SA participates in ICJ hearings on Chagos Islands

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

South Africa is participating in the oral hearings by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legality of Britain's claim to the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean.

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly requested the ICJ to render an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos from Mauritius in 1965 by the United Kingdom. 

After the ICJ requested Member States of the UN to furnish information to the ICJ on the matter, South Africa submitted a written statement in March and also decided to participate in the oral hearings on the matter scheduled, which started on Monday until Friday.

“South Africa deems participation important as it is seen as a duty of every Member State of the UN to leave no stone unturned to assist the general assembly to remove the last vestiges of colonialism and for all peoples to achieve self-determination and freedom,” DIRCO said on Tuesday. 

South Africa is expected to address the ICJ in The Hague after Mauritius and the United Kingdom addressed the ICJ. 

A total of 22 states and the African Union are participating in the oral proceedings before the court.

These are Argentina, Australia, Belize, Botswana, Brazil, Cyprus, Germany, Guatemala, India, Israel, Kenya, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Serbia, South Africa, Thailand, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America, Vanuatu and Zambia.

The oral proceedings will continue throughout the week with states delivering their oral submissions in accordance with a schedule determined by the ICJ until the African Union delivers the last oral submission on Friday. 

Thereafter, the ICJ is expected to consider the two questions namely, whether the process of decolonization of Mauritius was lawfully completed in light of the separation of Chagos, and what the consequences under international law are that arise from the continued administration of Chagos by the United Kingdom.

Chagos was separated from Mauritian territory before Mauritius achieved independence in 1968 in contravention of the principle that requires the territorial integrity of a former colony to be respected upon achieving self-determination and independence, and the total population was tragically forcibly removed from Chagos between 1967 and 1973. 

Chagos remains under the administration of the UK at present and also hosts a major military airbase at Diego Garcia that is occupied by the United States of America. 

The erstwhile population and their descendants are prevented from resettling and rebuilding their homes on Chagos and Mauritius is unable to exercise its sovereign rights over Chagos. –