CAMPAIGN: Olivier Bancoult speaks to Amal Clooney outside the Supreme Court in London
THE WIFE of Hollywood actor George Clooney has joined the legal campaign of 1500 exiled islanders in their fight to return to their homeland after being forcibly removed more than 40 years ago.
Amal Clooney, 37, a human rights lawyer joined Louis Olivier Bancoult, leader of the Chagos Refugee Group to lead the legal team as they made their case to the highest court in the land.
Appearing before the Supreme Court in London on Monday (June 23) the legal team representing the former residents of Chagos challenged a decision made six years ago by the House of Lords which ruined their hopes of returning home to their native islands in the Indian Ocean.
Bancoult said: “I’m very hopeful. We will continue appealing for the right for our people to go back home. Most of the people want to return.” A large Chagossian community has settled in Crawley, Sussex; many were in court to watch the latest legal development.
Edward Fitzgerald QC, for Bancoult, told the court that the House of Lords’ decision in 2008 had “removed one of the most fundamental liberties known to human beings: the right of return to their homes, however poor the conditions might be”.
Families were forced to leave the islands in the 1960s and 1970s to make way for a US air force base on the largest island, Diego Garcia.
The last residents of the British colony were removed in May 1973.
Courts later ruled that the Chagossians could return to 65 of the islands, but not Diego Garcia.
In 2004, the government used the royal prerogative to nullify the rulings but this was overturned by the High Court and Court of Appeal.
The government then went to the House of Lords in 2008 to argue that allowing the islanders to return would seriously affect defence and security which established the present ruling that has kept the community expelled from their home.
Other supporters include acclaimed poet Benjamin Zephaniah who was named as the official patron for the campaign to repatriate 1500 exiled Islanders.
Zephaniah has publically declared that the struggle was an “affront to human rights, freedom and democracy” as he urged the British government to “do the right thing.”
The community eagerly awaits a final ruling from the Supreme Court.