The International Court of Justice has told Britain that it has no right to claim sovereignty of the Chagos Islands. Today’s ICJ judgement said “the UK has an obligation to bring to an end its administration of Chagos archipelago as rapidly as possible.”

In 1968, the UK held onto the Chagos archipelago after Mauritius declared independence. A bilateral agreement between the United States and Britain saw Diego Garcia, the largest of the Chagos Islands, leased to the United States for use as a military base. To make way for the base, Britain expelled the atoll’s indigenous population. Between 1967 and 1973, Britain removed 1,500 people from their homes and they were never allowed to return. For its side of the bargain, the US gave Britain a discount on the Polaris nuclear weapons system.

Some have expressed concern that because Diego Garcia is used as a US military base, it may contravene the The Pelindaba Treaty, the historic 2009 agreement that made the continent of Africa a nuclear-weapon-free zone. The US base has also been a transit point for extraordinary rendition flights for suspected terrorists.

We hope today’s judgement is a step towards justice for the long-suffering Chagos islanders.