United Nations demands Britain relinquish control over Indian Ocean islands

23 Mai, 2019, 05:53 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau

Fifty-six states, including France and Germany, abstained.

The United Nations General Assembly handed a resounding defeat to the UK on Wednesday, as a vast majority of member states voted that it hand back the disputed Chagos Islands to Mauritius within 6 months.

However, Britain insists it has sovereignty over the archipelago, which it calls the British Indian Ocean Territory. Fifteen countries did not vote.

The U.N. resolution adopted on Wednesday backs a non-binding advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in February, which found Britain had acted unlawfully in the decolonization process and should relinquish control.

In a statement to the BBC, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said Britain did not recognise Mauritius' claim to sovereignty, but would stand by an earlier commitment to hand over control of the islands to Mauritius when they were no longer needed for defence purposes.

"It is therefore hard to understand the UK's position, unless it is one whereby Mauritius is not considered to be a trusted partner - a position which is deeply offensive to Mauritius, and to every member of the African continent", he told the General Assembly.

U.N. General Assembly resolutions are non-binding but can carry political weight.

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Both the ICJ and the United Nations decisions are not legally binding, but they are very damaging to Britain's credibility in continuing to hold the islands. British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce argues that the United Kingdom must maintain control over the islands at least until the end of the lease to the US.

Between 1967 and 1973, it evicted the islands' entire population to make way for a joint military base with the United States, which is still in place on Diego Garcia.

The United States has sent fighter jets from Diego Garcia to bomb Afghanistan and Iraq. Several high-profile reports have suggested that the base was used by the Central Intelligence Agency to torture suspects in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

Before the vote, Mr Jug-Nauth said United Nations members must send "a clear signal to the world that colonialism can no longer be tolerated".

Australia, Hungary, Israel and the Maldives voted "no" alongside Britain and the United States. The vast majority of European countries abstained except for Spain which backed the resolution as did Russian Federation and China.

In 2017, only 15 countries including Britain and the U.S. voted to oppose a request for the ICJ ruling.

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