UK Loses Chagos Judgement

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

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About the Author

Pramit Pal Chaudhury

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Foreign Editor, Hindustan Times, and Distinguished Fellow & Head, Strategic Affairs, Ananta Aspen Centre

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri writes on political, security, and economic issues. He previously wrote for the Statesman and the Telegraph in Calcutta. He served on the National Security Advisory Board of the Indian government from 2011-2015. Among other affiliations, he is a member of the Asia Society Global Council, the Aspen Institute Italia, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and the Mont Pelerin Society. Pramit is also a senior associate of Rhodium Group, New York City, advisor to the Bower Group Asia in India, a member of the Council on Emerging Markets, Washington, DC, and a delegate for the Confederation of Indian Industry-Aspen Strategy Group Indo-U.S. Strategic Dialogue and the Ananta Aspen Strategic Dialogues with Japan, China and Israel. Born in 1964, he has visited over fifty countries on five continents. Mr. Pal Chaudhuri is a history graduate from Cornell University.