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Air Strip One: UK suffers humiliating defeat in UN over theft of Chagos Islands

IMAGE: Britain’s Ambassador to the UN, Karen Pierce, left in the lurch by near unanimous resolution.

Back in 1967, the United Kingdom made the decision that was going to take Chagos Islands away from its indigenous inhabitants in order to give the United States yet another military base. To do this, Britain had to forcibly evict its native inhabitants. Since being expelled, Chagossian natives have been prevented from returning to their rightful home and have been fighting the UK in the courts, but to no avail. However, yesterday a United Nations ruling may have finally turned the tide in favor of the islands’ victims of ethnic cleansing.

The United Nations general assembly overwhelmingly backed a motion condemning Britain’s illegal occupation and theft of the Chagos Archipelago located in the Indian Ocean.

UN General Assembly members voted 116-6 for a non-binding resolution which left a reeling UK diplomatically isolated, but also symbolized the diminished status of the US on the world stage. Despite months of behind the scenes campaigning and glad-handing by US officials, the vote was a complete route and a categorical repudiation of the Anglo-America imperial dominion.

“Even we didn’t expect support for the UK to go into single figures,” said Jagdish Koonjul, the Mauritian ambassador to the UN, to the Guardian. “More importantly, this has happened despite the huge, huge, pressure on national capitals and at the UN.”

The vote set forth a six-month deadline for the UK to exit from the Chagos Islands who would then be reunified with the island nation of Mauritius. The UN ruling endorses an advisory opinion which had previously been issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in February 2019, which called for the UK to relinquish its illegally gotten territory and allow the native people it had ethnically cleansed 40 years ago – to return to their rightful homes.

If the Chagos residents are successful, then the real challenge begins, as the US military is known worldwide as the worst polluter and dumper of toxic waste which it routinely does at military sites globally. Whether the US or the UK would pay for a proper clean-up of the island is unknown, and more likely will seek to bribe the natives with cash payments in order to maintain their geopolitical “Air Strip One” strategic location which allows it to militarily join the Middle East and Asia.

In many ways, for the Chagossians, the real battle is only beginning.

For more information on this story, watch filmmaker John Pilger‘s masterpiece, ‘Stealing a Nation: Theft of the Chagos Islands’ (2014):

21st Century Wire Chagos Files




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Get Your Copy of New Dawn Magazine #203 - Mar-Apr Issue