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Durham University

IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Boundary news

Chagos Islands dispute referred to ICJ

(7 July 2017)

A dispute between the UK and Mauritius over the disputed Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean is to be referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for ‘Advisory Opinion’.

Mauritius, a former British colony that gained independence in 1968, says the islands are part of its territory and wants the ICJ to offer its opinion on the status of the islands’ sovereignty. 

Britain says its claim to the Chagos Islands is rooted in an agreement it made with Mauritian leaders in 1965 when the islands were detached from the colony prior to granting Mauritius independence.

The British Foreign Office argues that the bilateral dispute is outside the jurisdiction of the ICJ. Mauritius argues that the UK broke international law when it detached the islands before granting Mauritius its independence.

"This is a disappointing outcome," a UK Foreign Office spokesman said: "Sovereignty of the British Indian Ocean Territory is clearly a matter for the UK and Mauritius to resolve ourselves.”

The Foreign Office said it would be an "inappropriate" use of the ICJ and that it did not recognise Mauritius's claim to sovereignty over the islands - but that it would return the islands when they were no longer needed for defence.

"We have committed to cede them to Mauritius when the territory is no longer required for defence purposes," the spokesman said.

"At present it plays an important role in regional and global security, helping to keep the UK, US and other allies, including Mauritius, safe."



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