competence.
She continued, "We may not dictate to the executive what its priorities should have been."

The Chagossian's legal fight was only ever going to get them so far. The law in the US and UK remains largely subordinate to the interests of power, rhetoric aside. We are still waiting for the decision in the High Court case into the Orders in Council which prevent islanders even stepping foot on the island without express permission, but frankly I don't hold out much hope for a positive outcome. The battlefield may change, but the fight goes on.

Those of you interested in such things can find the ruling in all its glory as a pdf here and assorted documents pertaining to the case here.

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