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Today, there are no Chagossians that live on the island of Diego Garcia, as it is now the site of the military base Camp Justice.
On 30 December 1966, the United States and the UK executed an agreement through an Exchange of Notes which permit the United States to use the BIOT for defense purposes for 50 years (through December 2016), followed by a 20-year optional extension (to 2036) to which both parties must agree by December 2014
The main mission of NSF Diego Garcia is to maintain
and operate facilities and provide services and materials in support of afloat
units, operating forces on forward deployment, and tenant shore activities. More
specifically, for the present, the mission of NSF Diego Garcia is “to provide
logistic support to operational forces forward deployed to the Indian Ocean and
From satellite pictures, Diego Garcia looks like paradise.
The small, secluded atoll in the Indian Ocean, with its coral beaches, turquoise waters and vast lagoon in the centre, is 1,600 kilometres from land in any direction.
A perfect hideaway. But no one is allowed to set foot on it.
The little-known British possession, leased to the United States in 1970, was a major military staging post in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. It continues to be, in effect, a floating aircraft carrier, housing 1,700 personnel who call it Camp Justice.
But intelligence analysts say Diego Garcia's geographic isolation is now being exploited for other, darker purposes.
They claim it is one in a network of secret detention centres being operated by the Central Intelligence Agency to interrogate high-value terrorist suspects beyond the reach of American or international law.
These prisoners are known as "ghost detainees" or the "new disappeared," and they're being subjected to treatment that makes the abuses at the military-run Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad and Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba look small-time, say intelligence analysts.
Underneath this international support for an African nuclear-weapon-free zone, however, is a low-profile but high-stakes dispute over the status of the Chagos Archipelago, which includes Diego Garcia. This coral atoll in the British Indian Ocean Territory happens to be the site of one of the most valuable (and secretive) U.S. military bases overseas. Both Britain and Mauritius claim sovereignty over the archipelago.
According to the map appended to the Pelindaba Treaty, the nuclear-weapon-free zone explicitly covers the "Chagos Archipelago--Diego Garcia," albeit with a footnote (inserted at the British government's request) stating that the territory "appears without prejudice to the question of sovereignty." (To read more about the negotiations that led to the ominous Diego Garcia footnote, see the U.N. Institute for Disarmament Research publication, "The Treaty of Pelindaba on the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone.") Although all of the participating African countries agreed that the Chagos Islands should be included in the treaty parameters, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) did not, stating that it had no doubt as to its sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory, and upon signing the protocols noted that it did "not accept the inclusion of [the Chagos Islands] within the African nuclear-weapon-free zone" without consent of the British government.
To make matters worse, in 2010, the British government created a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Chagos. Officials denied it was an attempt to prevent a return no matter the court rulings. Then a secret Wikileaks cable revealed a senior British official saying, "Former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve." U.S. officials agreed the MPA would likely "be the most effective long-term way to prevent" resettlement. Adding insult to injury, the British official repeated his predecessor's racist slur, saying the MPA would allow no "Man Fridays."