UK mil bases, controversy, human rights

UK overseas mil. bases embroiled in controversies

Debates over Scots™s likely vote to independence from Britain in the planned Autumn 2014 referendum and its impact on Faslane naval base in Scotland, which is home to Britain™s submarine-based nuclear weapons, call for a look at other controversial British military bases around the world.

Faslane on Gare Loch in Clyde, Scotland, is probably the most strategically-significant British military base outside England and Wales and can potentially become part of a foreign country if people vote in the Scottish independence referendum on September 18, 2014 to secession from Britain.

The controversy around Faslane is at the government level and centers on the fact that London could be forced to remove its nukes from the base if Scotland becomes independent.

But controversies around other British bases hinge upon human rights; a frequent topic when one looks back at British colonial history.

London officially runs eight military bases around the world — other than Faslane — in Cyprus, Germany, Gibraltar, Kenya, Sierra Leone, the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, Brunei and Canada.

There are also two islands in the Indian and Atlantic oceans that are not home to British bases but are used by the British armed forces for military operations.

The two — the Ascension Island in South Atlantic used as a pit-stop for refueling by military planes heading to the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean — and the Akrotiri and Dhekelia bases in Cyprus have been embroiled in controversy.

The British government has been recently accused of forced evacuation of the remote colonial outpost of Ascension Island, uprooting families that have lived there for almost a century.

Locals on the tiny leftover of the British empire say what they are experiencing is similar to what inhabitants of Diego Garcia underwent in the 1690™s, only in slow motion.

Ascension Island is home to a US military base rather than a British one but London operates satellite and submarine tracking stations, a BBC transmitter and a listening post run by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) there.

Companies working for the British government have already replaced most of the local families with contract workers while the local population has dropped by a quarter to less than 800 people over the past ten years. Locals now say there are more antennas than people.

The situation has raised major human rights concerns with locals saying London is slowly squeezing the population out of the island to make way for a US airbase, just the crime done on Diego Garcia 40 years ago.

Britain’s former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook promised in the early 2,000™s to establish democratic institutions on the island, now ruled almost two centuries by Britain, as well as a legal right of abode and to own property to residents.

But that was quickly dismissed by his successor Jack Straw in 2006, allowing the British government to officially clamp down on human rights of locals, who have lived on the island for generations.

Currently anyone who retires or is 18 years-old and unemployed has to leave the island.

That is while, an end of contract for a worker is also interpreted in similar terms and almost all contractors are replacing their old staff with Britons on short contracts.

The plot to depopulate the island by the British government becomes even clearer when taking into consideration London’s response to inquiries about the right of the locals.

British government ministers say œthere is no indigenous population, or ˜islanders™,” the island™s administrator Colin Wells says.

“On Ascension, everyone is an expat, present by virtue of an employment contract,” Wells cited ministers as saying.

In early March 1967, the Commissioner of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) issued a unilateral declaration on Chagos Archipelago, which includes Diego Garcia, that allowed him to acquire any land he wished for the British government.

Under the declaration, named the Acquisition of Land for Public Purposes Ordinance, London bought all the plantations on the archipelago, apparently to leave Chagossians without an income and force them to abandon the territory.

œThe object of the exercise is to get some rocks which will remain ours; there will be no indigenous population except seagulls who have not yet got a committee,” the then head of the British Colonial Office (now Foreign Office) Denis Greenhill wrote in a memo to the British UN delegation at the time.

His office wrote in another memo that the delegation should avoid using the term œpermanent inhabitants” in reference to locals in the BIOT so that they could not claim œdemocratic rights” as residents and London was given œa defensible position to take up at the UN”.

The plot produced result starting in March 1969 when Chagossians faced an ordinance by the British Foreign Office telling them all non-inhabitants of the territory are not allowed back on Diego Garcia as their contracts have been expired, just as was to be repeated on the Ascension Islands.

Diego Garcia was fully evacuated to allow for a British military airport and a US base in March 1971.

Chagossians have been unable to take their cases to any of the international courts of law thanks to the label of non-inhabitants attached to them by the British government.

This comes as according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, œdeportation or forcible transfer of population” is a crime against humanity if “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack”.

Chagossians have also been unable to complain to the ICC as it does not consider crimes committed before July 2002.

The British High Court granted a group of Chagossians the right to return to Diego Garcia but the Foreign Office refused to allow them back and settled the matter through compensations.

The court decision was overruled by the government in 2004 under a Royal Prerogative, banning the islanders from return forever. The High Court challenged the ruling in 2006 but it was confirmed by the House of Lords after a government appeal.

The Diego Garcia depopulation has led to a wave of protests both in UK and in the US, but they have been all simply brushed aside.

The WikiLeaks diplomatic cables revealed in 2010 that London had secretly announced the territory a marine reserve to prevent further trouble.

Britain™s military bases in Cyprus have also been controversial, though not to the scale of the bases in the Atlantic and Indian oceans.

The bases faced violent protests in July 2001, as outraged locals picketed the sites to prevent British plans to construct radio masts in the area as part of an upgrade of British military communication posts around the world.

The bases are parts of areas in Cyprus spanning a total 254 square kilometers, which Britain retained for itself after signing Cyprus™s independence agreement in 1960.

Cypriot president Dimitris Christofias has called the British presence on the island a œcolonial bloodstain” and has pledged to remove all foreign military forces from the island.


Copyright: Press TV