Chagos Marine Protected Area Arbitration (Mauritius v. United Kingdom), Notice of Arbitration (December 20, 2010)
1. By decision dated 1 April 2010 the United Kingdom purported to establish a ‘Marine Protected Area’ (‘MPA’) in the so-called ‘British Indian Ocean Territory’ to cover the entire 200 mile zone that the United Kingdom has purported to declare around the Chagos Archipelago.1 The ‘MPA’ covers an area of more than half a million square kilometres, within which all fishing and other activities are prohibited. The United Kingdom purported to bring the ‘MPA’ into force on 1 November 2010. The purported establishment of the ‘MPA’ violates the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (‘the 1982 Convention’), to which Mauritius and the United Kingdom are party, and other rules of international law not incompatible with the 1982 Convention. Mauritius makes this Application, which comprises a Notification and Statement of Claim required by Article 1 of Annex VII of the 1982 Convention, in relation to a dispute concerning the legality of the ‘MPA’ under the 1982 Convention and to obtain an authoritative and legally binding declaration to that effect.
THE ‘MPA’ DISPUTE
2. The dispute over the ‘MPA’ arises against the background of longstanding differences between Mauritius and the United Kingdom. The Chagos Archipelago comprises a number of islands located in the Indian Ocean, including Diego Garcia. Until 1965, the United Kingdom accepted the Chagos Archipelago as part of the Territory of Mauritius, over which it exercised colonial authority. That year, it dismembered Mauritius by purporting to establish a so-called “British Indian Ocean Territory”, a new colonial territory consisting of the Chagos Islands, which it excised from Mauritius, and the separate islands of Aldabra, Farquhar and Desroches, taken from the colonial territory of Seychelles.2 By 1973, the United Kingdom had forcibly removed the entire indigenous population of the Chagos Archipelago, comprising a community of approximately 2000 persons calling themselves Ilois or Chagossians, whilst recognizing respect for traditional fishing rights in the waters of the Chagos Archipelago.
3. In 1968, Mauritius achieved independence from the United Kingdom. Article 111 of the Constitution of Mauritius states that “Mauritius includes…the Chagos Islands, including Diego Garcia”. By its 1977 Maritime Zones Act, Mauritius declared a 12-mile territorial sea, a 200-mile EEZ and a continental shelf to the outer edge of the continental margin around all of its territory, including the Chagos Islands. In 1989, Mauritius concluded an Agreement with the European Economic Community on fishing in Mauritian waters, which recalled that “in accordance with [the 1982] Convention, Mauritius has established an exclusive economic zone extending 200 nautical miles from its shores within which it exercises it sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring, exploiting, conserving and managing the resources of the said zone, in accordance with the principles of international law.”