Published: 28 June 2017 Author: Stefan Talmon
Prior to 1965, the Chagos Archipelago had been administered as a dependency of the then British colony of Mauritius. On 8 November 1965, the Archipelago was detached from the colony to be administered separately by the United Kingdom as the British Indian Ocean Territory (“BIOT”). Beginning in 1967 the Archipelago was evacuated to allow the United States to use the islands for defence purposes under a lease from the United Kingdom. Mauritius, then without the Chagos Archipelago, became independent on 12 March 1968. Since at least 1980 it has asserted that the detachment of the Chagos Archipelago was unlawful and that it has sovereignty over the archipelago. The United Kingdom has always rejected these claims.
Mauritius tried to raise the question of sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago before an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and before the European Court of Human Rights. However, none of these courts and tribunals was competent to rule on the question of sovereignty.
After the United Kingdom announced that none of the Chagossians who had been expelled in the 1960s to make way for military bases would be allowed to return to live on the Archipelago, the Government of Mauritius declared on 17 November 2016 that: (more…)