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Chagossians to sue US naval base for damages

CHAGOS ISLANDERS have lodged claims for damages against a secretive US Naval base on Diego Garcia more than 50 years after their forcible eviction by the British government.

They are seeking up to $100,000 (£76,322) each under the US Foreign Claims Act after being denied access to their homes despite an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling.

The US military is required by the act to set up claims commissions to handle any damages claims brought by foreign citizens.

The Chagos Archipelago was separated from Mauritius in 1965, when it was still a British colony.

Britain purchased it for £3 million, but Mauritius claimed that it was pressed into the sale which was made in return for independence.

The British government evicted the entire population of the Chagos Islands before inviting the US to build a military base on Diego Garcia.

In February last year the ICJ ruled that Britain should leave the Chagos Islands “as rapidly as possible.”

A UN general assembly vote in May 2019 voted overwhelmingly for the return of the islands.

But an official statement from the British Foreign Office said: “This is an advisory opinion, not a judgment.”

It has since refused to comply with the ruling and has been condemned for “an unlawful and serious violation of international law” by refusing to allow the Chagossians to resettle.

The Chagossians’ lawyer Dr Jonathan Levy said: “The damage claims are quite reasonable given the intense sufferings of the Chagossians who as a people were utterly devastated by their deportation.

“Even though there are several thousand Chagossians, their claims are capped at $100,000 each.  The comparable US base at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, costs the United States approximately $70 million per year to lease. The Chagossians who are the real owners of Diego Garcia Atoll are seeking only a small fraction of the back rent.”

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