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Homeland: Reconceptualising the Chagossians’ Litigation

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Colin MurrayORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Oxford University Press, 2020.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


The British Indian Ocean Territory’s (BIOT) establishment in the 1960s exemplifies the UK’s efforts to maintain global standing through imperial possessions. The colonised people of these islands, the Chagossians, were swiftly expelled, their interests subordinated to those of the imperial whole. This article re-evaluates the Chagossians’ legal resistance to their treatment, drawing upon archival releases which shed light on the earliest stages of their litigation. We contend that private law rights of exclusion have underpinned the UK Government’s approach to the saga, as they have done for colonised peoples in the past, including the Banabans on Ocean Island. These underpinnings have ensured that the UK Courts’ judicial review decisions have not been able to adequately address the Chagossians’ interests, let alone reverse their expulsion. Rigid categorisations of the Chagossians’ relationship to property and territory have further hampered their cause. We nonetheless maintain that the Supreme Court decision of Bancoult (No 2) leaves open the possibility of future legal challenges by the Chagossians against the UK Government’s latest refusal to authorise resettlement of parts of the BIOT. Ongoing litigation, however, requires that the Courts accept that the Chagossians’ claims cannot be conceptualised in narrow public law terms, with Commonwealth Aboriginal/Indigenous- title jurisprudence providing one as-yet-unexplored avenue.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Frost T, Murray C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Oxford Journal of Legal Studies

Year: 2020

Volume: 40

Issue: 4

Pages: 764-794

Online publication date: 29/10/2020

Acceptance date: 01/07/2020

Date deposited: 02/07/2020

ISSN (print): 0143-6503

ISSN (electronic): 1464-3820

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/ojls/gqaa033


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