Refusal to return archipelago to Mauritius ‘lawless’ and ‘reflects colonial mindset’ says barrister
Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent
Fri 22 Nov 2019
Britain’s “outright defiance” of a UN deadline to hand the Chagos Islands to Mauritius by Friday, in a final act of African “decolonisation”, has been condemned by Mauritius and the globally-scattered communities of exiled islanders.
The UK’s refusal to end its occupation of the Indian Ocean archipelago is expected to be marked by protests outside the UK high commission in the Mauritian capital, Port Louis, organised by those who were forcibly deported more than 40 years ago and their descendants.
The Labour party’s election manifesto, published on Thursday, pledges to allow Chagossians to resettle in their homeland.
Earlier this year, the UN general assembly voted by an overwhelming majority of 116 to six countries in favour of a motion condemning Britain’s occupation of the remote islands and demanding what the Foreign Office terms British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) be reunified with Mauritius.
An advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in The Hague, found the islands had been illegally severed from Mauritius in the 1960s. The president of the ICJ, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, urged the UK and other member states to “complete the decolonisation of Mauritius”.
The UK regards neither the ICJ judgment nor the UN motion as binding.
The UN vote in May, which underlined Britain’s diplomatic isolation in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, set a six-month deadline for UK withdrawal, which expires on Friday. The Chagos archipelago is the last African territory to be held by the UK.