Diego Garcia: British American Legal Black Hole in the Indian Ocean?
Posted: 13 Mar 2009
Environmental risks from US military construction on the atoll of Diego Garcia (British Indian Ocean Territory) since 1971 include damage caused by large-scale coral mining , the introduction of invasive alien plant species, continuous transits of nuclear material and unreported major fuel spills; these risks are now compounded by those of sea-level rise and ocean acidification due to global climate change. The US and UK governments have evaded accountability by way of a persistent black hole strategy, contending that some national laws and international treaties for the protection of human rights and the environment do not apply to the island a position confirmed by a controversial appellate judgment of the House of Lords in October 2008, essentially relying on prerogative colonial law. This article draws attention to the fallacy of the black-hole syndrome, and to its potentially fatal consequences for the British claim to a 200-mile environment protection zone in the Chagos Archipelago.
Keywords: marine environment military impacts, human rights, biodiversity, climate change, law of the sea, environment protection zones
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