The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has confirmed that Mauritius has sovereignty over the Chagos Islands, and urged the UK to end its unlawful occupation of the territory. This case follows an advisory opinion in 2019 by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which found the UK in breach of international law by seeking to maintain its claim to the Chagos Islands.
Following the ICJ’C advisory opinion Mauritius brought proceedings against Maldives to delimit their shared maritime boundary. Maldives argued that ITLOS had no jurisdiction, in part because of a claim by the UK. The Tribunal rejected all of the Maldives’ objections, and ruled that the UK’s administration over the Chagos Archipelago ‘constitutes a wrongful act of a continuing character and thus must be brought to an end as rapidly as possible’ and that it was ‘inconceivable’ that the UK had ‘any legal interests in permanently disposing of maritime zones around the Chagos Archipelago by delimitation’.
The Tribunal will now proceed to delimit the maritime boundary between Mauritius and Maldives.
Philippe Sands QC, who acted for Mauritius in this case, said that ‘the ruling is a hammer blow to the United Kingdom, which will have to bring itself into immediate compliance with international law if it is to hold itself out as a guardian of the rule of law’.