Litigation & Costs

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 .

Litigation Costs

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). 

 YearFCO costs FCO pays Applicant costsTotal FCO Legal Aid to Chagossians
 2000 - 2001    
 2001 - 2002175,264 280,000 455,268  
 2002 - 2003    
 2003 - 2004 752,363 752,363  
 2004 - 2005 139,108 139,108  
 2005 - 2006 293,455 293,455  
 2006 - 2007 203,300  203,300 
 2007 - 2008 114,854 114,854 450,000 
 2008 - 2009 204,694 204,694  
2009 - 2010  36,487 36,487  
 2010 - 2011 23,556 23,556  
 TOTAL 1,943,085 2,223,085 450,000 

Further reading:

Stephen Allen, ‘Responsibility and Redress: The Chagossian Claims in the English Courts’, in S. Evers & M. Kooy (eds.), Eviction from the Chagos Islands: Displacement and Struggle for Identity Against Two World Powers (Brill, 2011) 128-152