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Bancoult v. McNamara

September 30, 2002

OLIVIER BANCOULT ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ROBERT S. MCNAMARA ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



Document Nos. 3, 16, 19, 47

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION 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

I. INTRODUCTION

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 defendant DCDM.

II. BACKGROUND

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 in this action are three individuals and two organizations. Plaintiff Bancoult is a native Chagossian who alleges that in 1967, his family was prevented from returning home to Peros Banhos after a medical visit to Mauritius. Id. at 31. Plaintiff Bancoult alleges that he and his family suffered abject poverty in Mauritius and that he has been rejected repeatedly for employment on Diego Garcia. Id. Plaintiff Mein is a native Chagossian who reports that in 1971 and 1972, persons acting on behalf of the U.S. and British governments forced her family to board a vessel from Diego Garcia to Peros Banhos and, later, to Seychelles. Id. at 32. She alleges that the harsh conditions of passage caused her to miscarriage. Id. Plaintiff France-Charlot was born in Mauritius and is a first-generation descendant of Chagossians native to Salomon Island. Id. ¶ 33. She alleges that as a result of the poverty her family suffered in Mauritius, she suffered social, cultural, and economic oppression. Id. Plaintiffs Chagos Refugee Group and Chagos Social Committee are organizations whose principal interest is the betterment of the Chagossian community in, respectively, Mauritius/Agalega and Seychelles. Id. ¶¶ 34-35.

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.

B. Procedural History

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 ...


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