World Court Ruling May Force US to Abandon Diego Garcia Base

Britain wrongly depopulated island, split it from Mauritius

A new ruling from the World Court may force Britain to revoke its lease of the island of Diego Garcia to the US military, with the finding that the British had unlawfully appropriated the island and expelled its indigenous population prior to the lease.

The court said Britain acted unlawfully in splitting the island off from the territory of Mauritius in 1965, and the presiding judge called on Britain to bring the administration to the end “as rapidly as possible.”

At the time of the split, Mauritius and Diego Garcia were both British colonies. Britain was just three years from granting Mauritius independence, however, and decided it was keeping Diego Garcia and the rest of Chagos in the process.

A few more years later, they wanted to lease out Diego Garcia, which involved evicting some 2,000 civilians from the island. Islanders have been fighting to be allowed to return since the 1970s, though Britain has said in the past they wouldn’t be allowed to.

All of this raises an interesting possibility, however. While the US always turns its nose up at World Court rulings like this, the ruling isn’t against them, it’s against Britain. It’s not clear what the British government intends to do yet, but they may decide the international pressure is just not worth the lease money they get from the US.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.