Published: Sat, May 25, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Britain routed in UN vote on Chagos Islands

Britain routed in UN vote on Chagos Islands

Britain faces growing pressure to give up the Chagos Islands after a humiliating defeat in a vote at the United Nations yesterday.

In February 2019, the International Court of Justice also rejected the UK's claim over the sovereignty of the islands, asking Britain to return the islands to Mauritius "as rapidly as possible".

Richard Gowan, International Crisis Group UN director, said Britain would never win the vote as many UN member states were "very proud of the General Assembly's history of fighting colonialism during the Cold War and see this as an extension of that legacy".

Fifteen countries did not vote and 56 abstained - including the vast majority of Europe, with the exception of Spain, which voted in favor of Mauritius.

Mauritius claims sovereignty over the islands.

The vote came just three months about the International Court of Justice said in an opinion that Britain had acted illegally when it split the islands from Mauritius.

The principal judicial body of the United Nations had said in its opinion that the UK Government is "under an obligation" to end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago "as rapidly as possible".

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United Nations also urged Britain to cooperate with Mauritius "in facilitating the resettlement of Mauritian nationals, including those of Chagossian origin, in the Chagos Archipelago, and to pose no impediment or obstacle to such resettlement".

Commenting in the aftermath of the vote, Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said that his country is "extremely disappointed" by the UK Government's position, commented: "The advisory opinion is clear and unambiguous".

"India voted in support of the resolution, with its Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin telling the 193-member that as part of New Delhi's longstanding support to all peoples striving for decolonisation, India has consistently supported Mauritius in its quest for the restoration of sovereignty" over the Chagos Archipelago. The latter has built a military base there, which saw around 2,000 of the island's inhabitants forcibly removed and which served as a base for bombers operating in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The UK retained sovereignty over the islands after Mauritius gained its independence from Britain in 1968.

Pierce added that the joint United Kingdom and United States defence facility on the British Indian Ocean Territory plays a vital role in its efforts to keep "our allies and friends, including Mauritius, in the region, and beyond, safe and secure". In 2016, the lease for the base was extended until 2036.

The secretive military base on Diego Garcia, the largest island, has been dubbed "the Guantanamo of the East" amid suspicions it was a key staging post in the United States rendition and torture programme.

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