The Prime Minister of Mauritius has urged the UK to end its “illegal occupation” of the Chagos Islands, after the United Nations special international maritime court in Hamburg strategically rejected Britain’s claim to sovereignty over the islands. important parts of the Indian Ocean. .
The court’s ruling provides a major headache as the islands represent the UK’s main strategic asset in the Indian Ocean, but a refusal to comply with the ruling will damage Britain’s international reputation for law enforcement.
The United Kingdom retained possession of the Chagos archipelago after Mauritius gained independence in 1968, effectively paying Mauritius over £ 4 million for the islands. In the early 1970s, between 1,500 and 2,000 islanders were forcibly deported so that the largest island, Diego Garcia, could be leased to the United States to use as an air base. They were never allowed to return. Mauritius has promised to allow US troops to remain under a long lease.
The rejection of the UK’s claim was made by the special chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which ruled that Mauritius was right to claim the Chagos Islands in accordance with previous international court rulings.
The ruling also determined that the Maldives could not avoid negotiating its maritime borders with Mauritius by saying that there was a valid live dispute over the sovereignty of the Chagos Islands between the UK and Mauritius.
In 2019, an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, endorsed by the UN general assembly, found that the United Kingdom violated international law by trying to maintain its claim on the archipelago. The UK ignored the views of the ICJ and the UN, dismissing them as advisory, prompting Mauritius to go to the international maritime court to present its claim. It did so by asking the maritime court to resolve its separate maritime dispute with the Maldives, the other island closest to the waters around the archipelago.
The Maldives had tried to avoid maritime court involvement by saying that there was a sovereignty dispute between the UK and Mauritius over the Chagos Islands, which meant that it did not need to negotiate with Mauritius. But by eight votes to one, the maritime court, in a one-hour ruling, ruled in favor of Mauritius, rejecting all jurisdictional objections raised by the Maldives.
Speaking after the trial, Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth said that the UK should end its illegal occupation of the Chagos Islands. “The ruling of the special chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) is clear and unequivocal: Mauritius is sovereign over the Chagos archipelago,” he said.
“The UK must now fully comply with international law, it must immediately end its illegal occupation of the Chagos archipelago, which the International Court of Justice, and now ITLOS, have determined falls exclusively within the sovereignty of Mauritius. The end of the UK administration has no implications for the US military base at Diego Garcia, which Mauricio has pledged to maintain.
“In a few days, the United Kingdom will assume the presidency of the Security Council and has announced that the focus of its month-long presidency will be human rights. Given its continued refusal to allow Mauritius to effectively exercise its sovereignty over the Chagos archipelago and for the former inhabitants of the archipelago to return, we ask the United Kingdom to announce, during its presidency, that it will comply with international law. “
Philippe Sands QC, who represented Mauricio in the case, said: “This sentence is convicting. He has said almost unanimously that there is no basis for the UK’s claim on the islands. The UK has to go and reflect on what it intends to do, but its current position is untenable.
“The UK has to abandon its own claims and instead use its efforts to support a resolution of the maritime dispute between the Maldives and Mauritius. Above all, it has to abandon the position it has held since June 2019 that it still has sovereignty over the islands, despite the ICJ ruling. The maritime court has ruled that the ICJ judgment is legally depositary.
“If the UK persists in its current position, it will knowingly violate international law and its reputation will be damaged in a strategically vital part of the world. The best he could do was facilitate negotiations between Mauritius and the United States on the future of the US base, ”he said.
Mauritius said that ITLOS would now delimit the maritime boundary between Mauritius and the Maldives, on the basis that the Chagos archipelago was Mauritian territory.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism