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Letter: Mauritius’ claim to Chagos islands has wide support

Joseph Cotterill’s article on the Chagos islanders (“Chagos islanders push Mauritius and UK to heal history’s wounds”, Special Reports, FT.com, April 1) notes that Mauritian officials have asked Google Maps to “mark the [Chagos] islands as Mauritian”.

If the experts at Google decline this request from Port Louis, the Mauritian capital, I wonder if they would consider an alternative?

Instead of calling it the British Indian Ocean Territory, perhaps the British Indian Ocean Occupied Territory (BIOOT) would be more appropriate?

After all, when the question of sovereignty was placed before the UN General Assembly in 2019, 116 national governments — fully 60 per cent of the 193 states entitled to vote at the UN — expressed the view that Mauritius is sovereign over the Chagos islands (and has been since its independence).

The legal basis for this opinion is contained in an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice and a subsequent ruling from a special chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

By contrast, only 2.6 per cent of the world’s states (Australia, Hungary, Israel, the Maldives, and the US) support the UK claim to the Chagos islands. No international court, tribunal or organisation ever has.

For most of the international community, the “Chagos question” has been resolved. The islands belong to Mauritius. Britain is an illegal occupier. Decolonisation and the lawful resettlement of the islands by the Chagossians cannot come soon enough.

Peter Harris
Associate Professor of Political Science
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO, US

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