Friday, November 22, 2019

The UK ignores the international community

Britain showed “outright defiance” of a UN deadline to hand the Chagos Islands to Mauritius by Friday. Diego Garcia, the largest island in the archipelago, is a strategically-important US military base used by American bombers and, in the past, for rendition flights carrying terrorism suspects.

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. 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.

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”.
Always keen to instruct other nations to follow international law, the UK on this occasion regards neither the ICJ judgment nor the UN motion as legally binding.

Jagdish Dharamchand Koonjul, the permanent representative of Mauritius, said:
“The time has come for the United Kingdom to comply with the international rule of law which it has so long championed.” 

Prof Philippe Sands QC, who represented Mauritius at The Hague, said: “The failure to give effect to the ICJ ruling and general assembly decision is lawless and deeply regrettable, a reflection of a continuing colonial mindset. It undermines the UK’s supposed commitment to the rule of law.

Having forcibly relocated the Chagossians from their home, many of the islanders and their descendants settled in the UK, where there have been attempts to deport third-generation Chagossians on the grounds that even if their grandparents would have been entitled to UK residency they are not.

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