Quakers express support for campaigners arrested over Diego Garcia protest

By staff writers
March 13, 2008

British Quakers today lent their support to the concerns of the two human rights campaigners arrested off Diego Garcia after protesting about the island's use in British and US military operations.

The two men were demonstrating against the island's admitted use by the US for rendition flights and the historic removal of the Chagos islanders from their homes nearly 40 years ago.

The men, Jon Castle, a Quaker from Devon, and Peter Bouquet, said they were motivated by the Quaker ideal that "you should bear witness to a crime, even if you cannot stop it happening." They had sailed their boat, the Musichana, over 2000 miles to carry out their protest.

Both men are former captains of Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior and veterans of environmental and human rights direct actions around the world.

They are currently part of a group called the People's Navy which has been seeking to highlight the plight of the Chagossians and to protest against the military use of the islands, which form part of the British Indian Ocean Territory.

In a statement before their arrest, the men said that they wanted to show "the serious nature of our concerns about the plight of the Chagossians and about ... military activities on Diego Garcia".

Foreign Secretary David Milliband admitted in February that the island had been used as a stopping point for the extraordinary rendition of two detainees.

Gillian Ashmore, Chief Executive Officer for the Quakers, said: "People matter. In the end human rights are about people being treated like people who matter. Quakers are concerned about abuses of power and acts which may amount to torture.

"Our Yearly Meeting has called on government to do all in its power to prevent the use of all forms of torture. We support the calls by British MPs and human rights groups for an independent inquiry into the use of Diego Garcia by the CIA."

The arrests come in a week in which MPs and human rights groups have demanded an independent inquiry into the use of Diego Garcia by the CIA. Lord Malloch Brown, the Foreign Office minister, has spoken to Manfred Novak, the UN's special investigator on torture, about the alleged use of Diego Garcia as a detention centre for holding US suspects.

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