On 28 January 2021, a Special Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea handed down judgment in the preliminary objections phase of Dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Mauritius and Maldives in the Indian Ocean (Mauritius/Maldives).
In these proceedings, Mauritius seeks delimitation of a maritime boundary between the Chagos Archipelago and the Maldives pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (“UNCLOS”).
The Maldives raised preliminary objections, including on the grounds that there was an extant dispute between Mauritius and the United Kingdom concerning sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago and that, as a result, maritime delimitation could not be carried out in the absence of the United Kingdom.
In its Judgment, the Special Chamber rejected the Maldives’ preliminary objections. It agreed with Mauritius that the 2019 Chagos advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice has “legal effect and clear implications for the legal status of the Chagos Archipelago”. It stated, “While the process of decolonization has yet to be completed, Mauritius’ sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago can be inferred from the [Court’s] determinations.”
In light of the Special Chamber’s ruling, the case will proceed to the merits phase.