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BANCOULT v. MCNAMARA
September 30, 2002
OLIVIER BANCOULT ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
ROBERT S. MCNAMARA ET AL., DEFENDANTS
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, District Judge
ORDERING FURTHER BRIEFING ON DEFENDANT UNITED STATES' MOTION TO DISMISS;
GRANTING DEFENDANT DCDM'S MOTION TO DISMISS;
DENYING THE PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION; AND
STRIKING THE PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR AN
ANTISUIT INJUNCTION AND SANCTIONS AGAINST DEFENDANT DCDM
This action takes us to the middle of the Indian Ocean, to the tiny
islands of the Chagos Archipelago ("Chagos"). The plaintiffs are
indigenous Chagossians, their survivors, and their direct descendants
("the plaintiffs"). They bring this action
against the United States and
De Chazal Du Mee & CIE ("DCDM") (collectively, "the defendants").*fn1
The plaintiffs now move for a preliminary injunction barring the
defendants from engaging in allegedly discriminatory policies and
practices that deny the plaintiffs access to Chagos and to employment on
Diego Garcia, one of the Chagos islands. The defendants move to dismiss
the complaint on jurisdictional grounds. Defendant United States argues
that this court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction based on sovereign
immunity, the political question doctrine, and lack of standing.
Defendant DCDM, a Mauritian corporation, asks the court to dismiss the
complaint based on ineffective service of process and lack of personal
jurisdiction. Separately, the plaintiffs also move for an antisuit
injunction and sanctions against DCDM. For the reasons that follow, the
court orders further briefing on defendant United States' motion to
dismiss, grants defendant DCDM's motion to dismiss, denies the
plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, and strikes the
plaintiffs' motion for an antisuit injunction and sanctions against
A. Factual Background*fn2
Chagos is a grouping of small islands in the middle of the Indian
Ocean, at least 1,000 miles away from the nearest landmasses of India,
Mauritius, Australia, and the Gulf States. Compl. ¶ 10. It includes
the islands of Diego Garcia, Peros Banhos, Salomon, and numerous other
small islands. Id. ¶ 8. Ceded to the United Kingdom by the French
in 1814, Chagos became part of the British colony of Mauritius, and
continues under British administration today. Id. ¶¶ 9-10, 18. Its
population, which numbered more than 550 in 1861, had grown to
approximately 1,000 inhabitants by the 1960s. Id. ¶¶ 8, 10. During
that period, the Chagossians established communities by working at the
local copra (coconut product) plantations, cultivating vegetables,
raising animals, attending church, and educating their children, and
otherwise engaging in community life. Id. ¶ 11.
In 1964, the British and United States governments entered into
negotiations to establish a U.S. military facility in the Indian Ocean.
Id. ¶ 17. One year later, the British detached Chagos from Mauritius
and incorporated the archipelago in a newly created British Indian Ocean
Territory ("BIOT"). Id. ¶ 9. Subsequently, the Chagos population was
removed to Mauritius and Seychelles. Id. ¶¶ 21-23. Diego Garcia, the
largest of the Chagos islands, then became home to the proposed U.S.
military facility. Id. ¶ 25.
The plaintiffs characterize the events leading up to the establishment
of the U.S. facility on Diego Garcia as fraught with secret agreements,
manipulation, and concealment on the part of the U.S. and British
governments. E.g., id. ¶¶ 17-18, 20. The plaintiffs allege that the
United States and/or its agents physically removed them from Chagos
between 1965 and 1971 by the United States and/or its agents and that
their exile continues today through the defendants' employment
discrimination. Id. ¶¶ 21-23, 26, 61, 74, 76.
On December 20, 2001, the plaintiffs filed a complaint against the
United States, DCDM, and two other defendants alleging forced
relocation, torture, racial discrimination, cruel, inhuman, and degrading
treatment, genocide, intentional infliction of emotional distress,
negligence, and trespass. Id. ¶¶ 59-101. The plaintiffs request
relief in the form of compensatory damages, punitive damages, and
injunctive and declaratory relief. Id. at 37-38.
On March 21, 2002, defendant United States filed its motion to dismiss
the complaint. The United States argues that this court lacks
subject-matter jurisdiction because of the doctrines of sovereign
immunity and political question, and for lack of standing. Def. U.S.'
Mot. to Dismiss at 1-2.
On March 27, 2002, defendant DCDM also filed a motion to dismiss the
complaint. DCDM contends that the plaintiffs failed to effectively serve
DCDM with a summons or to allege a statutory or constitutional basis for
personal jurisdiction against DCDM. Def. DCDM's Mot. to Dismiss at 5,
23-24. On April 12, 2002, the plaintiffs responded with a motion for
leave to conduct immediate discovery and for an enlargement of time to
respond to DCDM's motion to dismiss. Pls.' Mot. for Leave to Conduct
Immediate Disc. ("Pls.' Mot. for Leave"). In addition, on August 1,
2002, the plaintiffs moved for an antisuit injunction and sanctions
against DCDM. Pls.' Mot. for an Antisuit Injunction and Sanctions.
On February 14, 2002, the plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction
to bar defendants United States and DCDM from engaging in allegedly
discriminatory policies and practices that deny the plaintiffs access to
Chagos and to employment on Diego Garcia. Pls.' Mot. for Prelim. Inj. at
A. The Court Orders Further Briefing by the Parties on ...
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