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Victory of UN General Assembly vote on Chagos and Diego Garcia: David and Goliath


The United Nations General Assembly voted yesterday 22 June to send the issue of the decolonization of Mauritius, that is to say the issue of Chagos, including Diego Garcia, to the International Court of Justice at The Hague for an Advisory Opinion to guide the General Assembly. This comes at long last, after LALIT has fought for this precise type of resolution to be put to the UN General Assembly for 32 years. The Mauritian state has only gradually built up the courage, as the continued mobilization has built in Mauritius, with constantly increasing support from abroad. The Chagossians’ struggle has also opened the way to the victory of this resolution getting the General Assembly, and to the victory of the vote itself.

 94 countries voted in favour of Mauritius’ Resolution, supported ably by the African union which declared the resolution a decolonization issue. Britain scraped together 15 votes against, despite both the UK and USA making very dire, if empty, threats to the UN General Assembly. They said, if you can believe the childishness of it, that this request for an Advisory Opinion would open the flood-gates to an uncontrollable torrent of supposedly similar disputes which would clog up the Court. Britain did not get important European countries’ support; even Germany and France preferred to abstain. Abstention on the issue of requesting a legal opinion seems rather spineless, but it is preferable to the outright declarations of “might is right” by the UK and USA representatives, short of any other argument.

 The UK State has been exposed in its own courts in the cases brought by Olivier Bancoult to have been duplicitous and mendacious over Chagos and Diego Garcia. And the UK continues on this road. In his statement, the UK Permanent Representative said, for example, how there was in 1965 a Mauritian Council of Ministers that was elected that negotiated the supposed deal for excision of Chagos in exchange for money. Those at the talks were leaders of political parties (Labour, the IFB, CAM and PMSD) at best, as he well knows, and a “private sector” leader, elected by exactly nobody, a fact which, if disclosed, might have discouraged one or two of the 13 states hoodwinked into voting against the resolution. We assume that the US representative is in on the duplicity and mendaciousness in 1965, as the Official Secrets’ Act documents proved when they saw the light of day in 1995, and still is today.

 Another thing that might have been made clear by the UK representative: the Head of State of Mauritius at the time of the supposed deal he is referring to, by which Chagos was supposedly ceded by Mauritius to the UK for money, was no other than the Queen of England, represented by the Governor General, one Sir John Rennie. So she, as Head of State, could have come to any agreement she wanted to with the other party, the UK, represented by the same Queen of England.

 LALIT is profoundly moved by the principled stand of the African union. Their action, in co-sponsoring the resolution, gives physical form, physical reality to the content of the resolution: i.e. to its call for a legal opinion on the decolonization issue. The African union, stood up before all nations of the world and said, “This is about the decolonization of Africa”.  This then makes a mockery of the UK’s argument that the issue is between two states. And the horror of left-over colonialism is that, for everyone in the world to see, the UK and US representatives stood up and pretended that the African union is not sponsoring the resolution. They even manage to scrape together 13 other nations to make the same insulting, colonial error of pretending the colonized (in this case ex-colonized) do not even exist.

 The brilliant intervention of the El Salvador representative, Ruben Zamora Rivas, who had the central philosophical and historic issue at his fingertips and who spoke in anger, made it clear that it is utterly absurd to reduce the Chagos issue to one “between two states” when it concerns sovereignty at decolonization.

 We conclude that, in fact, the Permanent State of the UK and USA are not acting in good faith at all, but rely, as they did in 1960’s, and for which their own Courts have denounced them, on “might is right”. And they lost at the General Assembly of the United Nations.

 Now the issue will go before the ICJ.

 But at the same time, we have to keep our focus on, inter alia:

- Pressure to implement on the gains made in the binding findings of the UNCLOS Tribunal, in particular, to force the Mauritian State to set up an Island Council and Constituency for Chagos, to set about immediately building up a fishing fleet big enough to ply the Chagos waters instead of supporting real estate scams;

- Pressure to act under the Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa, and its relatively new AFCONE committee, by calling in EAIA inspectors to Diego Garcia, and to get inspectors to check for cluster bombs on Chagos, as Mauritius is a signatory to this treaty as well.

- Continue to inform the broad masses of organized people world-wide of this shocking relic of colonialism, one similar to Palestine in many ways.


23 June 2017