FACT : The Sovereignty of Chagos Archipelago - disputed between UK & Mauritius.
TIMELINE OF THE EVENTS :
1965 – UK separated the archipelago from Mauritian territory & exercised its control.
1968 - Mauritius gained its independence from Britain & asked for the Chagos archipelago as well.
1968- 1973- UK & US – used the archipelago as a military base & entire population of chagossian was forcibly removed.
2015 – Permanent court of Arbitration unanimously held that the marine protected area (MPA) created by United Kingdom in Chagos Archipelago is violation of international law.
2017 - United Nations General Assembly sought ICJ’s Advisory opinion on this issue.
2019 – ICJ held that U.K. should relinquish the archipelago.
On 25 February 2019, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965 that the United Kingdom should relinquish the archipelago.
ICJ JUDGEMENT – KEY TAKEAWAYS :
The Court concluded that “the process of decolonization of Mauritius was not lawfully completed when that country acceded to independence” and that “the United Kingdom is under an obligation to bring to an end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible”.
Moreover, the Court noted that “the adoption of resolution 1514 (XV) represents a defining moment in the consolidation of State practice on decolonization” and that “[b]oth State practice and opinio juris at the relevant time confirm the customary law character of the right to territorial integrity of a non-self-governing territory as a corollary of the right to self-determination”.
The Court concluded that, “as a result of the Chagos Archipelago’s unlawful detachment and its incorporation into a new colony, known as the [British Indian Ocean Territory] BIOT, the process of decolonization of Mauritius was not lawfully completed when Mauritius acceded to independence in 1968”.
STANCE OF INDIA : MAY 23 2019 : India was among 116 nations to vote in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution that demanded the UK withdraw its “colonial administration” from the Chagos Archipelago unconditionally within six months, supporting Mauritius in its quest for the restoration of sovereignty over the island chain in the Indian Ocean.
BACKGROUND ON ICJ ADVISORY JURISDICTION
WHO CAN SEEK FOR ADVISORY JURISDICTION ? It can be invoked by U.N. organs and specialized agencies under Art.65(1) of ICJ Statute.
IT IS MANDATORY FOR ICJ TO GIVE ADVISORY OPINIONS WHENEVER IT HAS BEEN SOUGHT? No. It is discretion of the ICJ. Article 65(1) stipulates that the Court ‘may give an advisory opinion … at the request of whatever body may be authorized by or in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations’, leaving to the Court’s discretion the decision of whether to comply with the request or not.
RATIONALE OF THE DISCRETION : The discretion whether or not to respond to a request for an advisory opinion exists so as to protect the integrity of the Court’s judicial function as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.
EXERCISE OF THE DISCRETION : ICJ has so far exercised this discretionary power carefully. It has refused to give opinions if a request has ‘compelling reasons’ not to give advisory opinions. The determination of what may constitute a ‘compelling reason’ is left to the careful evaluation of the judges on a case-by-case basis.
BINDING NATURE OF THE ADVISORY OPINIONS : It is non-binding in nature. It also depends on the internal rules of the requesting institution. It has juridical value. Advisory opinions are relied upon and cited as legal authority even in contentious cases.
UPSC POSSIBLE-QUESTIONS :
1. Discuss the summary of recent ICJ Judgement Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965.
2. Explain the Advisory Opinion of ICJ along with recent opinions tendered by ICJ.
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