Since the deportation between 1971 and 1973, Chagossians have brought a number of legal actions against the UK Government in the courts challenging their expulsion.
In 1975, Michel Vincatassin, a Chagossian who had been forced to leave Diego Garcia in 1971, began a action against the UK Government. In response, the UK and Mauritian Governments agreed in 1982 to establish a Trust Fund to assist in the resettlement of the Chagossian communities in Mauritius. In exchange, recipients were required to renounce all their claims against the UK Government.
In a futher round of litigation [Bancoult 1], in 2000, the High Court struck down the 1971 Immigration Ordinance on the grounds that the relevant power contained within BIOT, the power to legislate for the ‘peace, order and good government’ of the territory, while broad, did not include a power to exile a people from their homeland. The UK Government did not appeal the decision and passed a new Ordinance allowing inhabitants to return to the outer islands of the archipelago but not to Diego Garcia. However, the Government later overturned its decision to support the resettlement and revoked the original BIOT order, passing new orders - the BIOT (Constitution) Order and the BIOT (Immigration) Order - in 2004. These provisions reinstated full immigration control; they “declared that no person has the right of abode in BIOT nor the right without authorisation to enter and remain there". The Chagossians were thus effectively exiled.
A second case [Bancoult 2] was brought challenging the legality of the new arrangement including the provision where (a) no person had the right to abode in the BIOT and (b) that no person was entitled to enter BIOT without authorisation. The challenge was successful both in the High Court and the Court of Appeal, the latter holding that the orders amounted to an abuse of power because they negated the islanders' rights to return to their homeland . The Government appealed to the House of Lords, where the majority (3:2) ruled that the exercise of power under the 2004 orders was essentially a concern for the government and Parliament and not properly a matter for the courts. In dissent, one of the Lords stated that the Government’s submission “treats BIOT and the... power to make... laws relating to BIOT as if they related to nothing more than the bare land, and as if the people inhabiting BIOT were an insignificant inconvenience”.
An application to the European Court of Human Rights - alleging breaches of Articles 3, 6, 8 and 13 and Article 1 of Protocol 1 - is currently pending.
Further litigation is pending in the High Court in London for an application for a Judicial Review of the decision to declare the MPA - see Legal Challenges to MPA .
To date, the total FCO legal costs have been £2.22 million (Table below). In addition, the Legal Aid bill to the taxpayer has amounted to approximately £450,000. These costs do not reflect the full cost of the legal proceedings, since no account is taken of internal work in the FCO (e.g., by officials and FCO Legal Advisers).