Chagossians say don't belong to Mauritius; demand voice in dispute
The letter sent by a civil society forum representing Chagossians has been accepted by ITLOS.
Mariyam Umna Ismail
Chagos islanders have said they do not believe that they originated from Mauritius and that they do not accept the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) ruling that the islands of Chagos belong to Mauritius.
In 2017, the UN General Assembly sought the ICJ's prior advice on the Chagos case, and the ruling was heard in 2019 that Chagos was under Mauritius. In both years, the government of Maldives voted against Mauritius in the General Assembly.
However, during the ongoing hearing of Mauritius' appeal to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas (ITLOS) for the demarcation of the country's economic zone, the government of Maldives changed its stand and announced that it would vote in favour of Mauritius at the United Nations tribunal.
The government assures that the decision will not affect Maldives-Mauritius maritime boundary dispute.
However, people are raising concerns that it could force Maldives to abandon a part of the country's economic zone.
The government denies it; says it does not change Maldives' stand on ITLOS even if it believes Mauritius has sovereign power over Chagos.
The ‘Chagossian Voices’, representing the native people of Chagos, wrote a letter to ITLOS last week stating that they did not believe that Chagos had sovereign authority over Mauritius despite the ICJ ruling in favour of Mauritius.
"Therefore, we reject the veracity of the ongoing hearings in ITLOS," the letter said.
One of the reasons cited by the Chagossians was that the relationship between Mauritius and Chagos had originated solely from shared colonial history.
The letter also stated that the only question raised in the case before the ICJ was about Mauritius' right to self-determination. The Chagossians lost their autonomy in the international court when it was decided for them that they were Mauritian descendants.
"We don't believe that the Chagos is part of Mauritius. The Chagos have their own language and culture and have a 200-year-old relationship with the islands and seas around us," the letter read.
Chagossians are not represented in court and no other country or government can speak on their behalf, according to the letter. The Chagosians did not accept the ICJ's verdict and questioned the authenticity of the hearings held at ITLOS.
"We request you to re-examine the matter in the ICJ with Chagossian representatives," the letter said.
The letter sent by Chagossian has been accepted by ITLOS, and the body said members of its special chambers of tribunals would decide on the matter.