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Who Owns Diego Garcia? Decolonisation and Indigenous Rights in the Indian Ocean

Revelations of torture and rendition at Diego Garcia, in the Chagos Archipelago, over which the UK claims sovereignty, are the latest twist in a history of colonial dispossession, international unlawfulness, and willing capitulation to U.S. strategic demands. At a critical time – the US lease expiring in 2016 – this article examines the validity of the UK’s claim to sovereignty. Analysis of the pre-independence colonial history of the region, the unlawful severance of the Chagos Islands, and the questionable consent given by Mauritian authorities, shows that the UK’s claim to sovereignty over the Chagos Islands is weaker than that of Mauritius. The UK’s deceitful justification for the forced removal of the Chagossians ensured that the US military base was built in breach of their right to self-determination. But the UK has been complicit in U.S. breaches of international law and recent evidence points to its direct involvement in the use of Diego Garcia to “render” a Libyan dissident to torture in Tripoli. The UK strives to deny effective remedies for its unlawful behaviour: do its victims - and its counter-claimant to sovereignty, the government of Mauritius - have any avenues for redress?

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Venue: Doughty Street Chambers, 53-54 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LS

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