UK used secret threats to keep Chagos Islands, court hears

Mauritius defence minister claims UK forced it to cede territory before independence

3 Sep. 2018

The UK has retained possession of a remote archipelago in the Indian Ocean that includes the strategic US airbase of Diego Garcia through political pressure and secret threats, the international court of justice has been told.

In the opening submissions of a legal challenge to British sovereignty of the Chagos Islands at the court in The Hague, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, Mauritius’s defence minister, alleged that his country was coerced into giving up a large swathe of its territory before independence.

That separation was in breach of UN resolution 1514, passed in 1960, which specifically banned the breakup of colonies before independence, the Mauritian government argued before the UN-backed court, which specialises in territorial and border disputes between states.

The four-day session will hear from representatives of 22 countries in a dispute over colonial history and the rights of exiled islanders to return. The ICJ’s judgment will be advisory, rather than legally binding. Nonetheless, it will be a significant moment in the UK’s increasingly isolated efforts to hold on to the Chagos archipelago.


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