Politics

Mauritius: Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of the Republic of Mauritius


45th Session of the UN Universal Periodic Review

Introduction

Human Rights Watch submits the following information regarding Mauritius’ implementation of recommendations received during previous Universal Periodic Review (UPR) cycles about Chagossians in Mauritius. During its second UPR cycle, Mauritius supported the recommendation to continue its efforts aimed at improving the fate of the Chagossians[1] and noted the recommendation to continue actions aimed at the return to the Chagos Archipelago of the Chagossians displaced from the islands of the Archipelago, and to consider including in these actions processes for the reparations of victims[2].

Chagossians in Mauritius

2023 marks 50 years since the arrival of the last Chagossian people in Mauritius.[3] Human Rights Watch research has found that many Chagossians still suffer poverty, stigma, and discrimination half a century later.[4]

The Chagossians are a distinct Indigenous people under UN and African standards, including those set out by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

On November 3, 2022, the governments of Mauritius and the UK began to secure, and agreement based on international law to resolve all outstanding issues, including those relating to the former inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelago.[5] To date, the Chagossian people have not been meaningfully consulted by the parties to these negotiations. Human Rights Watch, and the Chagossian people in the UK, Mauritius, and the Seychelles with whom we have spoken, remain very concerned that the Chagossian people have not been provided information about the details of the negotiations to allow them to participate and/or effectively be consulted. As Human Rights Watch laid out in our letter of December 15 2022 to the UK Foreign Secretary[6], without effective consultations with the Chagossian people, who, due to their eviction from their homeland, are spread across three countries and elsewhere, these negotiations will serve to compound and perpetuate the violations they have suffered at the hands of the UK and US Governments. The ongoing nature of these harms will be further perpetuated by Mauritius should they not ensure that the Chagossians are centered and meaningfully consulted. Meaningful consultation, as we set out in our letter of December 15, 2022, includes ensuring that the consultations are transparent, proactive, accessible, inclusive, meaningful, and properly managed and resourced none of which appear to have been properly fulfilled to date.

Any agreement should recognize that the Chagossians’ rights were grossly violated, provide for their right to return to all the Islands including Diego Garcia in dignity (this includes adequate restitution by the UK and US Governments including rehabilitation of the islands in order to allow for sustainable living conditions so that Chagossian people can resume a life on the islands and live in prosperity, at a minimum in the conditions they would have had they not been expelled five decades ago), full compensation for the harms they suffered, and guarantees that such abuses will not happen again. This is a minimum threshold for reparations but should not be taken as an exhaustive list and is subject to consultation with the Chagossian people.

Human Rights Watch found that the continuing forced displacement of the Chagossians, the prevention of their permanent return to their homeland, and their persecution on racial and ethnic grounds amount to crimes against humanity.[7] Should Mauritius obtain the return of its control over the Chagos Islands it will be immediately responsible for ending this crime by ensuring that all Chagossians in the world can return, if they choose, to live in their homeland in dignity and prosperity.

Recommendations

  • Recognize the Chagossians as an Indigenous people;
  • Revise their strategy to ensure all Chagossians’ right to an adequate standard of living. The strategy should include an increased budgetary allocation towards the Chagos Welfare Fund’s activities;
  • Ensure that all groups of Chagossians from Mauritius, Seychelles and the UK are meaningfully and effectively consulted as part of the ongoing negotiations with the UK Government;
  • Ensure that as a minimum, and subject to the above-mentioned consultations, that any Agreement with the UK Government over the future of the Chagos Archipelago includes an explicit commitment to allow the Chagossians to return without restriction to all the Islands, including Diego Garcia, and for the United Kingdom to restore the Islands so the Chagossians can return and live with dignity and are provided with adequate compensation for the harms they have suffered. This should be accompanied by an explicit commitment of non-repetition.
  • Engage with the African Union and the United Nations to issue statements expressing concern about the UK and US authorities committing crimes against humanity against the Chagossians and call on the parties to the current negotiation over the future of the Chagos Archipelago to center, meaningfully consult, and provide binding, full, and effective reparations to the Chagossians, including their unfettered permanent return to all the Islands that make up Chagos; and
  • Engage with the UN to push for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry and a UN envoy on the crimes of apartheid and persecution;