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United Kingdom: Chagos Islanders Prohibited from Returning Home amid Diego Garcia Security Concerns

(Oct. 24, 2008) The House of Lords, the highest court in the United Kingdom, has overturned a ruling that permitted islanders removed from the Chagos Islands (now known as the British Indian Ocean Territory) in the 1960s to return home. The Islanders were removed as part of an agreement between the UK and the United States to make way for a strategic U.S. military base on the island of Diego Garcia. The British government had made an Order in Council under Royal Privilege – essentially an executive order – to prevent the Islanders from residing on the Chagos Islands or entering the Islands without authorization. The Islanders argued this was unlawful and an abuse of process by the government. The House of Lords recently ruled that government ministers had not acted inappropriately and that β€œHer Majesty in Council was entitled to legislate for a colony in the interests of the United Kingdom.” In addition, the court held, the government had to also take into account security interests, as the U.S. government had expressed concern that re-habitation of the island would compromise the security of the military base on Diego Garcia. Compensation has already been paid to the Islanders and British citizenship has been granted to those who requested it. (R (On the Application of Bancoult) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [2008] UKHL 61, United Kingdom Parliament official website, (last visited Oct. 22, 20008); David Brown, Law Lords Ruling Stops Return of Families to Chagos Islands, TIMES ONLINE (London), Oct. 22, 2008, available at