Britain rejects International Court of Justice order to return Chagos Islands to Mauritius
6 March 2019
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Britain to hand back the Chagos Islands, including Diego Garcia, to Mauritius “as rapidly as possible.” This follows its landmark ruling that the UK’s occupation of the Chagos Islands was unlawful.
The court held that the process of decolonization of Mauritius “was not lawfully completed” in 1968 and that “all Member States” had an obligation to cooperate with the United Nations “to complete the decolonization of Mauritius.”
The decision by an overwhelming majority of 13 to 1, with only the US voting against, follows the UN General Assembly’s decision in 2017 to refer the legal status of the Chagos Islands to the ICJ, the UN’s highest court.
The Chagos Islands make up the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), located halfway between Tanzania and Indonesia. Diego Garcia, the largest island, is the site of one of the largest US airbases with some 4,000 US troops as well as British troops stationed there. The implication of the ICJ’s ruling is that the UK’s leasing of Diego Garcia to the US is illegal.
The ICJ’s ruling will be discussed at the UN general assembly, which has already voiced its opposition to Britain’s position by referring the issue to the ICJ in 2017.
The ICJ’s ruling has no binding status. The British government, determined to hold onto its colonial possessions, has rejected both the ICJ’s order and its unanimous ruling that it has jurisdiction because it relates to a UN process of decolonization, not a dispute between two states.
Speaking in Parliament, Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan accused the UN General Assembly of a “misuse of powers” and…