Thursday, 23 December 2010

Lalit on UK & US conspiracy, lies and impunity

It is not every day in our shared history that we find ourselves interconnected in such a matrix of struggles: the struggle against military bases and occupation, the struggle against decolonisation, the struggle to protect human rights and ecosystems. Diego Garcia represents this matrix. These struggles intersect at this atoll in the middle of the Indian Ocean in the Chagos Archipelago, which is part of the Mauritius territory. The military base on Diego Garcia is not a coincidence in this matrix; it is at the very heart of the United States and Great Britain's military strategy.

What we are dealing with here in this part of our shared history is a criminal plot concocted by the British State and the American State; a conspiracy that the governments of UK and US have been trying to keep secret from us, from their own people and from the rest of the world. The role Great Britain has played on Chagos and Diego, sometimes on its own, sometimes alongside the prime mover, the United States of America, has been one of secrecy, conspiracy and a web of lies.

And, what is happening on Diego Garcia today can have important repercussions globally.

Further reading.

Mauritius sues UK for control of Chagos

Apparently it takes a Wikileaks "operation" to bring out in the open what we already have known for years:

The prime minister of Mauritius has accused Britain of pursuing a "policy of deceit" over the Chagos islands, its Indian Ocean colony from where islanders were evicted to make way for a US military base. He spoke to the Guardian as his government launched the first step in a process that could end UK control over the territory.

Navinchandra Ramgoolam spoke out after the Labour government's decision to establish a marine reserve around Diego Garcia and surrounding islands was exposed earlier this month as the latest ruse to prevent the islanders from ever returning to their homeland.

A US diplomatic cable dated May 2009, disclosed by WikiLeaks, revealed that a Foreign Office official had told the Americans that a decision to set up a "marine protected area" would "effectively end the islanders' resettlement claims". The official, identified as Colin Roberts, is quoted as saying that "according to the HMG's [Her Majesty's government's] current thinking on the reserve, there would be 'no human footprints' or 'Man Fridays'" on the British Indian Ocean Territory uninhabited islands."

Further reading.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Football and Chagos


"Our situation is like a football match. The superpower countries are the players, and we are just the ball to be kicked around."

- A young Pakistani civilian,
North Waziristan


Nima Shirazi

The Great Game is indeed alive and kicking. This summer's World Cup tournament is providing yet another way for the United States to project its power across the globe, though not as a result of the American national team's action on the pitch.

Rather, this year, the subjugation will be televised.

While the presence of U.S. Marine Corps recruiting advertisements at each and every commercial break is perhaps mundane at this point, far more surprising is the frequent, scripted announcement by various British and Scottish play-by-play commentators on ESPN that "we'd like to welcome our men and women in uniform, serving in over 175 countries and territories, watching today's 2010 FIFA World Cup match on AFN, the American Forces Network." Other various comments have also been made about how proud the ESPN color men are of the American troops, what a fine job they are doing, and that the commentators are "glad to have them with us" and "sincerely hope [the soldiers] are enjoying the broadcast."

Beyond the surreal fact that announcers from the UK, like Adrian Healey, Martin Tyler, and Ian Darke, are eagerly praising American soldiers and sailors during the broadcast as their own ("our brave men and women..."), how can the rest be said with a straight face or without the most shameful sense of hypocrisy? That there are US troops stationed in over 175 countries around the world is a stunning fact in itself - although well-known by now if you've been paying attention at all for the past decade. At this point, there's probably an 'App' for that.

But again, this is the World Cup, and overseas ESPN announcers are lauding the attention, entertainment, and service of U.S. world domination forces, a military that has invaded, occupied, overthrown, exploited, bombed, blasted, burned, and reduced to rubble many - if not most - of the countries that now vie for the cup of all cups. The same Armed Force that now gets to enjoy the harmonious excitement of the 'beautiful game' in all its High Def glory has stoked tension and supported instability (to say the least) in countries as Greece (in 1947-49, over 500 U.S. armed forces military advisers sent to administer hundreds of millions of dollars in their civil war), Brazil (in 1964, U.S. backs a coup d'etat to overthrow popular president João Goulart), Chile (in 1973, U.S.-supported military coup overthrows - and murders - democratically-elected president Salvador Allende and brings dictatorship of Pinochet to power), Uruguay (in 1973, U.S.-backed coup brings military dictatorship to power), Argentina (in 1976, military junta deposes government of Isabel Perón with U.S. support), Honduras (besides past interventions in 1905, 1907, 1911, and 1943, in 1983 over 1000 troops and National Guard members were deployed to help the Contra fight against Nicaragua, not to mention the U.S. support for last year's coup), Slovenia and Serbia (in 1992-6, U.S. Navy joins in a naval blockade of Yugoslavia in Adriatic waters while in 1999, U.S. participated in months of air bombing and cruise missile strikes in Kosovo 'war').

The U.S military is still essentially occupying Germany (52,440 troops in over 50 installations), Japan (35,688 troops with an additional 5,500 American civilians employed by the DoD - oh yeah, and Japan pays about $2 billion each year for the US to be there as part of the 'Omoiyari Yosan,' or 'compassion budget'), and South Korea (28,500 U.S. troops). There are 9,660 U.S troops still stationed in Italy, 9,015 in the United Kingdom, over 1,300 in Serbia and over 1,200 in Spain.

Furthermore, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, France, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Algeria, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, and Uruguay all suffer the presence of at least a few American soldiers who are officially stationed there; some of these countries are forced to host 400-800 US troops. All told, there are about 78,000 American military personnel in Europe, along with approximately 47,240 in East Asia and the Pacific, 3,360 in North Africa, the Near East, and South Asia (obviously not including the 92,000 troops in Iraq and about 100,000 in Afghanistan and Pakistan), 1,355 in sub-Saharan Africa, and an additional 1,940 in the Western Hemisphere outside the United States itself.

When broadcasting from the new Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on the east coast of South Africa, Scottish announcer Derek Rae has made sure to point out that "U.S. sailors and Marines are with us today...on AFN, the American Forces Network."

As of 2008, the U.S. Navy had over 90,000 sailors afloat in and around the United States and its satellite territories around the world. Another 18,280 are deployed in foreign waters, accompanied by over 4,300 Marines. There are about 10,500 Naval personnel stationed in East Asia and the Pacific alone.

Continuing, Rae states, "We'd like say hello to the crews of all the ships at sea. And we are just a stone's throw from the ocean ourselves, the Indian Ocean, in this case. Great to have you with us."

The island of Diego Garcia, located about 1,000 miles from the southern coasts of India and Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, is a British colony, part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, and serves as a massive U.S. military naval and airbase under an arrangement made in 1971 (for which the UK does not charge the U.S. any rent). The agreement led to 2,000 native islanders being forcibly evicted to the Seychelles and Mauritius. (Reportedly, the U.S. is "opposed to anyone other than military personnel and their employees living anywhere in the Chagos archipelago, asserting that security will be compromised." Since the U.S. has always had such an ironic sense of humor when it comes to unabashed ethnic cleansing - whether in the Americas, Palestine, or the Indian Ocean - it should come as no surprise that the island's military base was named "Camp Justice" until 2006.) Currently, about 50 British military staff are stationed on the island, with more than 3,200 U.S. personnel.

The Diego Garcia installation acts as a refueling and support station for the U.S. Navy and Air Force and is home of a U.S. naval prepositioning squadron (responsible for the readiness of naval vessels as part of the Military Sealift Command in the Indian Ocean). The aerial bombardment and invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq were launched from the island. More recently, Diego Garcia is home to forward deployed U.S. guided missile nuclear submarines, in stark violation of the African Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty, and has been used as a "black site" in the Bush administration's illegal extraordinary rendition program, a program protected and continued by Obama.

Earlier this year, the Scottish Sunday Herald revealed that "hundreds of powerful US 'bunker-buster' bombs" had been "shipped from California to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for a possible attack on Iran." The cargo included "195 smart, guided, Blu-110 bombs and 192 massive 2000lb Blu-117 bombs," which are "used for blasting hardened or underground structures" such as Iran's fortified nuclear energy facilities. Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London and co-author of a recent study on US preparations for an attack on Iran, has stated that the United States is "gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran...US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours."

The only country in this year's World Cup proceedings without any substantial or even token United States military presence is - surprise - North Korea. Yet even this might change if Obama gets his way. That would put American troops in every single one of the 32 countries currently competing in South Africa, along with over 140 others.

A press release distributed by U.S. Africa Command (US AFRICOM) this week reports, "Through the cooperation of a host of international television licensees, the American Forces Network Broadcast Center (AFN-BC) has been granted permission by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to distribute the full complement of matches of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa."

A recent article in Stars and Stripes, quotes Lt. Col. Steve Berger, an intelligence planner with U.S. Army Africa stationed in Vicenza, Italy, as saying, "It’s really great for the soldiers to see, especially for an emerging sport in the U.S.” (So that they can get a glimpse of the kinds of people they'll be ordered to conquer and kill next?) Even more exciting is the fact that, "Because AFN doesn’t pay for programming, it was important that it receive the rights to the World Cup for free, AFN chief of affiliate relations Larry Sichter said." Apparently, the military can invade your country and station troops there indefinitely, but it sure as hell won't pay for television broadcasting! Especially not with the $531 billion allocated this fiscal year for U.S. military spending (a total which is expected to rise by $18 billion next year along with an additional $272 billion for the ongoing occupation of Iraq, the escalation in Afghanistan, the illegal predator drone bombings in Pakistan, and rebuilding and updating a nuclear arsenal in clear violation of the requirements of the NPT). The U.S. armed forces just can't spare a square.

Perhaps FIFA had no choice but to comply with the requests of the U.S. military for fear of having their offices occupied or blown to pieces. What a relief a deal was struck! How global! How peaceful! How imperial! How obvious, unsurprising, and embarrassing.

"Having the most-watched sports event on the planet play out on AFN is a real feather in our cap," notes Jeff White, Executive Director of AFN-BC, in the text of the military press release filed from Riverdale, CA via Stuttgart, Germany. "But more importantly," White continues, "we'll be able to deliver the entire compliment [sic] of matches to the side that means the most -- our brave men and women in uniform serving their country overseas and in harm's way. It doesn't get any better than this."

That, out of the planetary pride, representation, and unification that the World Cup is supposed to be all about, the U.S. military would be "the side that means the most" is in itself upsetting - but hey, it's a military press release and the guy's name is White after all.

But White is wholly wrong about "it" not getting "any better than this." There is a very simple way for things to be much, much better. If the U.S. reduced its dominating and destructive presence and aggressive involvement around the world and dismantled the hundreds of foreign installations and imperial infrastructure that keep the rest of the world in submission and under American occupation, these "brave men and women in uniform" could - and should - be watching these 64 soccer games from the comfort of their own homes in the United States, on the couch with their families.

For the sake of the entire world, it truly wouldn't get any better than that.

Source.

Base on Diego Garcia aiming at China?


If China's satellites and spies were working properly, there would have been a flood of unsettling intelligence flowing into the Beijing headquarters of the Chinese navy last week. A new class of U.S. superweapon had suddenly surfaced nearby. It was an Ohio-class submarine, which for decades carried only nuclear missiles targeted against the Soviet Union, and then Russia. But this one was different: for nearly three years, the U.S. Navy has been dispatching modified "boomers" to who knows where (they do travel underwater, after all). Four of the 18 ballistic-missile subs no longer carry nuclear-tipped Trident missiles. Instead, they hold up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles each, capable of hitting anything within 1,000 miles with non-nuclear warheads.
Their capability makes watching these particular submarines especially interesting. The 14 Trident-carrying subs are useful in the unlikely event of a nuclear Armageddon, and Russia remains their prime target. But the Tomahawk-outfitted quartet carries a weapon that the U.S. military has used repeatedly against targets in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq and Sudan.

That's why alarm bells would have sounded in Beijing on June 28 when the Tomahawk-laden 560-ft. U.S.S. Ohio popped up in the Philippines' Subic Bay. More alarms were likely sounded when the U.S.S. Michigan arrived in Pusan, South Korea, on the same day. And the Klaxons would have maxed out as the U.S.S. Florida surfaced, also on the same day, at the joint U.S.-British naval base on Diego Garcia, a flyspeck of an island in the Indian Ocean. In all, the Chinese military awoke to find as many as 462 new Tomahawks deployed by the U.S. in its neighborhood. "There's been a decision to bolster our forces in the Pacific," says Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "There is no doubt that China will stand up and take notice."

U.S. officials deny that any message is being directed at Beijing, saying the Tomahawk triple play was a coincidence. But they did make sure that news of the deployments appeared in the Hong Kong–based South China Morning Post - on July 4, no less. The Chinese took notice quietly. "At present, common aspirations of countries in the Asian and Pacific regions are seeking for peace, stability and regional security," Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, said on Wednesday. "We hope the relevant U.S. military activities will serve for the regional peace, stability and security, and not the contrary."


Last month, the Navy announced that all four of the Tomahawk-carrying subs were operationally deployed away from their home ports for the first time. Each vessel packs "the firepower of multiple surface ships," says Captain Tracy Howard of Submarine Squadron 16 in Kings Bay, Ga., and can "respond to diverse threats on short notice."

The move forms part of a policy by the U.S. government to shift firepower from the Atlantic to the Pacific theater, which Washington sees as the military focus of the 21st century. Reduced tensions since the end of the Cold War have seen the U.S. scale back its deployment of nuclear weapons, allowing the Navy to reduce its Trident fleet from 18 to 14. (Why 14 subs, as well as bombers and land-based missiles carrying nuclear weapons, are still required to deal with the Russian threat is a topic for another day.) (See "Obama Shelves U.S. Missile Shield: The Winners and Losers.")
Sure, the Navy could have retired the four additional subs and saved the Pentagon some money, but that's not how bureaucracies operate. Instead, it spent about $4 billion replacing the Tridents with Tomahawks and making room for 60 special-ops troops to live aboard each sub and operate stealthily around the globe. "We're there for weeks, we have the situational awareness of being there, of being part of the environment," Navy Rear Admiral Mark Kenny explained after the first Tomahawk-carrying former Trident sub set sail in 2008. "We can detect, classify and locate targets and, if need be, hit them from the same platform."

The submarines aren't the only new potential issue of concern for the Chinese. Two major military exercises involving the U.S. and its allies in the region are now under way. More than three dozen naval ships and subs began participating in the "Rim of the Pacific" war games off Hawaii on Wednesday. Some 20,000 personnel from 14 nations are involved in the biennial exercise, which includes missile drills and the sinking of three abandoned vessels playing the role of enemy ships. Nations joining the U.S. in what is billed as the world's largest-ever naval war game are Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Peru, Singapore and Thailand. Closer to China, CARAT 2010 - for Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training - just got under way off Singapore. The operation involves 17,000 personnel and 73 ships from the U.S., Singapore, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.


China is absent from both exercises, and that's no oversight. Many nations in the eastern Pacific, including Australia, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam, have been encouraging the U.S. to push back against what they see as China's increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea. And the U.S. military remains concerned over China's growing missile force - now more than 1,000 - near the Taiwan Strait. The Tomahawks' arrival "is part of a larger effort to bolster our capabilities in the region," Glaser says. "It sends a signal that nobody should rule out our determination to be the balancer in the region that many countries there want us to be." No doubt Beijing got the signal.f China's satellites and spies were working properly, there would have been a flood of unsettling intelligence flowing into the Beijing headquarters of the Chinese navy last week. A new class of U.S. superweapon had suddenly surfaced nearby. It was an Ohio-class submarine, which for decades carried only nuclear missiles targeted against the Soviet Union, and then Russia. But this one was different: for nearly three years, the U.S. Navy has been dispatching modified "boomers" to who knows where (they do travel underwater, after all). Four of the 18 ballistic-missile subs no longer carry nuclear-tipped Trident missiles. Instead, they hold up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles each, capable of hitting anything within 1,000 miles with non-nuclear warheads.

Their capability makes watching these particular submarines especially interesting. The 14 Trident-carrying subs are useful in the unlikely event of a nuclear Armageddon, and Russia remains their prime target. But the Tomahawk-outfitted quartet carries a weapon that the U.S. military has used repeatedly against targets in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq and Sudan.

That's why alarm bells would have sounded in Beijing on June 28 when the Tomahawk-laden 560-ft. U.S.S. Ohio popped up in the Philippines' Subic Bay. More alarms were likely sounded when the U.S.S. Michigan arrived in Pusan, South Korea, on the same day. And the Klaxons would have maxed out as the U.S.S. Florida surfaced, also on the same day, at the joint U.S.-British naval base on Diego Garcia, a flyspeck of an island in the Indian Ocean. In all, the Chinese military awoke to find as many as 462 new Tomahawks deployed by the U.S. in its neighborhood. "There's been a decision to bolster our forces in the Pacific," says Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "There is no doubt that China will stand up and take notice."

U.S. officials deny that any message is being directed at Beijing, saying the Tomahawk triple play was a coincidence. But they did make sure that news of the deployments appeared in the Hong Kong–based South China Morning Post - on July 4, no less. The Chinese took notice quietly. "At present, common aspirations of countries in the Asian and Pacific regions are seeking for peace, stability and regional security," Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, said on Wednesday. "We hope the relevant U.S. military activities will serve for the regional peace, stability and security, and not the contrary."

Last month, the Navy announced that all four of the Tomahawk-carrying subs were operationally deployed away from their home ports for the first time. Each vessel packs "the firepower of multiple surface ships," says Captain Tracy Howard of Submarine Squadron 16 in Kings Bay, Ga., and can "respond to diverse threats on short notice."

The move forms part of a policy by the U.S. government to shift firepower from the Atlantic to the Pacific theater, which Washington sees as the military focus of the 21st century. Reduced tensions since the end of the Cold War have seen the U.S. scale back its deployment of nuclear weapons, allowing the Navy to reduce its Trident fleet from 18 to 14. (Why 14 subs, as well as bombers and land-based missiles carrying nuclear weapons, are still required to deal with the Russian threat is a topic for another day.) (See "Obama Shelves U.S. Missile Shield: The Winners and Losers.")
Sure, the Navy could have retired the four additional subs and saved the Pentagon some money, but that's not how bureaucracies operate. Instead, it spent about $4 billion replacing the Tridents with Tomahawks and making room for 60 special-ops troops to live aboard each sub and operate stealthily around the globe. "We're there for weeks, we have the situational awareness of being there, of being part of the environment," Navy Rear Admiral Mark Kenny explained after the first Tomahawk-carrying former Trident sub set sail in 2008. "We can detect, classify and locate targets and, if need be, hit them from the same platform."

The submarines aren't the only new potential issue of concern for the Chinese. Two major military exercises involving the U.S. and its allies in the region are now under way. More than three dozen naval ships and subs began participating in the "Rim of the Pacific" war games off Hawaii on Wednesday. Some 20,000 personnel from 14 nations are involved in the biennial exercise, which includes missile drills and the sinking of three abandoned vessels playing the role of enemy ships. Nations joining the U.S. in what is billed as the world's largest-ever naval war game are Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Peru, Singapore and Thailand. Closer to China, CARAT 2010 - for Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training - just got under way off Singapore. The operation involves 17,000 personnel and 73 ships from the U.S., Singapore, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.


China is absent from both exercises, and that's no oversight. Many nations in the eastern Pacific, including Australia, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam, have been encouraging the U.S. to push back against what they see as China's increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea. And the U.S. military remains concerned over China's growing missile force - now more than 1,000 - near the Taiwan Strait. The Tomahawks' arrival "is part of a larger effort to bolster our capabilities in the region," Glaser says. "It sends a signal that nobody should rule out our determination to be the balancer in the region that many countries there want us to be." No doubt Beijing got the signal.
(AP/Yahoo News, 9 July 2010)

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Diego Garcia est un CIA blacksite clandestin


Le cinéaste mauricien Atman Ramchalaon, qui a produit un des premiers films documentaires sur Diego Garcia visionné dans plusieurs pays, soutient dans une communication adressée cette semaine au Mauricien que l'atoll de Diego Garcia dans l'archipel des Chagos est "un CIA blacksite, où il y a des camps de détention secrets". "Diego Garcia has become a clandestine CIA blacksite", dit-il, soulignant qu'il est grand temps que le gouvernement mauricien réclame Diego Garcia à la Grande-Bretagne en ayant recours à la Cour internationale de justice qui siège à La Haye aux Pays-Bas.

Établi à Amsterdam depuis plus de 30 ans, Atman Ramchalaon dit arriver à cette conclusion en se fondant sur les recherches effectuées en 2006 par le journaliste Stephen Rey, auteur de Ghost Plane, sur la présence de vols affrétés sur Diego Garcia. Selon lui, ces avions auraient été utilisés par la CIA pour des " restitutions " de prisonniers du Pakistan, de l'Afghanistan et de l'Irak vers Diego Garcia " for the so-called extraordinary rendition ". Les personnes soupçonnées d'actes terroristes, affirme-t-il, sont enlevés par l'agence américaine de renseignement et envoyés par avion dans des camps de détention secrets pour être torturés. Le général militaire américain Barry Mc Caffrey, ajoute-t-il, avait désigné Diego Garcia comme un de ses camps de détention gardés secrètement.

Notre compatriote indique aussi qu'un rapport publié par le Conseil de l'Europe - fondé en 1949 - a lui aussi confirmé la présence d'un centre de détention sur cette île de l'océan Indien tout en condamnant le gouvernement concerné. Il a par ailleurs rappelé que " extraordinary rendition in secret detention camps is a violation of Art. 3 of the United Nations Convention on torture ". Et de souligner que des organisations internationales telles La Croix Rouge, Human Rights Watch et autres ont déjà demandé l'autorisation d'accès à ces camps, plus particulièrement sur Diego Garcia qui, rappelle-t-il, est totalement isolée.

M. Ramchalaon est catégorique : la cession de Diego Garcia aux Anglais en 1965 - alors que Maurice était toujours une colonie - en échange de l'Indépendance est " illégale ". Le démembrement, rappelle-t-il, était le résultat d'un deal entre les Américains et les Anglais portant sur la production des missiles Polaris aux États-Unis et leur achat par la Grande-Bretagne. C'est ainsi qu'à la suite d'un décret, le gouvernement britannique a cédé Diego Garcia et les Seychelles pour constituer une nouvelle colonie sous l'appellation British Territories of the Indian Ocean (BIOT). Cette action est une violation de la Résolution 1514 des Nations unies, estime notre compatriote.

D'ailleurs, poursuit M. Ramchalaon, le 14 décembre 1960, l'Assemblée générale des Nations unies avait condamné tout pays qui a cédé les territoires d'un autre État qui n'a pas encore obtenu son indépendance. Ce qui était justement le cas pour Maurice avec la cession de l'archipel des Chagos qui comprend principalement Peros Banhos, Salomon et surtout Diego Garcia qui était habité. Selon M. Ramchalaon, les Anglais et les Américains se contentent de circuler à l'intention de la communauté internationale des rumeurs selon lesquelles les habitants qui se trouvaient sur Chagos étaient des laboureurs qui prêtaient leur main-d'oeuvre à titre temporaire. D'où sa conviction que cette transaction entre Anglais et Américains aux dépens de la souveraineté territoriale de Maurice est " totalement scandaleuse ". " Scandaleux également les droits humains des Chagossiens qui sont piétinés d'année en année depuis 45 ans ! " dit-il.

Source: Le Mauricien

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Reprieve on Diego Garcia


The organisation Reprieve works to enforce the law for the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guántanamo. The list of hidden prisons or prisoners. On Diego Gracia:

British Indian Ocean Territory Diego Garcia has been used for illegal rendition and detention of prisoners including Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni and Mustafa Setmarian Naser.

Suspicions were first raised by an open letter on to Prime Minister Tony Blair on 28 December 2002, when Human Rights Watch suggested that U.S. forces were holding and interrogating al-Qaeda suspects on Diego Garcia, violating international law and the legal obligations of the British government.

In a subsequent series of questions and answers in Parliament from 2003 until 2008, the UK Government consistently denied the allegations.
Further reading.

Reprieve on the history of Diego Garcia.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Chagos islanders must be allowed home


Sean Casey in The Guardian:

It was very crafty of David Miliband to instruct the commissioner of the British Indian Ocean Territory to declare a marine protected area in the Chagos archipelago on the afternoon of Maundy Thursday, 1 April. It wasn't quite a Jo Moore "it's now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury" moment, but it came fairly close.

It certainly wrong-footed a significant number of British MPs from all the major parties who had attended a debate on the Chagos islands in Westminster Hall on 10 March and were given the impression that the issue would be discussed in the Commons before any decision was made. The displeasure caused sparked emergency debates in both houses on 6 April, shortly before dissolution.

It is also revealing that the former foreign secretary's announcement was timed to catch out the authorities in Mauritius where, because the National Assembly had been dissolved in preparation for the general election on 5 May, there was no time for a parliamentary debate or statement.
Further reading.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Africa, new target of US imperialism


Rather to my amazement Allafrica.com very recently carried this piece from Zabalaza, South African "platformist"-anarchist journal with which I used to be in touch. Chagos is mentioned in passing but the whole article seems important enough to be placed here.

Michael Schmidt


Former colonial power, France, has maintained the largest foreign military presence in Africa since most countries attained sovereignty in the 1950s and 1960s. While France reduced its armed presence on the continent by two thirds at the end of the last century, it continues to intervene in a muscular and controversial fashion. For example, under a 1961 'mutual defence' pact, French forces were allowed to be permanently stationed in Ivory Coast and the 500-strong 43rd Marine Infantry Battalion is still based at Port Bouet next to the Abidjan airport.

When the civil war erupted in Ivory Coast in September 2002, France added a 'stabilisation force', now numbering some 4,000 under Operation Licorne, which was augmented in 2003 by 1,500 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) 'peacekeepers' drawn from Senegal, Ghana, Benin, Togo and Nigeria. In January 2006, the United Nations extended the mandate of Operation Licorne until December 2006.

Piggybacking off the French military presence in Africa, however, are a series of new foreign military and policing initiatives by the United States and the European Union. It appears that the US has devised a new 'Monroe Doctrine' for Africa (the term has become a synonym for the doctrine of US interventions in what it saw as its Latin American 'back yard').

Under the George W. Bush regime's War on Terror doctrine, the US has designated a swathe of territory - curving across the globe from Colombia and Venezuela in South America, through Africa's Maghreb, Sahara and Sahel regions, and into the Middle East and Central Asia - as the 'arc of instability', where both real and supposed terrorists may find refuge and training.

In Africa, which falls under the US military's European Command (EUCOM), the US has struck agreements with France to share its military bases. For example, there is now a US marine corps base in Djibouti at the French base of Camp Lemonier. More than 1,800 marines are stationed there, allegedly for 'counter-terrorism' operations in the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and East Africa, as well as for controlling the Red Sea shipping lanes.

But the US presence involves more than piggybacking off French bases. In 2003, US intelligence operatives began training spies for four unnamed North African countries. These are believed to be Morocco and Egypt and perhaps also Algeria and Tunisia.

It is also conducting training of the armed forces of countries such as Chad. In September 2005, Bush told the United Nations Security Council that the US would train 40,000 'African peace-keepers' to 'preserve justice and order in Africa', over the following five years. The US Embassy in Pretoria said, at the time, that the US had already trained 20,000 'peace-keepers' in 12 African countries in the use of 'non-lethal equipment'.

And now, while the US is downscaling and dismantling military bases in Germany and South Korea, it is relocating these military resources to Africa and the Middle East in order to 'combat terrorism' and 'protect oil resources'.

In Africa, new US bases are being built in Djibouti, Uganda, Senegal, and São Tomé & Prí­ncipe. These 'jumping-off points' will station small, permanent forces, but with the ability to launch major regional military adventures, according to the US-based Associated Press. An existing US base at Entebbe in Uganda, under the one-party regime of US ally Yoweri Museveni, already 'covers' East Africa and the Great Lakes region. In Dakar, Senegal, the US is busy upgrading an airfield.

SOUTH AFRICA SECRETLY JOINS THE 'WAR ON TERROR'

Governments with whom the US has concluded military pacts with include Gabon, Mauritania, Rwanda, Guinea and South Africa. The US also has a 'second Guantanamo' in the Indian Ocean, where alleged terror suspects who are kidnapped in Africa, the Middle East or Asia can be detained and interrogated without trial. This 'second Guantanamo' comprises of a detention camp, refueling point and bomber base situated on the British-colonised Chagos Archipelago island of Diego Garcia, an island from which the indigenous inhabitants were forcibly removed to Mauritius.

In South Africa's case, while it is unlikely that there will ever be US bases established - the strength of South Africa's own military, SANDF, makes this unnecessary - in 2005, the country quietly signed on to the US's Africa Contingency Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA) programme, which is aimed at integrating African armed forces into US strategic (imperialist) objectives.

South Africa, by signing on to ACOTA as the 13th African member, effectively joined the American War on Terror. ACOTA started life as a 'humanitarian' programme run by EUCOM out of Stuttgart, Germany, in 1996. After the 9/11 attacks, however, the Pentagon reorganised ACOTA and gave it more teeth.

Today, ACOTA's makeup is more obviously aggressive than defensive. According to journalist Pierre Abromovici - writing, in the July 2004 edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, about rumours that South Africa was preparing to sign ACOTA a full year before it did so - 'ACOTA includes offensive training, particularly for regular infantry units and small units modelled on special forces... In Washington, the talk is no longer of non-lethal weapons... the emphasis is on "offensive" co-operation'.

The real nature of ACOTA is perhaps indicated by the career of the man heading it up, Colonel Nestor Pino-Marina. He is, according to Abromovici, 'a Cuban exile who took part in the 1961 failed US landing in the Bay of Pigs... He is also a former special forces officer who served in Vietnam and Laos. During the Reagan era he belonged to the Inter-American Defence Board, and, in the 1960s, he took part in clandestine operations against the Sandanistas. He was accused of involvement in drug-trafficking to fund arms sent to Central America' to prop up pro-Washington right-wing dictatorships.

Clearly, Pino-Marina is a fervent 'anti-communist' - whether that means opposing rebellious states or popular insurrections. He also sits on the executive of a strange outfit within the US military called the Cuban-American Military council, which aims at installing itself as the government of Cuba should the US ever achieve a forcible 'regime-change' there.

The career of the US ambassador, Jendayi Fraser, who concluded the ACOTA pact with South Africa is also an indicator of US intentions. Fraser, Bush's senior advisor on Africa, had no diplomatic experience. Instead, she once served as a politico-military planner with the joint chiefs of staff in the Department of Defence and as senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council. According to Fraser's online biography, she 'worked on African security issues with the State Department's international military education training programmes'.

IS THERE A MURDEROUS 'SCHOOL OF THE AFRICAS'?

The programmes that Fraser mentions include the 'Next Generation of African Military Leaders' course run by the shady African Centre for Strategic Studies based in Washington, which has 'chapters' in various African countries including South Africa. The Centre appears to be a sort of 'School of the Africas' similar to the infamous 'School of the Americas' based at Fort Benning in Georgia. In 2001, it was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).

Founded in 1946 in Panama, the School of the Americas has trained some 60,000 Latin American soldiers, including notorious neo-Nazi Bolivian dictator Hugo Banzer, infamous Panamanian dictator and drug czar Manuel Noriega, Argentine dictators Leopoldo Galtieri and Roberto Viola whose regime murdered 30,000 people between 1976 and 1983, numerous death-squad killers, and Efrain Vasquez and Ramirez Poveda who staged a failed US-backed coup in Venezuela in 2002.

Over the decades, graduates of the School have murdered and tortured hundreds of thousands of people across Latin America, specifically targeting trade union leaders, grassroots activists, students, guerrilla units, and political opponents. The murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero of Nicaragua, in 1980, and the 'El Mozote' massacre of 767 villagers in El Salvador, in 1981, were committed by graduates of the School. And yet the School of the Americas Watch, an organisation trying to shut WHINSEC down, is on an FBI 'anti-terrorism' watch-list.

So Africa should be concerned if the African Centre for Strategic Studies has similar objectives, even if the School of the Americas Watch cannot confirm these fears? There is more: we've all heard of the 'Standby Force' being devised by the African Union (AU), a coalition of Africa's authoritarian neo-liberal regimes. But the AU has also set up, under the patronage of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe - which also covers North America, Russia and Central Asia - the African Centre for the Study and Research of Terrorism.

The Centre is based in Algiers in Algeria, at the heart of a murderous regime that has itself 'made disappear' some 3,000 people between 1992 and 2003 (according to Amnesty International this is equivalent to the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, but it is a fact ignored by the African left). The Centre's director, Abdelhamid Boubazine told me that it would not only be a think-tank and trainer of 'anti-terrorism' judges, but that it would also have teeth and would provide training in 'specific armed intervention' to support the continent's regimes.

Anneli Botha, the senior researcher on terrorism at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, said though, that only ten per cent of terrorist attacks in Africa were on armed forces, and only six per cent were on state figures and institutions, though the latter were 'focused'. She warned that a major cause of African terrorism was 'a growing void between government and security forces on the one hand, and local communities on the other'. Caught in the grip of misery and poverty, many people are recruited into rebel armies even though few of these offer any sort of real solution.

The Centre in Algiers operates under the AU's 'Algiers Convention on Terrorism', which is notoriously vague on the definition of terrorism. This opens the door for a wide range of non-governmental, protest, grassroots, civic, and militant organisations to be targeted for elimination by the new counter-terrorism forces. It would be naïve to think that bourgeois democracy - which passed South Africa's equally vaguely-defined Protection of Constitutional Democracy from Terrorism and Other Related Activities Act into law last year - will protect the working class, peasantry and poor from state terrorism.

- Michael Schmidt is a Johannesburg-based journalist and political activist. This article was first published in three years ago in 'Zabalaza: a Journal of Southern African Revolutionary Anarchism', No. 8, November 2006. Zabalaza is the English-language sister journal of the French-language Afrique Sans Châines.

Le combat prendra fin le jour où on retournera sur l'archipel des Chagos


Olivier Bancoult, leader du Groupe réfugiés Chagos (GRC), déposant devant la Commission Justice et Vérité hier, a indiqué que son combat contre les Anglais s'achèvera le jour où la communauté chagossienne sera autorisée à s'installer de manière définitive sur l'archipel des Chagos. " Je ne mène pas cette lutte pour obtenir le passeport britannique. Loin de là ! Je me bats pour le droit fondamental de la communauté chagossienne qui m'a délégué pour déposer devant la commission Borraine ", a-t-il précisé.

L'accent sur la souveraineté est correct mais insuffisant, estime de son côté le commissaire Paramaseeven Veerapen. Réagissant, Olivier Bancoult dit partager cet avis et qu'il compte faire un pèlerinage sur le continent africain avec comme point de départ l'Afrique du Sud pour alerter l'opinion internationale sur le sort des Chagossiens… " Côté finances, nous sommes limités. Mais en organisant des activités pour une levée de fonds, nous parvenons à couvrir les dépenses de certains déplacements ", indique-t-il.

Le GRC, ajoute Olivier Bancoult, créera sous peu son siteweb. Le dirigeant du GRC dit ne pas croire dans la fermeture de la base militaire à l'expiration du bail en 2016. " Avec des sommes colossales dépensées par les États-Unis, je ne crois pas que les Américains partiront. Mo napa kroir dan bolom noel mwa. " De son point de vue, la revendication pour le retour des Chagos doit être entamée par le gouvernement en cherchant l'appui de la SADC, de l'Union africaine (UA) et du Commonwealth.

Olivier Bancoult affirme que les déracinés de l'archipel des Chagos ont été bouleversés par la vente de leurs îles en 1965 à une compagnie privée, cela sans aucune consultation avec les natifs. " Nous sommes un peuple indigène. Nous prions la Commission de faire son enquête à partir de l'époque coloniale jusqu'à 1965. " Dans les trois îles habitables - Peros Banos, Salomon et Diego Garcia - les Chagossiens, indique-t-il, menaient une vie paisible et formidable. " Tout le monde avait un emploi et un toit même s'il était couvert de chaume. " La construction d'une maison, dit-il, était autorisée même sans aucun contrat. " Quand on avait atteint l'âge de retraite à 60 ans, il n'y avait aucun ordre d'éviction. Les jeunes de 21 ans construisaient leur propre toit pour ne pas être dépendants de leurs parents. " La communauté qui y vivait, dit-il, était engagée dans la plantation de coco, utilisait ce produit pour la fabrication de l'huile " pou ekler sato leroi, larenn ".

Après les heures de travail, souligne le dirigeant du GRC, les Chagossiens s'adonnaient à des parties de pêche. " Il n'y avait pas de chômeur. On vivait avec cet esprit de partage. On était un. " En 1965, se souvient-t-il, Harold Wilson, Premier ministre d'alors en Grande-Bretagne, convoque des dirigeants mauriciens à Lancaster House pour leur proposer le détachement de cet archipel de Maurice pour en faire une base militaire. " Nous ne représentions pas de danger pour les Britanniques ou les Américains. L'Angleterre nous a déracinés avec en contrepartie accorder l'indépendance à Maurice. On ne nous a pas consultés. C'était une décision arbitraire et injuste ! " Il invite la Commission à reconnaître les injustices que les déracinés ont vécues. L'intégration des Chagossiens dans la société mauricienne, selon lui, est demeurée difficile. " Kalite travay ki ti ena Chagos pa ena Maurice. Adaptasyon inn difisil. Pa finn ena planifikasyon e formasyon pou nou integre isi. " Le gouvernement colonial, insiste-t-il, a commis un tort immense, a violé les droits universels des Droits de l'homme, a bafoué le droit fondamental de vivre sur la terre natale.

Après plusieurs victoires enregistrées en Cour d'Angleterre, le GRC a déposé sa plainte devant la Cour européenne des Droits de l'homme. " Notre cas sera entendu avant la fin de cette année. " Le gouvernement anglais, dit Olivier Bancoult, doit avoir honte, lui qui se fait passer pour un champion dans le respect des droits de l'homme. " Avec l'arrivée d'un nouveau gouvernement en Angleterre, nous gardons espoir pour un changement d'attitude. Nous espérons que la nouvelle équipe mettra fin à toute forme d'injustice à notre égard. Mais, je dois dire que tous les partis politiques quand ils se trouvent dans l'opposition se montrent solidaires mais, au pouvoir, ils changent leur prise de position. "

Côté Maurice, dit Olivier Bancoult, le gouvernement de Navin Ramgoolam se montre un peu plus sensible à notre cause. " Le gouvernement se concentre sur la souveraineté. Moi, en tant que simple natif, j'ai pris l'initiative de poursuivre le gouvernement britannique. Le gouvernement mauricien a un arsenal de moyens pour revendiquer la rétrocession des Chagos. Il peut solliciter les forums internationaux. Bizin aret dir friendly relations. Noule aksyon avek ki boukou perkitant. "

Par ailleurs, Olivier Bancoult ajoute qu'une étude menée auprès des Chagossiens a démontré que 89 % d'entre eux ont exprimé le désir d'y retourner. " Il faut aménager toutes les infrastructures. Déjà, il y a environ 4 000 étrangers sur Diego Garcia. Pourquoi les Chagossiens ne pourront-ils pas y vivre ? Un expert a dit que le relogement est possible. Les Anglais, eux, sont venus nous effrayer en disant que ces îles seront submergées avec le réchauffement de la planète terre. Nous sommes déterminés à aller revivre sur la terre de nos ancêtres. Nous pourrons faire développer toutes les îles avec leur 3 000 hectares sous plantation de cocotiers. La pêche est un autre secteur qui nous permettra de gagner notre vie. Il ne faut pas oublier que les plus importantes prises de thon sont faites dans les eaux des Chagos ", conclut-il.

Le Mauricien, 13. mai 2010

Beware of "independent studies"


A supposedly independent study on the feasibility of letting the exiled Chagos islanders go back to their homes was manipulated to reflect the British Government’s opposition to their return, a Times investigation has revealed.

The 2002 feasibility study lies at the centre of the Government’s case to the European Court of Human Rights on the islanders’ right to return to the archipelago four decades after they were deported from Diego Garcia to make way for an American military base.

In its submission to the court the Government contended that the study, “which was prepared and adopted by all the independent experts involved, clearly indicated that resettlement is not feasible”. However, one of those independent experts, Stephen Akester, said his conclusions that the islands could be resettled were erased from the study amid political pressure.

Further reading.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

An illusion to be cherished for - weeks? months? certainly not years

Chagossupport.org.uk believes in the new UK government. Hope against hope, barring a miracle. Unfortunately, it is very hard to believe why the Liberal Democrats - with their admittedly clean slate as far as Chagos is concerned - will not cave in for "security reasons" to be quoted by the US government when the right of return would be taken seriously.

"After days of haggling, the UK now has a new Government. With it comes new hope for supporters of the Chagossians’ right of return: both the Foreign Secretary and the Deputy Prime Minister, as well as several other key figures, have already pledged to take action on the issue.

Unsurprisingly, former Tory leader William Hague was one of the first people to be appointed to the cabinet, taking over from David Miliband at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This is positive news, as Mr Hague is on record as saying:

I can assure you that if elected to serve as the next British government we will work to ensure a fair settlement of this long-standing dispute.


In this same letter, Mr Hague also referenced his deputy, Keith Simpson, who has made two parliamentary speeches on the Chagossians’ right of return in recent months, declaring:

“There is a great deal of sympathy from those on both sides of the house for the plight of the Chagossians, and their interests must be placed at the heart of any decision made about their homeland.”

“…there should at the very least be a timetable for the return of those people to the outer islands. The Foreign Office should recognise that the House of Commons feels very strongly on that”.


Other Conservatives who have spoken out in favour of the right of return, or who have otherwise expressed their support, include Henry Smith (the new MP for Crawley), Mark Field, Peter Bottomley, Bill Cash, Lorraine Fullbrook, Helen Grant and Anne McIntosh (expected to be re-elected in Thirsk and Malton later this month).

For the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg’s office has previously written to state:

“Nick and the Liberal Democrats believe that the Government has a moral responsibility to allow these people to at last return home.”


This is a strong and unequivocal statement from the UK’s new Deputy Prime Minister, perhaps the second most powerful man in the country, and adds to the reams of pledges of support that other senior Liberal Democrats such as Jo Swinson have given.

The coalition talks between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats took several days to complete, with difficult policy compromises being made by each side. However, on the issue of the Chagossians’ right of return, there should be no difference between the two parties.

Labour failed to deliver justice for the Chagossians because of the unwillingness to perform a U-Turn and because of a disappointing lack of leadership. Whilst the case for resettlement was unanswerable, the political will was nowhere to be seen. Thankfully, the new coalition government offers a fresh start and a real opportunity for a swift and just resolution to the saga.

The coalition government has already written its policy on the Chagos islands. Let’s hope that the right to return can be implemented swiftly and with conviction."

Source.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Environmental protection of bases?


David Vine

Just weeks before today’s Earth Day, and for the second time in little more than a year, environmental groups have teamed with governments to create massive new marine protection areas across wide swaths of the world’s oceans. Both times, however, there’s been something (pardon the pun) fishy about these benevolent-sounding efforts at environmental protection.

Most recently, on April 1, the British government announced the creation of the world’s largest marine protection area in the Indian Ocean’s Chagos Archipelago, which would include a ban on commercial fishing in an area larger than California and twice the size of Britain. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called it “a major step forward for protecting the oceans.

A representative for the Pew Charitable Trusts—which helped spearhead the effort along with groups including the Marine Conservation Society, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and Greenpeace—compared the ecological diversity of the Chagos islands to the Galapagos and the Great Barrier Reef. The Pew representative described the establishment of the protected area as “a historic victory for global ocean conservation.” Indeed, this was the second such victory for Pew, which also supported the creation, in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration, of three large marine protection areas in the Pacific Ocean, around some of the Hawai’ian islands and the islands of Guam, Tinian, and Saipan.

The timing of the announcements for both the Indian Ocean and Pacific marine protection areas—on the eve of upcoming British parliamentary elections and in the days before Bush left office when he was trying to salvage a legacy—suggests that there’s more here than the celebratory announcements would suggest.

Further reading.

Unfortunately, protection of "nature", "environment" or "wild animals" commonly implies suppression and even deportation of local human population. See Botswana these days, read Colin Turnbull The mountain people or George Monbiot No man's land.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Tombstone of independence

Diego Garcia is the oceanic tombstone of British independence. The UK's violation of international law there is yet another of its epitaphs


Ian Williams


Of course we are all shocked, shocked, that the CIA would have misled the British government about renditions taking place via so-called British territory Diego Garcia.

But we should also be shocked that Whitehall did not suspect or know about it. We would not be that shocked if it turned out that that the CIA's assurances that none of the prisoners were tortured was more than a little wobbly. Indeed, five years ago, exactly such questions were being raised - and waffled away by Tony Blair's ministers. It is, let us say, coyly, not beyond probability that the CIA, which lies to its own legislators, may be economical with the truth with satellite state governments.

But apart from putting some truth in Robert Harris's novel The Ghost about a former British prime minister wanted by the International Criminal Court for aiding and abetting just such rendition, the brief flurry of interest in these islands may remind people worldwide of the original mass rendition, by which the British deported the island's inhabitants in order to hand over a nominal British colony to effective American control.

Luckily, the politicians involved then are now mostly dead, and the ICC has no retrospective authority, otherwise the ethnic cleansing and continued exclusion of the inhabitants would be subject to prosecution, as indeed would be complicity in the renditions.

Indeed, the British signature on the International Court of Justice, which precludes liability for any act occurring before 1974 and from any present or past member of the Commonwealth, also handily stops the Seychelles from protesting the timely removal of the islands from its jurisdiction just before independence.

Of course the American presence, and the islanders' absence from their home, is all in the name of defending the world for democracy and the rule of law - which is why the British government is defying successive court rulings in favour of the cleansees.

Indeed Diego Garcia is the distilled essence of the "special relationship" between Britain and the US. The British government stole the islands from their own inhabitants and the Seychellois, and handed them over rent-free to the US in return for a discount on the Polaris submarines that in turn marked the end of the genuinely independent British deterrent that the post-war Labour government had strived for, and tied the country's fate almost inextricably to the US. It involved giving up Blue Streak, the successful rocket which would have allowed Britain to have a presence in space as well.

Harold McMillan, who did the Polaris deal, believed like Blair that Britain could be Athens to Washington's Rome. He had marginally better expectations of constructive results from John F Kennedy than Blair did from his diplomatic duet with George Bush. At the insistence of the latter, Blair over-rode decisions of British courts on letting the inhabitants of Diego Garcia return.

Surely it's time for a declaration of independence. The lease of Diego Garcia is up for renewal in 2016. Britain should let the islanders back immediately and let them take it over then and join the Seychelles if they wish. And it should drop the pretensions to "independent" nuclear power and give up on the Trident replacement. Any relationship that involves the country in violations of international human rights law is indeed "special", but it is not necessarily desirable.

(Guardian, 26 Feb. 2008 - alas, as applicable now as it was then)

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Conservation against humans

Geoffrey Lean in The Telegraph today, March 31st:

At first sight it looks great, doesn’t it? Create the world’s biggest marine reserve, larger than mainland France, in one if its most pristine stretches of ocean, home to unspoiled corals and rare fish and other life. But Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who is expected imminently to decide in favour of it, and supportive environmental and scientific organisations – ranging from Greenpeace to the august Royal Society – risk setting the cause of conservation back decades.


Not that the area isn’t worthy of preservation. The Chagos Archipelago – 55 islands spread over 210,000 square miles in the middle of the Indian Ocean – is home to fully half of its remaining healthy coral reefs and over a thousand species of fish, including 60 critically endangered ones. Dubbed the ocean’s Galapagos, it is one of its key nurseries of life, giving birth to larvae and young fish that populate the entire region, and providing a critical breeding area for dolphins, sharks and turtles. On this basis, it’s scarcely surprising that the organisations – others include Kew Gardens, London Zoo and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds – support plans to ban fishing, construction and other human activities there.

Except that the islands are also home to people, or ought to be. Britain forcibly removed their 2,000 inhabitants in the 1970s to make way for a US base that now dominates Diego Garcia, their principal atoll. They have been fighting to return for decades, winning cases in British courts only to lose ultimately in the House of Lords two years ago, and gaining the support of the then Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in 2000, only to see the Government overturn his decision after 9/11.

They are taking their case this summer to European Court of Human Rights. But the bans would deny them a means of making a living, so they understandably view the proposed reserve as a cynical plan to make their return impossible. And their suspicions are only deepened by the fact that the base would be exempted from the restrictions, even though its 3,200 inhabitants do far more damage to the environment than they would ever be likely to perpetrate.

The plan and its supporting organisations appear to be flying in the face of probably the most important development in conservation over the past 30 years, a growing realisation that respect for nature has to go hand in hand with concern for local people – indeed, that it can only be assured when it benefits them as well as wildlife. Now the evicted people of the islands are bitterly pointing out that they being accorded less rights than the area’s sea slugs. How could they possibly be expected to respect the reserve if they win the right to return?

The plan’s supporters say that, if the islanders do win, the rules of the reserve would have to be amended to allow them to live there. At the very least Mr Miliband should spell this out, go into specifics, and cast a guarantee in stone. But, even so, the islanders have good reason to be deeply cynical about British Government promises. Why not at least wait until after the European Court has made a decision and then work with the islanders, whether they won or lost, to create something commanding their support as well as that of conservationists? Could it possibly be that an unseemly rush to establish a green legacy before the General Election is far more important to Mr Miliband than either the wildlife or people of the Chagos Archipelago?

- Quoted in entirety to spare you the "comment'-section.

Let the people go

Sean Carey in The New Statesman:

Whoever came up with the bright idea that turning the Chagos Archipelago, part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, into a Marine Protected Area (MPA) would be a fitting and lasting legacy for Gordon Brown's premiership must be scratching his or her head. The two genies -- Mauritius's claim to the territory and the position of the exiled Chagos Islanders who were removed from their homeland by the British authorities -- are now well and truly out of the bottle.


Further reading.

Biodiversity hotspot with bunkerbusters and without original population

The 55 islands of the Chagos archipelago and the sparkling seas around them are famed for their clean waters and pristine coral reefs. They are described by naturalists as the "other Galapagos", "a lost paradise" and a "natural wonder" and are officially recognised as a biodiversity hotspot of global importance.
Further reading.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The twenty-eight collaborating "nations"

..some of them no nation at all, or a nation deported:.

DIEGO GARCIA(UK): a British possession in the Indian Ocean the U.S. has transformed into a powerful military base to dominate the Middle East and Asia. Reportedly, the CIA has a facility there that was used in 2005-06 to hold Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, a Syrian-Spanish national. According to Reprieve, “the UK has a significant military and administrative presence on Diego Garcia, which has its own independent administration run by the East Africa Desk of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.” Reprieve further stated, “In October, 2003, Time Magazine cited interrogation records from the US prisoner Hambali that had reportedly been taken on the island, while respected international investigators at the Council of Europe and the United Nations expressed similar suspicions. US officials went on to make seemingly careless public statements confirming the use of Diego Garcia for secret detentions.”
Further reading.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Questions around bunker busters on Diego Garcia

The Sunday Herald reports:

The Foreign Office is coming under mounting pressure to tell the truth about whether there are plans by the US to use the British island of Diego Garcia as a base to launch an attack on Iran.
Leading opposition politicians are demanding answers from UK ministers on the role played by the Indian Ocean atoll in previous attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan, and in any future strikes.
Last week, the Sunday Herald revealed 387 bunker buster bombs were being shipped to Diego Garcia by the US. Some experts suggested the move could be in preparation for a possible strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Further reading 

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

US gearing up for attack

..says The Sunday Herald

Hundreds of powerful US “bunker-buster” bombs are being shipped from California to the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for a possible attack on Iran.

The Sunday Herald can reveal that the US government signed a contract in January to transport 10 ammunition containers to the island. According to a cargo manifest from the US navy, this included 387 “Blu” bombs used for blasting hardened or underground structures.

Experts say that they are being put in place for an assault on Iran’s controversial nuclear facilities. There has long been speculation that the US military is preparing for such an attack, should diplomacy fail to persuade Iran not to make nuclear weapons.

Although Diego Garcia is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, it is used by the US as a military base under an agreement made in 1971. The agreement led to 2,000 native islanders being forcibly evicted to the Seychelles and Mauritius.

The Sunday Herald reported in 2007 that stealth bomber hangers on the island were being equipped to take bunker-buster bombs.

Further reading.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Call to action for British readers

Diane Abbott MP has tabled Early Day Motion 960, available to view here, which calls on the Government to withdraw its case from the European Court of Human Rights, conclude a “friendly settlement” with the Chagossians and make provision for a resettlement of the Chagos islands.

EDMs are essentially a way of gauging parliamentary support for a given issue, and so it is crucial that as many MPs as possible sign up to Ms Abbott’s motion.

The Write To Them website makes it quick and easy for you to lobby your elected representatives on this issue.  If you do, you may wish to consider asking them the following questions.  Note that it is very important to request a response from them, even if they choose not to sign the EDM!
  • Will you sign Diane Abbott’s EDM 960 on the Chagos Islands?
  • If not, will you give me your reasons for declining to do so?
  • Will you write to Gordon Brown and/or the Foreign Secretary asking him to make restitution with the Chagossians and restore their right of abode?
  • Will you include a support for the Chagossians’ rights in your manifesto at the next election?
  • Will you consider becoming active in the Chagos Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group?

Forgotten Island

 Alex Doherty

Diego Garcia is the largest island in the Chagos archipelago - a group of more than fifty islands in the Indian Ocean. Formerly part of the British colony of Mauritius Diego Garcia is now a huge American naval base. Used to launch strikes against Iraq both during "Operation Desert Storm" and during the recent invasion Diego Garcia was also a vital asset in the bombing of another essentially defenceless target- Afghanistan.

When Mauritius was negotiating its independence the British Government insisted that the Chagos islands must remain under British sovereignty. Unknown to the Mauritian government the British had already made a deal to lease the islands to the United States. However as a condition of the deal the US insisted that the islands must be emptied of its human population and so from 1968 to 1974 Britain carried out, in secret, the removal of the entire population of the islands.

Interestingly Diego Garcia was not the US’ preferred [site] for its naval base; they had originally favoured the island of Aldabra. However that island was populated by a rare species of tortoise and the US feared that any attempt to disturb them might lead to an embarrassing confrontation with publicity savvy green activists. They guessed, rightly as it turned out, that while the removal of endangered tortoises would raise protest, the removal of mere human beings would elicit rather less concern.

A variety of methods were employed to spirit the population from the islands. Chagossian's making routine trips to Mauritius were simply barred from returning to the islands, others were lured by offers of free trips to the mainland and were never to return. Finally Britain forcibly removal of the remaining population. In 1966 foreign office diplomat Dennis Greenhill remarked, with all the studied indifference of Britain's educated elite, that: "along with the birds go some... Man Fridays whose origins are obscure"

Most of these "Man Fridays", who now number around five thousand individuals, found themselves living in the slums of the Mauritian capital Port Louis. Some died of starvation whilst the rest scraped a bare existence working in the lowest paid jobs. Unemployment amongst the Chagossians is high; they are discriminated against and have found adapting to life in Mauritius unbearably hard.

British policy during and after the removal process was to "maintain the pretence that there were no permanent inhabitants." This was essential because "to recognise that there are permanent inhabitants will imply that there is a population whose democratic rights will have to be safeguarded."

Since their forced removal the Chagossians have been campaigning for their right to return to the islands, a campaign that has been frustrated at every turn by successive British governments. In 2000 the campaigners achieved a partial victory in the High Court, which ruled that the removal of the islanders was a "legal failure" and that the islanders could return to the outlying islands (though not Diego Garcia itself). The British Government refused to implement the ruling; making no attempt to rebuild the infrastructure on the outlying islands, whilst falsely claiming that resettlement was not feasible.

On October 9th 2003 the High Court ruled against the islanders' right to return to Diego Garcia claiming, against all the evidence, that "it could not be maintained that Britain had deliberately deceived the Chagossians."

Following the ruling Richard Gifford, a lawyer representing the islanders remarked that "when you have been kicked around for 30 years, you get a bit used to setbacks."

- Looking for the most infamous quote from the Colonial Office in Westminster I only found this story on the net on a site (or a portal?) in Arabic of which I do not understand anything, frankly.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Dénonciation au nom de Maurice de Marine Protected Area

Le Mauricien fait savoir:


À la onzième session spéciale du Conseil d'administration du Programme des Nations unies (PNUE) pour l'environnement/Forum ministériel mondial sur l'environnement, du 24 au 26 février dernier à Bali, Indonésie, le ministre de l'Environnement, Lormus Bundhoo, a fait un vibrant réquisitoire contre la "décision unilatérale" de la Grande Bretagne d'aménager une Marine Protected Area aux Chagos.

"La République de Maurice ne peut permettre des décisions par une tierce partie d'établir une Marine Protected Area sur un territoire qui lui appartient. Je parle ici de la tentative unilatérale de la Grande Bretagne d'établir un parc marin dans l'archipel des Chagos", s'est écrié M. Bundhoo devant un parterre composé de ministres de l'environnement des pays du monde entier, de représentants des agences environnementales internationales et de ceux de diverses agences des Nations unies. Le Secrétaire d'État britannique pour l'Environnement, de l'Alimentation et des Affaires rurales, Hilary Benn, qui agissait en tant que modérateur, était également présent.

"C'est une tentative du Royaume Uni de contourner les voies diplomatiques pour s'accaparer de façon illégale le contrôle et la souveraineté sur les Chagos", a poursuivi le ministre.

"Par conséquent, la République de Maurice réitère son souhait que l'exercice de consultation sur le projet britannique de Marine Protected Area initié par le Foreign Commonwealth Office soit arrêté et que le Consultation Paper, qui est unilatéral et préjudiciable aux intérêts de Maurice, soit retiré".

Lormus Bundhoo a expliqué que le Consultation Paper est une initiative unilatérale de la Grande Bretagne "qui a ignoré les principes convenus et l'esprit des pourparlers en cours entre Maurice et la Grande Bretagne et qui constitue un revers sérieux dans le processus de dialogue".

M. Bundhoo a ensuite exprimé la volonté du gouvernement mauricien de travailler avec les autorités britanniques à l'élaboration d'une proposition conjointe pour protéger l'environnement marin autour de l'archipel des Chagos " qui, de façon significative, prendra en considération la position de Maurice sur la souveraineté de l'archipel et la question du retour des Chagossiens sur leur île". "C'est la seule et unique façon de protéger l'environnement dans et autour de l'archipel des Chagos", a insisté le ministre.

"Maurice recherche le soutien de la communauté internationale et exhorte ceux qui pourraient être tentés de soutenir cette initiative de la Grande Bretagne à revoir leur position eu égard aux faits troublants que la délégation vient de révéler. Nous nous attendons à ce que la communauté internationale s'oppose à toute manœuvre des autorités britanniques qui serait en infraction des lois internationales et des principes fondamentaux des droits de l'homme. Nous croyons fermement que personne ne peut, sous le couvert de la protection de l'environnement, s'arroger le droit de violer les principes fondamentaux des droits de l'homme".

Auparavant, le ministre a rappelé que Maurice a une aussi longue histoire que la Grande Bretagne en matière de la protection de la biodiversité. " Nous sommes non seulement le premier pays au monde à avoir ratifié la Convention sur la Biodiversité, mais nous sommes en train de mettre en œuvre notre Stratégie nationale et notre Plan d'action en matière de protection de notre biodiversité. Sans compter que nous sommes en train de donner vie à notre concept Maurice, Île Durable", a-t-il rappelé.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Petition for Chagos nature and humans

The UK Government is considering declaring the Chagos Archipelago the World’s largest Marine Protected Area, in order to conserve its globally important coral reefs and related ecosystems.

This is a unique and vital opportunity for marine conservation, but the issue is not as simple as that.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has launched a consultation on Chagos. The consultation proposes three main options for a Marine Protected Area, all of which exclude any kind of fisheries or similar marine activities within the reef areas.

What these options do not take account of are the wishes of the Chagossian community. The islanders were removed from their homeland by the British Government in the late 1960s and have been campaigning ever since for their right to return.

The full no-take protection of reef areas (as proposed by the consultation) would provide no means for resettled islanders to utilise their marine resources for subsistence or income generation. Communities and Marine Protected Areas coexist across the world, and there is no reason why the islanders could not be successful stewards of their coral reef environment.

We endorse the efforts of the Foreign Secretary to protect the marine ecosystems of the Chagos archipelago but we call on him to work with the Chagos islanders and the Government of Mauritius to devise an MPA solution that makes provision for resettlement and protects Mauritius’ legitimate interests.

Further reading and site to sign on:
here.
This petition was closed on March 5th 2010. Please scroll down for other postings.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Protecting what is not yours in the first place

A major conservation row is developing over proposals for Britain to establish the biggest and most unspoiled marine nature reserve in the world. The issue of the Chagos Islands raises the increasingly difficult question of how to weigh up the protection of the best remaining parts of nature, in a rapidly degrading world, against the needs and rights of people.

The Hawks bill turtle is critically endangered. (ALAMY)
It concerns the Chagos Archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean, a group of isolated coral islands teeming with wildlife which is considered to be among the least polluted marine locations on Earth. Its seawater is the cleanest ever tested; its coral reefs are completely unspoiled; its whole ecosystem, with its countless seabirds, turtles, coconut-cracking crabs (the world's largest), dolphins, sharks and nearly 1,000 other species of fish, is pristine.

Officially British Indian Ocean Territory, the islands are the subject of an ambitious plan by conservationists - backed by the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband - to keep them the way they are, by creating a marine protected area, where fishing and all other exploitation would be banned, of 210,000 square miles - more than twice the land surface of Great Britain. In an age when the oceans and their biodiversity are being ever more despoiled, it would be a supreme example of marine conservation and one of the wildlife wonders of the world - in effect, Britain's Great Barrier Reef, or Britain's Galapagos.

The plan excites many wildlife enthusiasts and has the formal support of several of Britain's major conservation bodies, from the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew and the Zoological Society of London to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The backing of the Foreign Office and the Foreign Secretary is significant. A public consultation on the plan ends on Friday.

But there is a notable omission from the plan. It takes no account of the wishes of the original inhabitants, the Chagossians - the 1,500 people living on the islands who, between 1967 and 1973, were deported wholesale by Britain, so that the largest island, Diego Garcia, could be used by the US as an airbase for strategic nuclear bombers.

Further reading.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Black site Chagos

Name:
Camp Justice
Continent:
Asia
Country:
Diego Garcia
Status:
Suspected Black Site
Control:
United States Navy


Location:

Diego Garcia is the largest and most southerly of the six main island groups that comprise the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 3,000 miles South of Iraq.

Background:

A Human Rights First report, Ending Secret Detentions, June 2004 [Deborah Pearlstein and Michael Posner. Available online at www.HumanRightsFirst.org] refers to detention facilities maintained by the US in various undisclosed locations including facilities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan, US war ships and Diego Garcia. The report states that denials by US and British Officials contradict repeated press reports that at least some individuals, including Hambali (Riduan Isamuddin) have been detained on Diego Garcia. Press reports referred to include several by Dana Priest, writing for The Washington Post. A December 2002 article [US Decries Abuse but Defends Interrogation. Available at www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A37943-2002Dec25] refers to the use of Diego Garcia as a secret overseas detention centre. Similar comments are made by Mark Seddon writing for The Independent in December 2003 [The Independent December 13th 3003: Is There Another Guantanamo Bay on British Soil?] and referring to a Time Magazine article from October 2003 [The terrorist talks].

Detainees:

- Unknown detainees

Source: Cage Prisoners.

Monday, 25 January 2010

A people's navy...


Pete and Jon have been arrested in Diego Garcian waters. We have been told they are well but we haven't heard from them since their arrest. See the Home page for more coverage on their arrest. Below we reproduce the statement that they have prepared to give to the UK and US governments: We have sailed our boat Musichana over 2000 miles to demonstrate to you the serious nature of our concerns about the plight of the Chagossians and about your military activities on Diego Garcia.

It is our duty as British citizens, to challenge and expose these activities in a peaceful and responsible manner.

We represent a growing proportion of the world's population, who disagree with the treatment of the Chagossians and demand their right to return.

--The Chagos people were the legitimate inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelagos.

--Three generations of Chagossians are buried on the island.

--The UK courts have consistently supported the Chagossians in their right to return.

--While commendable, it is simply not good enough to allow some Chagossians to come back to clean and restore graveyards. When the work is finished they have to leave again.

We are disgusted by your military activities, because history has proven that violent military conflicts and all forms of terrorism solve nothing. Yet your actions and those of your respective Governments, which corruptly entangle profit making business with political and military decisions, continue to increase militarization and the use of force as a first rather than a last option and only perpetuate global instability and terrorise innocent people.

Your base here is, together with the other US bases throughout the world, part of an axis of evil and represents all the corruption and subversion of human decency. From here your bombers have rained terror, horror and destruction, often onto the heads of innocent people. It has also been used for secretly transporting and holding prisoners without regard to even the most basic and accepted concepts of justice.

We urge you, in the name of humanity to cease your inhumane activities. You must leave Diego Garcia forthwith and end your shameful and harmful presence here, so that the rightful inhabitants, who you exiled nearly forty years ago can return to their homes and live in peace.

The story of the "People's Navy" voyage to Chagos.

Story of a deportation

Almost four decades have elapsed but Dervillie Permal remembers clearly the summer day in 1971 when the British Government evicted him from the Chagos Islands, the tropical idyll in the heart of the Indian Ocean that was his home.
Now 73, his face contorts with anguish as he recalls in his native Creole how he had just left work at a coconut plantation when armed soldiers stopped him, told him he had to leave immediately and escorted him to a ship that was packed with weeping islanders. He was not permitted a final visit to his home. He was allowed to take only the possessions he had with him. His dog and livestock were killed.
A week later the Nordvaer deposited its wretched human cargo 1,200 miles away in Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius, a British colony at the time. There he was reunited with his wife Marie Aimee, who had taken their two children to Port Louis for medical treatment two years earlier and had been barred from returning to the sun-blessed archipelago.
The islanders – mostly illiterate, unskilled and penniless – were given no help to resettle. They lived in dirt-floor shacks in the slums of the city. Mr Permal scraped a living unloading rice from ships. Mrs Permal earned a few extra pennies from sewing. They raised seven children. Last year Hengride, their daughter, brought them to live with her in a three-bedroom, semidetached house that is occupied by ten Chagossians in the Sussex commuter town of Crawley.

Further reading.

Social life in the Chagos: the folklore



Far from the hectic and consuming life of Mauritius, we led a very peaceful life on our small islands.

There was no mad rush, we all lived according to our own rhythm, never in fear or in stress of having to strive to make both ends meet in order to feed the members of our family. Our society was constituted in such a way that we always had whatever we wanted, there was no poverty and no misery.

We never knew the meaning of hunger, deprivation or starvation until we were moved to Mauritius. We always had plenty of food, we ate to our heart’s content and drank to our good fortune. This was due to the fact that many, if not all of us, reared animals and poultry (chickens, ducks, pigs, turkeys, geese, guinea fowl, rabbits), we also grew fruit and vegetable gardens and vegetables that one family did not have were always obtained from another family in exchange for a vegetable that it did not have. Some of us had beehives, which produced fresh honey for the community. All of us knew how to fish and take food from the resourceful lagoon. Some of us were full time fishermen, the rest would fish whenever they had to or felt like it. We had the best fish, lobster, octopus and crab, ever. We always had fresh fish, most often red snappers and ‘babonne’ which are sold at over $25 a pound on western and far eastern markets and which we had for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Inasmuch as fish have traditionally been a significant element of our diet, we were torn by the fact that we did not have the means to get fresh fish in Mauritius; all we could have was frozen fish, which, from all angles you look at it (nutritionally and taste), was a different thing altogether, if you could even get it. It is not that there is no fish in Mauritius, but on an island of 1.2m inhabitants, the lagoons having been emptied of their fish, fishermen have to be well organised to go outside the lagoons, which makes the fish much more expensive and not available to poor people like ourselves. I have a hard time imagining Italians being deprived of pasta and pizza, Chinese of rice and noodles, Americans of burgers, fries and ice cream: for us, fresh fish and other fresh sea produce was the basis of our diet. We cooked and had them in one hundred different ways.

From: Our life in Chagos

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Always a pleasure to provide construction services on stolen land

Tutor Perini Corporation (NYSE: TPC), a leading civil and building construction company, announced that its subsidiary Black Construction, in joint venture with MACE International Limited, has been awarded a $19.2 million design-build contract in Diego Garcia by the Department of the Navy.

“We are pleased to be part of this program for the U.S. Navy. Our team at Black Construction continues to be a leader in providing construction services for the Navy and other governmental agencies in this part of the world.”

The U.S. Navy Support Facility (“NSF”) Diego Garcia is located in the Indian Ocean within the British Indian Ocean Territory. The project, called FY09 MCON Project P-181 Wharf Upgrade and Warehouse Facility, will support the relocation of a Land class vessel due to closure of the current ship homeport. This is the second phase of a planned three-phase construction program to provide facilities to support the Land class ship and the ships that it will service at NSF Diego Garcia in a timely manner. In addition, this project will upgrade the water and wastewater systems and construct storage facilities to support the operations.

Ronald Tutor, Chairman and CEO of Tutor Perini, said: “We are pleased to be part of this program for the U.S. Navy. Our team at Black Construction continues to be a leader in providing construction services for the Navy and other governmental agencies in this part of the world.”

Further reading

Black Construction is also concerned with the militarist destruction of the island of Guam.