Diego Garcia: British American Legal Black Hole in the Indian Ocean?

Posted: 13 Mar 2009

See all articles by Peter H. Sand

Peter H. Sand

Institute of International Law - Völkerrecht


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

Suggested Citation

Sand, Peter H., Diego Garcia: British American Legal Black Hole in the Indian Ocean?. Journal of Environmental Law, Vol. 21, No. 1, pp. 113-137, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1358820 or http://dx.doi.org/eqn034

Peter H. Sand (Contact Author)

Institute of International Law - Völkerrecht ( email )

Professor-Huber-Platz 2
Munich, D-80539

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