The Chagos Islands. Photo/Getty

Experts hired to seek advice on ‘lost’ Chagos sea territory

With the division of the sea territory between Maldives and Chagos, Maldives gained the larger part of the disputed territory.

2 January 2024

By Fathmath Ahmed Shareef

Maldives has commissioned foreign experts to seek international advice on whether the previous government took the right stance on the disputed separation of waters between Maldives and Chagos.

To find a way to overturn the decision of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in the sea demarcation case and to recover the so-called lost part of the Southern Economic Zone, the government has begun it’s work and handed it over to the Attorney General's Office last month.

The government said last month that the Attorney General’s Office had begun the process of obtaining and studying documents relating to the case and seeking the advice of leading international experts on the legal position and actions taken by then President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih’s government in the case.

The President's Office Minister Abdullah Nazim Ibrahim told a press conference on Tuesday that foreign experts have been chosen and assigned to seek the advice.

Nazim said the foreign experts are:

  • A UK King’s Council; his report will be submitted to the Cabinet next month

  • ITLOS Professor from Malta; he will visit Maldives very soon and his report will be submitted to the Cabinet this month

“The final report will be submitted to the Cabinet by the end of February,” Nazim said.

The names of the experts were not released by the President's Office on Tuesday. The Attorney General's Office will make the information public later, Nazim said.

The government has also formed a special committee headed by former President Abdullah Yameen's government's Attorney General Mohammed Anil to recover the lost sea territory.

Other members of the committee are;

  • Ahmed Mujthaba on behalf of the Ministry of Defence

  • Secretary Multilateral Ahmed Shiyan on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The documents available so far in this case are, according to the government:

  • President’s letter to the Prime Minister of Mauritius on 22 August last year

  • Letter from the Prime Minister of Mauritius in reply to the letter

The letter sent by the then President to the Prime Minister of Mauritius on August 22 last year was officially made public by the government on August 19 last year.

ITLOS headquarters in Hamburg, Germany, ruled on April 28 that the demarcation of the sea area should start from the coast of Chagos, as argued by Maldives. With that, Maldives has gained a large part of the disputed territory.

ITLOS decided to divide the 92,563 square kilometers between the two countries:

  • Maldives - 47,232 sq km

  • For Mauritius - 45,331 sq km

However, the then opposition and now ruling PPM-PNC accused the Solih government of losing a significant and large part of the southern economic zone.

With the new government taking over, the first 14 weeks will include the work to regain the missing sea territory.