February 25, 2019
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Latest on the status of the Chagos Islands (all times local):
Cyprus’ attorney general says a United Nations top court ruling on Mauritius is a “legal tool” the Cypriot government could use to negotiate the status of two British military bases on the east Mediterranean island nation.
The International Court of Justice said in an advisory opinion that the U.K. illegally carved up Mauritius when it ended its colonization of the Indian Ocean islands.
Costas Clerides told private TV station Sigma the “landmark” opinion underscores that such issues must be examined under current international legal principles and not those of the past.
Britain retained two military bases on Cyprus when the country gained independence from British colonial rule in 1960. The bases are enshrined in Cyprus’ constitution.
But Clerides said this may be challenged because agreements signed under conditions that prevailed during that time were “far removed” from what could be considered as an “exercise in free will.”
Britain says it will look “carefully” at a United Nations’ court ruling that it should relinquish control of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, while stressing that the court’s view is “an advisory opinion, not a judgment.”
The International Court of Justice ruled Monday that Britain must “bring to an end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible.”
The opinion is non-binding, but represents a victory for islanders who were evicted by Britain in the 1960s and 70s to make way for a U.S. military base on one of the islands, Diego Garcia.
In a statement after the court’s ruling, Britain’s Foreign Office said “the defense facilities on the British Indian Ocean Territory help to protect people here in Britain and around the world from terrorist threats, organized crime and piracy.”
A lawyer representing the island nation of Mauritius says an International Court of Justice ruling saying the U.K. must give up the Chagos Archipelago as its territory will put significant pressure on the British government to act.
While the ruling from the United Nations’ highest court on Monday came in the form of a non-binding advisory opinion, lawyer Philippe Sands said Britain and Mauritius, a former British colony, should work out how to move forward.
The Chagos Islands were split off from Mauritius when it gained independence in 1968 so the United States could build a military base on one of the islands, Diego Garcia.
Sands says Mauritius has good relations with the U.K. and with the United States. He says the ties between the countries “will continue to be excellent. A way will be found to move this forward.”
The United Nations’ highest court says the United Kingdom carved up Mauritius illegally when it ended its colonization of the Indian Ocean islands and must “bring to an end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible.”
The International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion issued Monday is non-binding, but carries weight since it came from the top U.N. court and puts pressure on London to act.
Britain evicted about 2,000 people from the Chagos islands during the 1960s and 1970s so the U.S. military could build an air base. Many of them resettled in the U.K. and have fought in British courts to return to the islands.
The United Nations’ highest court is set to deliver an advisory opinion on the legality of British sovereignty over the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, the largest of which houses a strategically important U.S. military base.
The island nation of Mauritius argues that the Chagos archipelago was part of its territory since at least the 18th century and was taken unlawfully by the United Kingdom in 1965, three years before Mauritius gained independence. Britain insists it has sovereignty over the archipelago, which it calls the British Indian Ocean Territory
Britain evicted about 2,000 people from the Chagos archipelago in the 1960s and 1970s so the U.S. military could build an air base on Diego Garcia. Many resettled in the U.K. and have fought in British courts to return to the islands.
Monday’s opinion by the International Court of Justice is nonbinding.