The Chagos Islands, a historic dispute before the courts international

The United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) has begun to examine the dispute between the United Kingdom and Mauritius on the Chagos Islands on Monday (3 September). Port-Louis claims the sovereignty of this British archipelago, separated from its territory in 1965. Above all, the island wants to allow the return of the Chagossians, expelled in the 70s to install a US military base.

What is the origin of this dispute?

The case of the Chagos Islands was opened on Monday (September 3) at the court of the International Court of Justice (Court of Justice) in Lia, a dispute over 50 years between Mauritius and his British colonizer.

Located south of the Maldives, the archipelago was ceded to the United Kingdom in 1814 and connected in 1903 to the Mauritius colony. But in 1965, as part of the independence talks, London bought the islands from the semi-autonomous Mauritanian authorities and removed them from the territory. Cutting done « under duress For Port Louis, who gets his independence three years later.

In 1966, the United Kingdom signed a 50-year lease with the United States to use Diego Garcia, the main island of the Chagos archipelago, for military purposes. In 2016, the lease has been renewed for 20 years. The United States then installed a military base, which caused the gradual expulsion of over 2,000 inhabitants from Mauritius and the Seychelles. Since then, for security reasons, the British authorities have forbidden any visit to the Chagos unless a special authorization prevents the approximately 10,000 Chagossians and their descendants from returning to their ancestral lands.

Read also: The declared islands of the Indian Ocean

What role does Diego Garcia's base play in the conflict?

At the opening of the debate on Monday, the United Kingdom expressed its own regrets For the " shameful way Those inhabitants had been treated in 1965. London announced it anyway would firmly defend "His position in the debates, namely to protect the defensive strategic interests he has with the military base of Diego Garcia.

During the Cold War, this base played an important strategic role, since the fall of Saigon and the Khmer Rouge's victory in Cambodia had undermined Washington's military capabilities in Southeast Asia. More recently, he served in both the US wars in Iraq (1990-1991 and 2003-2006) and in the US attacks in Afghanistan in 2001. It was also used by the CIA as an interrogation center for suspects in Afghanistan. after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Today, in view of the situation in the Near and Middle East, it remains in an ideal position for Americans and the British.

Why is the International Court of Justice talking about this problem?

" This is a bilateral dispute Between London and Port Louis, and the ICJ judges should " give up their opinion on this He told Robert Buckland, a British parliamentarian and government legal adviser. However, the International Court of Justice, the main judicial body of the United Nations, is authorized to examine legal disputes between States. In this case, he responds to a UN resolution, presented by Maurizio and supported by the African countries, adopted in June 2017. However, it will only be advisory opinion "Not binding after three days of debate.

But whatever the decision, this file is a diplomatic stop for the United Kingdom. The vote on the UN resolution was supposed to be proof of London's ability to bring its European neighbors together a year after the Brexit referendum. But with 95 votes against the 15, it was particularly marked by the abstention of many European countries such as France, Italy and Germany.

Read also: In the United Kingdom, the return to the pro – and anti – Brexit campaign

Justine Benoit

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