Chagos Archipelago sovereignty dispute

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Republic of Mauritius including islands claim by the country

Sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago is disputed between Mauritius and the United Kingdom. The Constitution of Mauritius states that the Outer islands of Mauritius includes the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agaléga, Cargados Carajos and the Chagos Archipelago, including Diego Garcia and any other island comprised in the State of Mauritius.[1] The Government of the Republic of Mauritius has stated that it does not recognise the British Indian Ocean Territory which the United Kingdom created by excising the Chagos Archipelago from the territory of Mauritius prior to its independence and reiterates that the Chagos Archipelago including Diego Garcia forms an integral part of the territory of Mauritius under both Mauritian law and international law.[2]

In 1965, the United Kingdom split the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius and the islands of Aldabra, Farquhar and Desroches from the Seychelles to form the British Indian Ocean Territory. The islands were formally established as an overseas territory of the United Kingdom on 8 November 1965. On 23 June 1976, Aldabra, Farquhar and Desroches were returned to Seychelles as a result of its attaining independence.


The Chagos has been part of Mauritius since the 18th century when the French first settled the islands. All of the islands forming part of the French colonial territory of Isle de France (as Mauritius was then known) were ceded to the British in 1810 under the Act of Capitulation signed between the two countries. Chagos always was part of Mauritius, and was generally recognised as being so, until the UK purported to split it off in 1965, prior to Mauritian independence in 1968 and leased Diego Garcia, the main island of the archipelago, to the United States under a 50-year lease (which expires in 2016 and comes up for renewal in 2014).[3]


Diplomatic cable signed by D.A. Greenhill, 1966, relating to the depopulation of the Chagos Archipelago stating "Unfortunately along with the birds go some few Tarzans or Man Fridays."

After initially denying that the islands were inhabited, British officials forcibly expelled approximately 2,000 Chagossians who had lived on those islands a century to mainland Mauritius to allow the United States to establish a military base on Diego Garcia. Since 1971, only the atoll of Diego Garcia is inhabited only by some 3,000 UK and US military and civilian contracted personnel.[4] [5][6]

Mauritius has repeatedly asserted that the British claim that the Chagos Archipelago is one of its territories is a violation of United Nations' resolutions banning the dismemberment of colonial territories before independence. The UK has stated that it has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Chagos but has also said that the Chagos will be returned to Mauritius once the islands are no longer required for defence purposes. Given the absence of any progress with the UK, Mauritius has decided to "internationalise" the dispute and take up the matter at all appropriate legal and political forums. The African Union and the Non-Aligned Movement have expressed unanimous support for Mauritius on the Chagos issue.[3]

Marine protected area[edit]

The British Government established a marine protected area (MPA) around the Chagos Islands known as the Chagos Marine Protected Area was created on the 1st April 2010 and enforced on the 1st November 2010.[7] It is the world's largest fully protected reserve, twice the size of Great Britain. The designation proved controversial as the decision was announced during a period when the UK Parliament was in recess.[8]

On December 1, 2010, WikiLeaks release a leaked US Embassy London diplomatic cable dating back to 2009 [9] exposed British and US calculations in creating the marine nature reserve. The cable relays exchanges between US Political Counselor Richard Mills and British Director of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Colin Roberts, in which Roberts "asserted that establishing a marine park would, in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago’s former residents." Richard Mills concludes:

The cable (reference ID "09LONDON1156" [10]) was classified as confidential and "no foreigners", and leaked as part of the Cablegate cache.

Legal proceedings[edit]

The Government of Mauritius initiated proceedings on 20 December 2010 against the UK Government under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to challenge the legality of the ‘marine protected area’. Mauritius argues that Britain breached a UN resolution when it separated Chagos from the rest of the colony of Mauritius in the 1960s, before the country became independent, and that Britain therefore doesn’t have the right to declare the area a marine reserve and that the MPA was not compatible with the rights of the Chagossians.[11][12]


In March 2014, it was reported that the UK government were sending experts to the islands to examine options and risks of resettlement.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 111. Interpretation. Government of Mauritius. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "Chagos remains a matter for discussion". Le Defimedia. Retrieved 22 September 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Time for UK to Leave Chagos Archipelago". Real clear world. Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  4. ^ "Commonwealth Secretariat — British Indian Ocean Territory". Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "Neutral Citation in the Royal Courts of Justice, London". Government of Mauritius. Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "Protect Chagos". Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "UK sets up Chagos Islands marine reserve". Retrieved 9 July 2012. , Avaaz
  9. ^ "leaked US diplomatic cable". Archived from the original on 2 December 2010. Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  10. ^ Full discussion and copy of WikiLeaks cables - "HMG FLOATS PROPOSAL FOR MARINE RESERVE COVERING THE CHAGOS ARCHIPELAGO (BRITISH INDIAN OCEAN TERRITORY)". The Daily Telegraph (London). 2011-02-04. ISSN 0307-1235. OCLC 49632006. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  11. ^ "STATEMENT BY DR THE HON. PRIME MINISTER TO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY". Government of Mauritius. 31 May 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  12. ^ "Chagos marine reserve challenged at tribunal". The UK Chagos Support Association. 22 April 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  13. ^

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