Laws of the BIOT

Where is BIOT Legislation recorded?
 
In a minute dated 11 January 1971, when the UK Government was drawing up legislation (the Immigration Ordinance 1971) to deport the Chagos Islanders, a Foreign Office legal adviser, Anthony Aust wrote:

"The ordinance would be published in the BIOT Gazette, which has only very limited circulation both here and overseas, after signature by the Commissioner. Publicity will therefore be minimal."

The infamous Ordinance to which Aust referred, banned all persons from the islands. However, the same 'secrecy' applies to all of the legislation of the British Indian Ocean Territory, both then and now. It is not widely publicised.

A copy of each BIOT Gazette is required to be deposited in the British Library for public access. In 2010 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was informed that the British Library had no record of having received a large number of BIOT Gazettes. After extensive correspondence and pressure, the FCO has accepted that this needs to be corrected and has undertaken to deposit the missing copies with the British Library. 

The British Indian Ocean Territory Official Gazette
Vol 1. No 1. - 13 December 1965

The BIOT Ordinances
 
Since 1965 until the end of 2010 there had been 432 separate items of legislation enacted for the BIOT.

The laws of the BIOT derive their authority under the Royal Prerogative. Through the 'British Indian Ocean Territory Order 1965' (an Order in Council), the Queen vested duties and powers on the Commissioner to make 'laws for the peace, order and good government of the Territory". Today, the relevant Order in Council is the 'British Indian Ocean Territory (Constitution) Order 2004'.

All Ordinances and Statutory Instruments for the BIOT are enacted by the BIOT Commissioner without recourse to higher authority, and free of any democratic scrutiny, including the UK Parliament. In addition, certain other legislation that applies to the colonies (now Overseas Territories) is enacted directly by Order in Council from the FCO in London.

The BIOT Commissioner has never been resident in the territory. Initially the office was held by the Governor of the Seychelles, but since Seychelles achieved independence in 1976, the Commissioner has resided in London. [further information see page "BIOT Administration"


Access to BIOT Legislation

Because of the difficulties of access, copies of all legislation affecting the BIOT have been placed below in Zipped folders. These may be downloaded and unpacked. The initial series runs from 1965 until 2009. Later years are added when the FCO agree to supply them, currently the legislation is up to date to the end of 2012. 
   
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