Foreign Office minister accuses UN General Assembly of ‘misuse of powers’ after Chagos Islands judgment
A Foreign Office minister has lashed out at a judgment that the UK should end its control of the Chagos Islands, accusing the UN General Assembly of a “misuse of powers” and setting a “dangerous precedent”.
The retaliation from Alan Duncan comes after the United Nations’ highest court – the International Court of Justice (ICJ) – said Britain had illegally split the islands from Mauritius in the 1960s, and later displaced thousands of islanders.
By 13 votes to one, the ICJ said it was of the opinion the UK is “under an obligation” to bring its administration of the Chagos Islands to an end “as rapidly as possible”.
The judgment is advisory and non-binding, but Labour said it represents a “huge blow” to the UK’s global reputation during foreign office questions in the House of Commons.
Describing the verdict as “damning”, the shadow foreign affairs minister Helen Goodman added: “Will the government therefore heed the call of the ICJ to hand back the islands to Mauritius, or will it continue to pander to the United States’ military?”
While Mr Duncan said the foreign office will “of course consider the detail of the opinion carefully”, he described the decades-old row as a “bilateral dispute” and went on: “For the General Assembly to seek an advisory opinion by the ICJ was therefore a misuse of powers which sets a dangerous precedent for other bilateral disputes.”
Mr Duncan continued in his response: “The defence facilities on the British Indian ocean territory help to keep people here in Britain and the world safe and we will continue to see a bilateral solution to what is a bilateral dispute with Mauritius.”
Reading a summary of a the 14-member tribunal’s decision, presiding judge Abdulqawi Yusuf said the UK was “under obligation to bring to an end the administration of Chagos Islands as rapidly as possible”.
“The United Kingdom’s continued administration of the Chagos Archipelago constitutes a wrongful act,” he added.
After the judgment was issued on Monday, Pravind Jugnauth, the prime minister of Mauritius, hailed a “historic moment”, adding: “Our territorial integrity will now be made complete, and when that occurs, the Chagossians and their descendants will finally be able to return home”.
The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in response: “Over 40 years ago the Chagos Islanders were disgracefully forced from their homes by the UK government – to make way for a US military base.
“It’s fantastic to see the ICJ take crucial steps to correct this injustice and uphold the right of Chagossians to return home.”