Maldives to Support Mauritius in the Chagos Islands Dispute

The Maldives has stated their intention to vote in favor of Mauritius in the Chagos Islands dispute. Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath made the decision during a hearing at a Special Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The hearing was about a dispute between Mauritius and the Maldives over where the maritime boundary between the two countries is in the Indian Ocean.

In his opening statement on behalf of the Maldives, Attorney General Riffath highlighted that there is a small region of ambiguity within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Mauritius where the Maldives claims a continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. In 2010, the Maldives filed a claim with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). In 2011, Mauritius filed a formal complaint against the Maldives’ claim, saying that it violates Mauritius’ EEZ.

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The Chagos consists of seven atolls and more than 60 islands in the Indian Ocean, approximately 500 kilometers south of the Maldives archipelago. Since Mauritius claimed the Chagos Archipelago as Mauritian territory when it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1968, Mauritius and the United Kingdom have been in a dispute about the sovereignty of the Chagos Islands for decades. The Maldives became involved in the case since their EEZ overlaps with Chagos’s.

In addition, Riffath stated that the Maldives were shocked by the large increase in Mauritius’ claim. He stated that Mauritius had for the first time claimed an outer continental shelf entitlement to the north of the Chagos Archipelago, overlapping the Maldives’ entitlement by around 22,000 square kilometers. He said that the only complaint from Mauritius was about a small overlap with its rights inside 200 nautical miles for more than a decade. He also said that the Maldives had not been told about the new, large claim or given a chance to respond.

In addition, Riffath asserted that Mauritius has offered conflicting justifications for its claim to the outer continental shelf and has failed to show even the most rudimentary technical data in support. In addition to the fact that Mauritius elected to conduct a poll only years into these procedures, he explained. He said that most of the survey’s results didn’t matter and that they didn’t help Mauritius reach its main goals for the trip.

Professor of International Law Payam Akhavan has further stated the Maldives does not stand to lose any territory in the dispute, even if the Maldives votes in favour of Mauritius receiving control of the Chagos Islands.

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