Seychelles submits brief to Int’l Court of Justice in support of Chagossians
Chagossians were forcibly evicted from the Chagos archipelago in 1960 when the UK leased the main island, Diego Garcia, to the United States to use as a military base. (Pierre Prosper)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles has made a submission to the International Court of Justice in support of Mauritius on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos archipelago from Mauritius in 1965.
The Deputy Cabinet Secretary for institutional affairs, Johnny Bastenne, told media on Thursday that this move is to show support to the Chagos community residing in Seychelles.
Last year on June 22, Seychelles became one of the 94 countries which voted for the UN resolution requesting an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands, on the legal status of the Chagos islands.
Bastienne said that the opinion was to be given on whether the process of decolonisation of Mauritius was lawfully completed when Mauritius was granted independence in 1968, following the separation.
Secondly, it is to give an opinion on the consequences under international law arising from the continued administration by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland of the Chagos Archipelago.
In 1965, three years before Mauritius was granted independence, the UK decided to separate the Chagos Islands, an archipelago, from the rest of its Indian Ocean colony. The Mauritian government claims this was in breach of UN resolution 1514, passed in 1960, which specifically banned the breakup of colonies before independence.
The chairperson of the local Chagossian Committee, Pierre Prosper, said that the Seychelles government submission is primarily in support of the community of Chagossians in Seychelles.
“The committee lobbied consistently over the past few months for the government to make such a submission in time before the 1st of March deadline. We are very happy that the Seychelles government took this decisive and very important position at this juncture in support of the community in Seychelles,” said Prosper.
Around 2,000 Chagossians were forcibly evicted from the Chagos archipelago in the central Indian Ocean in 1960 after the UK leased the main island, Diego Garcia, to the United States to use as a military base. More than 200 were deported to Mahe, the main island of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, between 1967 and 1973, when the country was still a British colony.
An immigration order preventing anyone from going back was issued in 1971. The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth office statement noted that agreements to house the U.S. base on Diego Garcia will continue until December 2036.
Prosper said that government’s position with regards to the Mauritian sovereignty claim is independent of the Seychelles Chagossians Committee's position.
“While the Mauritian Government has an apparent legal basis for their claim, we urge the Mauritian Government to show more interest in the welfare of Chagossians in general, wherever they may be,” he added.
The chairperson of the local community said, “We welcome future discussions as to whom between the Mauritians or the Chagossians should be the rightful owners of the islands.”