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To continue illegal UK-USA military occupation of Chagos including Diego Garcia 

A UK Note Verbale sent to the U.N. Treaty Section on the “continued extension of the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea to BIOT”, was published on 12 October 2020 on the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office site.

The UK, once again, chooses to flout the rule of international law. Below is what the Occupying Power over the Chagos Archipelago states:

The United Kingdom has no doubt about its sovereignty over the territory of BIOT, which has been under continuous British sovereignty since 1814. Mauritius has never held sovereignty over the islands that now form BIOT and the United Kingdom does not recognise its claim.

“The United Kingdom therefore continues to extend the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to BIOT and apply its provisions.”

It is truly deplorable that the UK still has “no doubt” about a belief it holds even when the ICJ, the very Court it set up, has decided the contrary. And it continues to say Mauritius has “never” held sovereignty, when the UN General Assembly by a resounding 116-6 said Mauritius does have. Talk about might being right. (See below for exact quotations.)

What is the context of this last UK desperate move?

1. Maldives and Mauritius agreement in tribunal

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is currently sitting in Hamburg Germany and has scheduled hearings on the “Dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Mauritius and Maldives in the Indian Ocean (Mauritius/Maldives)”. Maldives has submitted its first round of oral arguments on Tuesday 13 October and Mauritius is due to make its oral submission today, 15 October. 

Mauritius and Maldives have come to an agreement to submit their dispute concerning the delimitation of the maritime boundary in the Indian Ocean to a special chamber of the Tribunal. So UK-USA are now left with only Israel, Hungary and Australia as allies. In other words, the 116-6, is due to become 117-5 soon. 

We can expect UK and USA to pressurize Mauritius, Maldives and other UN member states because, otherwise, the imperialist alliance is having to pay too high a political price for its political agenda.

2. FAO Reports: Indian Ocean Tuna Commission – UK expulsion on the agenda of next meeting

As requested in UN General Assembly resolution 73/295, “Advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965”, the Secretary-General has submitted its report on the implementation of the resolution, including any actions taken by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and other Member States (See full report published 18 May 2020),

In the Secretary-General report under the section “Replies received from organs and agencies of the United Nations system” there is a reply from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in which it draws attention to the Agreement for the Establishment of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission which was concluded on 25 November 1993 under article XIV of the FAO Constitution, and which entered into force on 27 March 1996.

This means the UK is no longer a “coastal States or Associate Members situated wholly or partly within the Area”. 

And so, logically, the Republic of Mauritius has requested the inclusion of an item on the agenda of the meeting “relating to the termination of the United Kingdom (BIOT)’s membership of the Commission as a coastal State following the adoption of the UNGA resolution 73/295 on May 22, 2019”. United Kingdom (BIOT) objects to include this item on the agenda of future sessions of the Commission. The Chair of the Commission “concluded that this issue was a global one” and “also noted that the Commission as a specialised institution of the UN would need to abide by the Resolution of the UN General Assembly” and the Commission “to take note of the issue but to put the issue of the termination of United Kingdom (BIOT)’s membership at the IOTC as a coastal State as an item on the agenda for the next session of the Commission”. The next Indian Ocean Tuna Commission meeting will be held in less than a month, 2-6 November 2020 via video conference.

We recall that UK became a member of the Tuna Commission through its illegal occupation of a colony it set up illegally and named the BIOT. 

ICJ and UNGA Condemnation of UK 

We recall that on 25th February 2019, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN Court, in a damning judgement found that Britain has acted unlawfully on its decolonization of Mauritius. Under international law, Britain is guilty for its illegal occupation of Chagos including Diego Garcia.

The “Advisory Opinion” of the International Court of Justice on “the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965” argues clearly how Britain as occupying power has continuously flouted UN resolutions on granting independence of Mauritius from 1965 onwards:

“173. In its resolution 2066(XX) of 16 December 1965, adopted a few weeks after the detachment of the Chagos Archipelago, the General Assembly deemed it appropriate to recall the obligation of the United Kingdom, as the administering Power, to respect the territorial integrity of Mauritius. The Court considers that the obligations arising under international law and reflected in the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly during the process of decolonization of Mauritius require the United Kingdom, as the administering Power, to respect the territorial integrity of that country, including the Chagos Archipelago.

 “174. 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 in1968.

 “177. The Court having found that the decolonization of Mauritius was not conducted in a manner consistent with the right of peoples to self-determination, it follows that the United Kingdom’s continued administration of the Chagos. […] It is an unlawful act of a continuing character which arose as a result of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius.

 “178. 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.”

So the excision of the Chagos Archipelago including Diego Garcia from Mauritius prior to Independence, was unlawful. The colony British Indian Ocean Territories, set up with the illegal dismembered bit of Mauritius in the 1960s, is equally unlawful.

The International Court of Justice in its advisory opinion of 25 February 2019 and reaffirmed by the General Assembly in its resolution 73/295 by a massive vote of 116 in favour, 6 against on 22 May 2019, held that Chagos had been illegally excised from the territory of Mauritius in violation of international law.

Close the US Military base on Diego: key to Struggle Ahead

LALIT has fought for more than 40 years for the re-unification of Mauritius and for the right of free movement within the entire country for all Mauritians, including all Chagossians, and for a date for the closure of the US military base on Diego Garcia. In LALIT, we maintain that Britain leasing part of the illegal excision to United States to set up a military base on Diego Garcia is unlawful and closing the US military base is key in this struggle.

UK and its accomplice in crime, the USA, have acted and are persisting in acting as rogue states and flouting international law. For the UK and USA as imperialist powers, the rule of law applies only when they say so because of their military might.

Pravind Jugnauth’s government with the strong commitment of the African union and from all those who supported the decolonisation of Mauritius/Africa should move forward by calling for the closure of the US military nuclear base on Diego Garcia thus unifying all forces in favour of decolonisation, of demilitarisation. 

This is key to making progress in the Chagos-Diego struggle.