Male’, Maldives – The Special Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has declared that it has jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the dispute concerning the delimitation of the maritime boundary and that Mauritius’ claim in this regard is admissible.
The Special Chamber formed to deal with the dispute concerning the delimitation of the maritime boundary between Mauritius and Maldives in the Indian Ocean (Mauritius/Maldives) today delivered its judgment on the preliminary objections raised by the Maldives on 18 December 2019. Judge Jin-Hyun Paik, President of the Special Chamber, read the Judgment at a public sitting of the Special Chamber, which took place in hybrid format in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This comes following public hearings on the preliminary objects held from 13th to 19th October 2020 in hybrid format, during which, in the final submissions, Maldives requested the Special Chamber to adjudge and declare that, it is without jurisdiction in respect of the claims submitted to the special chamber by the Republic of Mauritius.
Additionally, for the reasons set out during the written and oral phases of the pleadings, the Republic of Maldives requested the special chamber to adjudge and declare that the claims submitted to the special chamber by the Republic of Mauritius are inadmissible.
In its final submissions, Mauritius requested the Special Chamber to adjudge and declare that the preliminary objections raised by Maldives are rejected, and that it has jurisdiction to entertain the application filed by Mauritius. Further, the requested extended to declare that there is no bar to its exercise of that jurisdiction and that it shall proceed to delimit the maritime boundary between Mauritius and the Maldives.
The special chamber presiding over the dispute, which has been ongoing since the year 2019, noted that Mauritius and the Maldives are states situated in the Indian Ocean and that both states consist of several islands.
According to Mauritius, “the territory of Mauritius includes, in addition to the main Island, inter alia, the Chagos Archipelago”. while the Maldives states that, since 1814 and following the establishment of the British Indian Ocean Territory in 1965, “the United Kingdom has consistently claimed sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago”, and that “since at least 1980, Mauritius has claimed that it is sovereign over the Chagos Archipelago”.
The special chamber also presented an overview of correspondence and meetings between the parties on maritime delimitation, referring to decisions of other international courts or tribunals, namely, the award of 18 March 2015 in the Arbitration regarding the Chagos Marine Protected Area between Mauritius and the United Kingdom (the “Chagos arbitral award”) and the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (the “ICJ”) of 25 February 2019 on the Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965 (the “Chagos advisory opinion”). It further refered to resolution 73/295 of the United Nations General Assembly (the “UNGA”) of 22 May 2019 entitled “Advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965”.
Ultimately, the “the special chamber concluded that “it has jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the dispute concerning the delimitation of the maritime boundary between the Parties in the Indian Ocean and that the claim submitted by Mauritius in this regard is admissible””, read the report.
The Special Chamber finds it appropriate to defer to the proceedings on the merits “questions concerning the extent to which it may exercise its jurisdiction over the above dispute, including questions arising under article 76 of the Convention” (paragraph 352). Regarding the Parties’ views in relation to Mauritius’ claim stated in paragraph 28 of its Notification concerning the obligations under article 74, paragraph 3, and article 84, paragraph 3, of the Convention, the Special Chamber “finds it appropriate to reserve this matter for consideration and decision in the proceedings on the merits, as this point has not yet been fully argued by the Parties” (paragraph 353).The report by ITLOS read.
In this case, the disputed area is between the southernmost atoll of Maldives, Addu City and the Chagos Archipelago, located approximately 500 kilometers from Addu City. Mauritius claiming the Chagos Archipelago could result in a potential reduction in the Maldives EEZ.