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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 June 2021
On January 28, 2021, a Special Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) delivered a judgment in which it rejected preliminary objections raised by the Maldives in arbitral proceedings instituted by Mauritius, concerning the delimitation of the maritime boundary north of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean.
1 Dispute Concerning Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary between Mauritius and Maldives in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius v. Maldives, Preliminary Objections, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, No. 28, Judgment (Jan. 28, 2021) [hereinafter Decision].
2 Id. ¶¶ 79, 104.
3 Id. ¶ 246 for a summary of key findings relating to the status of the Chagos Archipelago, and ¶ 354 for the operative provisions of the judgment.
4 Several proceedings have also been brought in municipal courts, notably by Chagossians against the United Kingdom government. For details, see Richard Gifford, How Public Law Has Not Been Able to Provide the Chagossians with a Remedy, in Fifty Years of the British Indian Ocean Territory 55 (Stephen Allen & Chris Monaghan (eds., 2018); Peter S. Sand, R (on the application of Bancoult) v. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, 103 AJIL 317 (2009); for the rights of the Chagossians, see Kinnari Bhatt, A post-colonial legal approach to the Chagos case and the (dis)application of the land rights norms, 15 Int'l J. L. Context 1 (2018).
5 Chagos Islanders v. UK, European Court of Human Rights, 35622/04 (Dec. 11, 2012).
6 Chagos Marine Protected Area (Mauritius v. United Kingdom), Arbitral Tribunal under Annex VII UNCLOS, PCA No 2011-03, 31 RIAA 359 (Mar. 18, 2015).
7 Id. ¶ 547, Dispositif A3.
8 Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965, Advisory Opinion, 2019 I.C.J. Rep. 95 (Feb. 25) [hereinafter Chagos Advisory Opinion]; see generally Thomas Burri & Jamie Trinidad (eds.), The International Court of Justice and Decolonization: New Directions from the Chagos Advisory Opinion (2021); Robert McCorquodale, Jennifer Robinson & Nicola Peart, Territorial Integrity and Consent in the Chagos Advisory Opinion, 69 Int'l & Comp. L.Q. 221 (2020); Victor Kattan, The Chagos Advisory Opinion and the Law of Self-Determination, 10 Asian J. Int'l L. (1) 12 (2020); Jean Louis Iten, L'avis consultatif de la Cour internationale de Justice du 25 février 2019 sur les Effets juridiques de la séparation de l'archipel des Chagos de Maurice en 1965, 123 Revue général de droit international public 391 (2019); Stephen Allen, Introductory Note to Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965, 58 ILM 445 (2019).
9 United Nations General Assembly Res. 73/295, Advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965, U.N. Doc. A/Res/73/295 (May 22, 2019).
10 Decision ¶ 243, referring to the Chagos Advisory Opinion.
11 Decision ¶¶ 104–105.
12 Id. ¶¶ 81–82, referring to Monetary gold removed from Rome in 1943, International Court of Justice (Preliminary Question), 1954 I.C.J. Rep. 19 (June 15).
13 Decision ¶ 246.
14 Id. ¶¶ 173–174.
15 Id. ¶ 250.
16 Id. ¶¶ 229, ¶ 246.
17 Id. ¶ 247.
18 Id. ¶¶ 288–293.
19 Id. ¶¶ 320–336.
20 Id. ¶ 138.
21 Id. ¶ 352.
22 A House of Commons briefing paper notes that “there is a broad consensus among commentators that the ruling puts greater international legal pressure on the UK government” (Claire Mills, Disputes Over the British Indian Ocean Territory: February 2021 Update, House of Commons briefing paper, No 9134 (Feb. 8, 2021), https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-9134/CBP-9134.pdf. The Chagos Advisory Opinion had already left the United Kingdom's assertion of sovereignty weakened, see Chris Monaghan, Reflections on the UK's Assertion of Sovereignty Over the Chagos Archipelago in the Wake of the Chagos Advisory Opinion, in Burri & Trinidad, supra note 8, at 144–158; for sovereignty after the Annex VII UNCLOS Award, see Thomas D. Grant, The Once and Future King: Sovereignty Over Territory and the Annex VII Tribunal's Award in Mauritius v. United Kingdom, in Allen & Monaghan, supra note 4, at 215.
23 Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, answer to parliamentary question UIN 147924 (Feb. 2, 2021), https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2021-02-02/147924.
24 Global Britain in a Competitive Age: the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy (Mar. 16, 2021), https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/global-britain-in-a-competitive-age-the-integrated-review-of-security-defence-development-and-foreign-policy, 71, 92.
25 For details see Sandra J. T. M. Evers & Marry Kooy (eds.), Eviction from the Chagos Islands: Displacement and Struggle for Identity Against Two World Powers (2011), and Laura Jeffery, Chagos Islanders in Mauritius and the UK: Forced Displacement and Onward Migration (2010).
26 Decision ¶¶ 191–192.
27 Id. ¶ 203.
28 A tendency in this direction has already been observed in discussions of the approach towards UNGA resolutions adopted by the ICJ in its Chagos Advisory Opinion: James Summers, Chagos, Custom and the Interpretation of UN General Assembly Resolutions, in Burri & Trinidad, supra note 8, at 9 and Stephen Allen, Reflections on the Treatment of General Assembly Resolutions in the Chagos Advisory Opinion, in id., at 41.
29 Decision ¶ 229.
30 Id. ¶ 230.
31 One might consider in this regard, Western Sahara, Advisory Opinion, 1975, I.C.J. Rep.12, (Oct. 16); Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion, 1996 I.C.J. Rep. 226 (July 8); Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, 2004 I.C.J. Rep. 136 (July 9).
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