United Nations 16th Session of the Expert Mechanism on Indigenous Rights (EMRIP) at the UN in Geneva 17-21st July 2023
Five members of Chagossian Voices attended the 16th Session of EMRIP as part of a joint Chagossian delegation, alongside Ms Claudette Pauline, of the Mauritian group Chagos Asylum People and Ms Nicole Wutrich, a Chagossian who lives in Geneva. As well addressing the daily sessions in the main chamber, the Chagossian delegation delivered a 1 ½ hr session on Friday 21st July to delegates entitled “The Human Rights of Chagossians and the United Nations”
On Monday 17th July, Frankie Bontemps (CV) spoke in the session on the impact of militarization on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. He deplored the enforced exile of the Chagossian people to make way for a US airbase, outlining the many detrimental effects on Chagossians and the numerous abuses of their human rights. He also pointed out that Chagossians remain excluded from decisions regarding their future and the future of the islands. He raised concerns about the building of a substantial airbase, harbour and infrastructure by the Indian government on the Mauritian island of Agalega.
On Tuesday 18th July Mylene Augustin (CV) spoke in a session on the rights of indigenous peoples. She pointed out that the rights of Chagossians to determine their own future and the future of their islands have always been ignored, and that neither the UK, the US or Mauritius acknowledged their right to self-determination or indigenous rights and they were currently excluded from negotiations about the future of the islands.
On the same day Bernadette Dugasse (CV) spoke at the Interactive Dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development. She explained how Chagossians’ rights to economic, social, cultural, and educational development had been severely limited by enforced exile and their indigenous rights had been entirely overlooked.
On Wednesday 19th July Jean-Francois Nellan (CV) spoke in the session on country engagement. He pointed out that none of the nations responsible for their exile and subsequent hardship had mechanisms for effectively or meaningfully consulting the Chagossians. He concluded: We urgently request the Expert Mechanism and the Human Rights Council to look closely at thttps://chagossianvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/Bernadette-Dugasse-Chagossian-Voices.pdfhe predicament we face and encourage the nations involved to provide effective mechanisms for consultation and participation of the indigenous Chagossian population in all matters concerning their islands and their future.
On Thursday 20th July, Claudette Pauline (CAP) spoke in the session on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the report on establishing monitoring mechanisms. She urged the UN and the HRC to urgently examine the implementation of its human rights and indigenous rights conventions in relation to the Chagossians. She pointed out that these rights had been long overlooked in Mauritius. Speaking of her early days in Mauritius she said “When we arrived in Mauritius, we were not recognized as human beings. Some of us were fired when Mauritian employers discovered we were from Chagos. Chagossians had to search rubbish bins in the street to find plastic bags containing stale bread. The Mauritians did not consider the Chagossians as their own. The Chagossians must have the right to determine their own sovereign status. Mauritius presented the Chagossians as Mauritians to the ICJ and it is false. Depriving the Chagossians of their right to self-determination also constitutes a violation of Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Now is the time for the UN to defend the Chagossians against these human and indigenous rights abuses.”
On the same day Pascalina Nellan spoke in the session on proposals to be submitted to the Human Rights Council for its consideration and approval. Her speech followed a statement by the Mauritian representative (see below) and her speech was adjusted accordingly. She deplored the statement of the Mauritian delegation who she said were “trying to make us invisible again.. but we are organised and we will continue to fight and to be well organised as a people with all indigenous relatives around the world.” She also pointed out that the US and the UK had been recently accused of committing a “crime against humanity” in their treatment of the Chagossians.