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Chagos islanders lose fight against British government

CHAGOS ISLANDERS forcibly removed from their home in the Indian Ocean decades ago lost their latest legal fight against the British government yesterday.

Five out of seven judges at the Supreme Court dismissed a bid to overturn an earlier Court of Appeal ruling.

The islanders were removed in the 1960s and ’70s to make way for a US air force base on the largest island, Diego Garcia.

They sought a ruling that the government’s decision to create a marine park around the British-controlled islands had an “improper motive” to prevent their resettlement.

Chagos Refugees Group chairman Olivier Bancoult has been battling to win legal redress for decades.

The Court of Appeal had ruled that there was no improper motive behind the marine park, which includes a ban on fishing — a crucial issue if the islanders are to return.

The ban covers all commercial fishing, including that carried out by Chagossians as owners and crew of Mauritian-registered fishing boats.

Nigel Pleming QC, for Mr Bancoult, told the Supreme Court last June that the islanders were “strongly against” the no-fishing element of the 250,000-square-mile marine protected area.

At the centre of the latest challenge was a classified US government cable published by WikiLeaks.

But the justices ruled that the exclusion of the cable in evidence during earlier court proceedings “could have had no material effect on the outcome regarding improper motive.”

The judges unanimously rejected a second limb of his case against the Foreign Secretary in which Mr Bancoult argued that the consultation which came before the decision to establish the marine park had been “flawed.”

Lord Mance noted that in November 2016 the government had announced its decision to maintain the ban on resettlement and that the decision was subject to further judicial review proceedings.

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