Mauritius and the AU have hailed the recent ruling of the International Court of Justice that the decolonisation of Mauritius was not lawfully completed by Britain at independence in 1968 and that the UK has a legal obligation to restore the Chagos Islands to Mauritius as soon as possible.
“It is unthinkable that today, in the 21st century, there is a part of Africa that still remains subject to European colonial rule,” ambassador Namira Negm, the legal counsel to the AU, said.
The ICJ found that the dismemberment of Mauritius in 1965, the retention of the Chagos archipelago as a UK colony, and the forcible removal of the Chagossians violated international law. The court ruled that the UK is under a legal duty to restore the islands to Mauritius “as rapidly as possible”.
“This is a historic moment for Mauritius and all its people, including the Chagossians who were unconscionably removed from their homeland and prevented from returning for the last half-century,” Jugnauth has said.
The case was submitted to the ICJ by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in June 2017, although the UK urged the ICJ not to answer the questions put forward by the UNGA and asked the ICJ to rule that decolonisation had been completed. The ICJ as the principal judicial organ of the UN had rejected the UK’s arguments. The AU has responded to the ICJ judgment saying that the UK is under an obligation to end the administration of the Chagos archipelago and that AU member states are under an obligation to co-operate with the UN to complete the decolonisation of Mauritius.
The UK said, “This is an advisory opinion, not a judgment. Of course, we will look at the detail of it carefully.”
* Ebrahim is Independent Media's Group Foreign Editor.