The Chagossians’ struggle and the last bastions of imperial constitutionalism

Frost, Tom and Murray, C R G (2018) The Chagossians’ struggle and the last bastions of imperial constitutionalism. In: Allen, Stephen and Monaghan, Chris (eds.) Fifty Years of the British Indian Ocean Territory: Legal Perspectives. Small States in a Legal World . Springer, London, pp. 147-174. ISBN 9783319785417

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The scale of the injustice inflicted upon the Chagossians by the United Kingdom is self-evident, but their legal route to redress has proven opaque and fraught with difficulty, as illustrated by the House of Lords’ majority decision in R (Bancoult) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (No 2) [2008] UKHL 61; [2009] 1 AC 453. This disconnect is, nonetheless, inherent in the UK’s constitutional order. Constitutions outline the operation of governance orders, with constitutionalism injecting substantive principles into this picture, developing the relationship between the holders of power and those subject to its exercise. But not all constitutionalising projects are devoted to the same ends. The legal saga of the Chagossians throws into sharp relief the disparity between the imperial constitutionalism which was constructed to organise the governance of the United Kingdom’s colonial possessions in the mid-nineteenth century and the principles which supposedly underpin its liberal democracy in the twenty-first. The denial of substantive protections for a colonised community against unchecked and oppressive exercises of executive power sits uneasily with the prevailing understandings of the United Kingdom’s constitutional arrangements, even though the constitutional architecture of the British Empire was designed to achieve this very end. Drawing upon archival material which highlights how differently the Chagossians were treated from ‘settler’ communities such as the Falklanders, our paper reassesses the Chagossians’ legal struggle in light of the hurdles that this bifurcated constitutional order places in their path, and the significant impacts of their efforts to navigate these barriers to justice upon this constitutional structure.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: Rule of Law – British Overseas Territories – Imperial Constitutionalism – Colonial Laws Validity Act – Falkland Islands – Chagos Islands
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Law
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA History of Great Britain > DA010.5 British Empire. Commonwealth of Nations. The Commonwealth
D History General and Old World > DS History of Asia > DS331 Southern Asia. Indian Ocean Region
K Law > KD Law of the United Kingdom and Ireland
Depositing User: Thomas Frost
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2018 09:18
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2018 08:36

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