Chagos Islands: UK refusal to hand back archipelago disregards international law and echoes era of colonialism
Elena Katselli, Senior Lecturer in Law
A nation’s military and geo-strategic interests cannot, under international law, prevail over the sovereign rights of other states. State sovereignty, self-determination and decolonisation are fundamental legal principles the UK should honour as it refuses, despite widespread international condemnation, to hand back control of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean.
Indeed, Britain’s expressed policy that it will protect its interests at any cost, even at the expense of international law and fundamental human rights, has unwelcome echoes of colonialism and discrimination that should have no place in the 21st century.
On May 22, a UN General Assembly resolution calling for the complete decolonisation of Mauritius by ending the UK’s administration over the islands was voted for by 116 nations. Only six – the US, Hungary, Israel, Australia, the Maldives and the UK – voted against it, with 56 abstaining.