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Belize welcomes ICJ’s Advisory Opinion on Chagos Archipelago

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Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2019. 4:29 pm CST.

Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2019. 4:28p.m. CST.

By BBN Staff: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs today issued a statement saying that it welcomes the findings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that the right to self-determination is an established customary norm of international law.

The Court found that the right to self-determination of a people is defined by reference to the entirety of their territory.

It established that under international law, the right to territorial integrity is a corollary to the right to self-determination.

These findings mean that any attempt to forcibly detach any part of a territory from its whole is incompatible with the right to a people’s self-determination and international law.

In its Advisory Opinion released today, 25th February 2019, on the Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965, the ICJ found that the United Kingdom should hand back the Chagos Islands to Mauritius, in the Indian  Ocean, because continued British occupation of those islands constitute an internationally wrongful act.

The UK government had detached the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965 and retained their possession even after Mauritius gained independence in 1968.

The inhabitants of the archipelago were forcibly removed from their islands in order for the UK to lease the islands in 1971 to the USA for its airbase at Diego Garcia.

The Chagossians have never been allowed to return. Mauritius has tried for many years to recover the Chagos Archipelago and the UK government has so far refused to return it to them.

In 2017, the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA) requested the Advisory Opinion of the ICJ.

Belize participated fully in the proceedings of the Court and made substantive arguments in favor of self-determination and territorial integrity.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased that the Court embraced fully Belize’s arguments.

‘The landmark findings of the Court are historic because they add seminal clarity to the principles of international law, in this case, self-determination and territorial integrity, which form an integral part of the arsenal of legal arguments that show without a shadow of a doubt that Belizeans have full title to Belize’s entire mainland territory, islands, and sea,’ the statement from Belize’s Foreign Affairs Ministry says.

The Advisory Opinion is not a judgment of the Court and is, therefore, not a binding decision.

The Ministry says that it hopes that the clarity of the findings and the moral force of the ICJ’s conclusions may lead to new discussions between the UK and Mauritius, with support of the UNGA, to resolve their long-standing differences in accordance with international law.

 

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