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LALIT: ICJ Opinion may mean Pelindaba Treaty now outlaws US nuclear base on Diego Garcia


LALIT wishes to place on record that the United States military base on Diego Garcia, part of Chagos “leased” by the UK to the USA which is known to be a nuclear base where inter alia nuclear submarines are repaired, is now, following the Advisory Opinion of 25 February this year, at risk of being in contravention of the binding Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa. LALIT thus calls on Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth to call, in turn, on the UN’s AFCONE Committee, set up in South Africa under this Treaty, to get the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to conduct inspections for nuclear materials that are now unlawful on any part of Chagos.

 The judgment of the International Court of Justice at The Hague means there is an Advisory Opinion for the UN General Assembly from the highest UN Court that states that:

 “The Court concludes that, as a result of the Chagos Archipelago’s unlawful detachment and its incorporation into a new colony, known as the BIOT, the process of decolonization of Mauritius was not lawfully completed when Mauritius acceded to independence in 1968 .... [and that] the United Kingdom’s continued administration of the Chagos Archipelago constitutes a wrongful act entailing the international responsibility of that State ... [and that] Accordingly, the United Kingdom is under an obligation to bring an end to its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible, thereby enabling Mauritius to complete the decolonization of its territory in a manner consistent with the right of peoples to self-determination .... [and that] all States have a legal interest in protecting that right ...”

 This judgment was handed down on a 13-1 near-unanimous Opinion, with the only USA’s judge not agreeing.

 At the time of the finalizing of the binding Pelindaba Treaty, in order for the whole of Africa to be a nuclear-arms free area as agreed as a condition of the post-Apartheid Nelson Mandela Government for shutting down the Apartheid regime’s nuclear arsenal set up illegally with French and Israeli aid, there were the notorious “dotted lines” put around Chagos. Now, these dotted lines represented the fact that it was not clear whether Chagos was part of Britain, i.e. the British Indian Ocean Territory, or part of Mauritius, and therefore part of Africa. Well, we can say with certainty that the ICJ Advisory Opinion means that Chagos is without a doubt part of Mauritius that was, at the time of the signing of the Pelindaba Treaty, not yet fully de-colonized. The UNCLOS judgement under the Law of the Sea adds its weight. It also statutes that BIOT is not part of Britain, and though a majority of judges did not think they were habilitated to decide on the sovereignty issue, a minority did and said in their judgment that Chagos is part of Mauritius.

 So, now that it is clear that Chagos is part of Mauritius, and it is known that Diego Garcia is part of Chagos and that Mauritius is part of Africa, it becomes the duty of the Mauritian Government, and indeed all African Governments, and indeed all signatories to this binding treaty, to ensure that there are no nuclear materials on Diego Garcia.

 Here is what the Pelindaba Treaty says:

Article 1. Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to: ... (g) Allow any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control.

Article 4: Prevention of stationing of nuclear explosive devices: (1). Each Party undertakes to prohibit, in its territory, the stationing of any nuclear explosive device.
Mauritius therefore has a duty to go to the AFCONE. Mauritius, already being an elected member of the AFCONE committee, makes this kind of initiative easy. Mauritius just calls for IAEA inspections via AFCONE. This action will obviously consolidate the support that Mauritius received from African union countries over the Chagos case, as well as clearly being the correct thing to do in the interests of peace, elementary safety, and taking due care of the territory that is part of Mauritius

 So, as well as preparing for an official visit of Chagos on an affreighted ship, the Mauritian Government must act now in relation to the Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa. This Treaty is a lasting legacy of Nelson Mandela to world peace. It must be respected in the name of all those who participated in the long struggle against Apartheid from 1948 to 1994.

 Lindsey Collen, for LALIT 9 March, 2019.