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The Court of Appeal of the British Indian Ocean Territory (“BIOT”) has handed down its first judgment in more than 40 years (available here).

The case concerns a number of Tamil asylum seekers who have been the island of Diego Garcia in the BIOT since September 2021. Diego Garcia is part of the Chagos archipelago and is one of the most remote islands in the world. The asylum seekers have made claims for unlawful detention and habeas corpus, which the Supreme Court of the BIOT has ordered to be determined at a hearing on the island in July 2024. The Commissioner of the BIOT applied for special leave to appeal the decision to hold the substantive hearing on Diego Garcia, arguing that it would be disproportionate given the expense and practical difficulties involved in the judge and the parties’ lawyers needing to travel to the island. The Court of Appeal refused leave to appeal, holding that the Judge had given “cogent reasons to support the exercise of a discretion manifestly available to her” (§74). The first instance judge was “best placed to determine the necessity and importance of seeing the military nature of the island generally and the living conditions at the Thunder Cove Camp specifically” (§70).

Further background to related proceedings is available here (the BIOT Supreme Court ruling that legal aid is available because “there cannot be any concept of ‘lesser justice’ in the BIOT” ) and here (the BIOT Supreme Court ruling that key provisions of the Children Act 1989 applied in the BIOT).

Ben Jaffey KC and Natasha Simonsen acted for the successful Respondents in the appeal.

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