A UN tribunal has ruled that Britain acted illegally in the way that it has exercised territorial control over the Chagos Islands. The ruling has raised questions over the UK’s claim to sovereignty and has offered hope of return to hundreds of evicted islanders.
The ruling throws into doubt the UK assertion of absolute ownership, restricts the Americans’ ability to expand their military facility without Mauritian compliance and increases the chances of the evicted Chasossians being able to return to their home. This is a resounding victory for Mauritius, a vindication of its right to sovereignty over the archipelago and confirmation that it must be consulted about future developments on the islands.
Professor Philippe Sands QC, acted as lead counsel for Mauritius, working with Alison Macdonald. Professor Sands said: “This is a historic and far-reaching judgment: for Mauritius, for Africa, for the international rule of law. It offers hope that Mauritius and Britain will be able to move forward to bring to an end an unhappy legacy of colonialism in the Chagos archipelago and Diego Garcia. It opens the door to a return to legality, in relation to matters of sovereignty and the conservation of a remarkable environmental space.”