In a major victory for Mauritius, the International Court of Justice ruled on 25 February that the British occupation of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean was illegal. The World Court said the territory should be returned to Mauritius "as rapidly as possible" and portrayed it as the final stage of the decolonization of Mauritius. The ruling was advisory and non-binding.
The Chagos archipelago, home to the military base of Diego Garcia on lease to the United States, is half way between Madagascar and Kanyakumari. Britain agreed to lease Diego Garcia to the US, split off the Chagos Islands and began deporting its population just three years before Mauritius got independence in 1968.
Mauritius has run a long standing campaign against Britain’s rule over the Chagos, a campaign which has been supported by India. In 2017, the United Nations General Assembly voted to refer the case to the World Court. In the vote, 94 states voted in favour of Mauritius, 15 nations voted against. Notably, many European countries joined the 65 abstainers.
London has said it would cede the islands when they were no longer important to its defence needs. Mauritius can now be expected to push for stronger resolutions at the UN and other multilateral fora and build up pressure on Britain.
February 28, 2019