ICJ tells Britain to give up Chagos Islands

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FILE: A demonstrator demanding her return to the Chagos Islands in the Diego Garcia archipelago shouts during a protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London October 22, 2008. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

Britain has been told to give up control over the disputed Chagos Islands, where it is accused of forcefully evicting residents to set up a U.S. air base.

FILE: A demonstrator demanding her return to the Chagos Islands in the Diego Garcia archipelago shouts during a protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London October 22, 2008. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

In a ruling on Monday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in favour of Mauritius, which Chagos Islands was a part of before more than 2,000 residents were evacuated in the 1970s.

ICJ said in a non-binding advisory opinion that Britain had acted unlawfully in the decolonisation process and should relinquish control over the islands, which it calls the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Britain split the archipelago off from its colonial island territory of Mauritius in 1965, three years before granting independence to Mauritius – minus the islands.

Mauritius has argued that it had been forced to give up the archipelago to gain independence from Britain, but Britain maintained that Mauritius had given up the islands willingly.

Presiding Judge Abdulqawi Yusuf said ‘all (U.N.) Member States must co-operate with the United Nations to complete the decolonization of Mauritius,’ which Britain has controlled since 1814.

Diego Garcia, the largest of the Chagos Islands, has played an important role in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan since 1991, acting as a launch pad for U.S. long-range bombers.

In 2016, Britain extended the United States’ lease of Diego Garcia until 2036 and said expelled islanders could not go back.

But the ICJ Judge Yusuf stated: “Having regard to international law, the process of decolonization of Mauritius was not lawfully completed when that country acceded to independence (from Britain) in 1968, following the separation of the Chagos Archipelago.”