On Monday, the UN’s highest court said the UK should end it’s control of the Chagos Islands “as rapidly as possible”. The International Court of Justice ruled the islands were taken unlawfully from the former colony of Mauritius. The UK Foreign Office said: “This is an advisory opinion, not a judgment.”
The Foreign Office added it would “carefully” examine the details of the court’s opinion, which is not legally binding.
Previously, the UK had said the islands would be handed back to Mauritius when they are not required for defence purposes any longer.
The Foreign Office said: “The defence facilities on the British Indian Ocean Territory help to protect people here in Britain and around the world from terrorist threats, organised crime and piracy.”
Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf described the UK’s administration of the Chagos Islands as “an unlawful act of continuing character”.
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He added the UK was “under an obligation to bring an end to its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible”.
Where are the Chagos Islands?
The Chagos Islands are located more than 2,000 miles off the east coast of Africa and around 310 miles south of the Maldives Archipelago.
The Chagos group are made up of a combination of different coralline rock structures, which top a submarine ridge that runs southwards across the centre of the Indian Ocean.
This was formed by volcanoes above the Réunion hotspot.
Unlike the Maldives, there is no clearly discernible pattern in the atoll arrangement, which makes the whole archipelago look somewhat chaotic.
Most of the coralline structures of the Chagos are submerged reefs.
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The Chagos were home to the Chagossians, who lived on the archipelago for more than a century and a half until their eviction.
Between 1967 and 1973 the United Kingdom evicted the Chagossians, in order to build a military base on the largest of the Chagos Islands – Diego Garcia.
Mauritius, which gained independence in 1968, maintains its ownership of the islands.
Chagossians have also brought forward cases in British courts for the right to return to the islands.