Media Statement

03 September 2018

South Africa’s participation in the oral proceedings before the ICJ regarding the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly requested the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to render an advisory opinion on 22 June 2017 on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965 by the United Kingdom.  After the ICJ requested Member States of the UN to furnish information to the ICJ on the matter, South Africa submitted a written statement on 01 March 2018 and also decided to participate in the oral hearings on the matter scheduled to take place at the ICJ in The Hague from 03 to 07 September 2018.

Chagos was separated from Mauritian territory before Mauritius achieved independence in 1968 in contravention of the principle that requires the territorial integrity of a former colony to be respected upon achieving self-determination and independence, and the total population was tragically forcibly removed from Chagos between 1967 and 1973.  Chagos remains under the administration of the United Kingdom at present and also hosts a major military airbase at Diego Garcia that is occupied by the United States of America.  The erstwhile population and their descendants are prevented from resettling and rebuilding their homes on Chagos and Mauritius is unable to exercise its sovereign rights over Chagos.

The matter is of importance to the General Assembly as it has carried, and continues to carry the primary burden of facilitating the completion of the decolonisation of all peoples.  South Africa deems participation important as it is seen as a duty of every Member State of the UN to leave no stone unturned to assist the General Assembly to remove the last vestiges of colonialism and for all peoples to achieve self-determination and freedom.

South Africa will address the ICJ on Tuesday, 04 September 2018, at 10h00 local time in The Hague after Mauritius and the United Kingdom addressed the ICJ on 03 September 2018.  The oral proceedings will continue throughout the week with States delivering their oral submissions in accordance with a schedule determined by the ICJ until the African Union delivers the last oral submission on Friday, 07 September 2018.  Thereafter, the ICJ is expected to consider the two questions namely, whether the process of decolonization of Mauritius was lawfully completed in light of the separation of Chagos, and what the consequences under international law are that arise from the continued administration of Chagos by the United Kingdom.

Enquiries: Mr Ndivhuwo Mabaya, 083 645 7838 or MabayaN@dirco.gov.za

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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