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Divisional Court upholds the establishment of Marine Protection Area around the Chagos Islands


Olivier Bancoult was one of the Chagossians expelled from the Chagos Islands by the UK Government in the 1960s to make way for the US airbase at Diego Garcia.  The Divisional Court in Bancoult (1) held that the power used to expel the Chagossians was unlawful.  The Government did not appeal that judgment, and when they subsequently removed the Chagossians' right of abode on the islands, the Supreme Court dismissed the islanders' case in Bancoult (2).

The Divisional Court has now rejected the Chagossians' judicial review of the Government's decision to ban fishing around the islands and to establish a Marine Protection Area (MPA). Mr Bancoult challenged the MPA on grounds of improper purpose (based on a Wikileaks cable which on its face suggested that the real reason for the MPA was preventing the Chagossians from returning to the islands) and failure to consult.  He also argued that the UK had infringed its EU law obligation to "associate" the islands with the European Union for the benefit of their inhabitants.

It is notable that the Divisional Court held that: (1) Wikileaks cables are inadmissible under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961; and (2) the UK is subject to directly effective EU law obligations not to jeopardise the EU Treaty objectives in relation to overseas territories such as the Chagos Islands.

The judgment is here.

Nicholas Green QC, Maya Lester and Daniel Piccinin acted for Mr Bancoult in relation to the EU law issues.

Sir Sydney Kentridge QC, David Anderson QC and Maya Lester acted for the Chagossians in their earlier judicial reviews and their application to the European Court of Human Rights, Jemima Stratford QC acted for Human Rights Watch and the Minority Rights Group as interveners.