Three years before Mauritius gained its independence from the United Kingdom (ie: 1965 and 1968), a chain of tiny islands in the Indian Ocean were separated from the island colony, and still remain under British control five decades later. On Monday, the International Court of Justice Issued an advisory opinion holding that the UK had illegally separated the archipelago from Mauritius, raising a slew of questions as to the strategic islands’ future.
The history of the case can be found on the ICJ’s website here, with the Opinion itself here, and U.S. Judge Joan Donoghue’s dissent here.
Cold War history buffs will be most familiar with the Chagos Archipelago because of the U.S. military’s lease of the British Airbase on Diego Garcia and the expulsion of native islanders to make way for U.S. personnel in the late 1960s. The opinion arguably sets the stage for the removal of U.S. and British presence.*
[Hat tip to my friend Tim Lynch, professor of international law at UMKC and former U.S. Navy officer who spent a bit of time on the island, for bringing the opinion to my attention before the New York Times. Tim characterizes the place as “bliss,” and every picture I’ve seen of it support that assessment.]
* I highly doubt we’ll ever see that come to pass. After all, the United Kingdom refused to consent to the jurisdiction of the ICJ, and the British don’t take kindly to smaller nations that attempt to kick it off remote islands while a strong-willed female Tory Prime Minister is in office.