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UK court grants right of return for Indian Ocean islanders removed for US naval base

[JURIST] The UK High Court on Thursday ruled [judgment text] that a group of Indian Ocean islanders known as the Chagossians [Wikipedia backgrounder; advocacy website] must be allowed to return to the group of islands from which they were exiled in the 1960s in order to make way for the Diego Garcia naval base [official website]. Overall roughly 2,000 Chagossians were removed after the British government leased the island to the US government in order to for it to develop the strategic staging area. Although the islanders will not be able to return to Diego Garcia itself, the largest of the islands, the court ruled that the Chagossians do have a right to return to the other 65 islands making up the archipelago. Despite Thursday's win for the Chagossians, the US and British governments still have a right to veto the decision under the contract between the two nations which provides that they have control over who lives on the islands.

The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website] last month ruled [PDF opinion; JURIST report] in a similar suit against the US Department of Defense that federal courts lacked the authority to grant compensation to the Chagossians for losses they incurred because of the development of the military base. BBC News has more.

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