In brief

UN General Assembly calls on UK to decolonize Chagos archipelago in 116-6 vote

Diego Garcia atoll, where the military base is located.
Diego Garcia atoll, where the military base is located. Author: U. S. Federal Government
The United Kingdom suffered yesterday yet another international defeat in the Chagos dispute as the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling on London to decolonize the Indic ocean archipelago. The non-binding resolution was supported by 116 countries, while 6 voted against and 56 abstained.

The text —introduced by Senegal on behalf of the bloc of African countries— recalled that the International Court of Justice issued a landmark opinion 25 February 2019 urging the United Kingdom to leave the territory and transfer its sovereignty to the Republic of Mauritius.

The UK government had previously said that it does not intend to decolonize the archipelago while it considers that holding the military base of Diego Garcia there —which is leased to the United States— remains valuable for its interests.

The inhabitants of Chagos were expelled between 1968 and 1973 to build the base, and have since remained in exile.

Neither yesterday’s resolution nor the ICJ opinion are binding. The Guardian however says that the result is a “crushing defeat” for the European country, and wonders whether to what extent is the UK’s international reputation being hurt by London’s stance in the dispute.