More from: Chagos Archipelago

The South China Sea Saga Continues*

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Introduction

On 29 October 2015, the Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Annex VII of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (“LOSC”) on the initiative of the Philippines rendered its highly anticipated Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility in the Philippines v China case. The Tribunal found itself competent to rule on seven out of fifteen submissions lodged by the Philippines, whereas it will decide whether it has jurisdiction over the remaining submissions at the merits stage. Although the Award addresses preliminary issues it is valuable for it deals with a range of issues of particular interest with respect to international law and the law of the sea as well as because it may serve as a precursor for what will follow in the examination of the merits. In any event, the Award is another sequel to the long-standing South China Sea (“SCS”) conundrum, while definitely there is more to come.

The South China Sea dispute

In 1948, China published an atlas depicting a dotted line encompassing the entire SCS region, but it was only in the 1970s that these assertions were contested owing to the emergence of new states during the decolonization era (the states bordering the SCS are China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia as well as Taiwan). The situation deteriorated after China reacted  via a Note Verbale in 2009  to the submission of Vietnam (a joint submission was also filed during that period by Vietnam and Malaysia) to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (“CLCS”) claiming continental shelf rights beyond the limit of 200 nautical miles (“nm”) perforce Article 76(8) of the LOSC. In its Note Verbale, China stated that it asserts sovereignty over all island formations (Pratas Islands, Paracel Islands, Scarborough Shoal, Spratly Islands) hemmed in a “nine-dash line” (or “U-shaped” or “bull’s tongue” line) illustrated in map attached to the Note  and, accordingly, claims sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the waters, seabed and subsoil adjacent to those features’ coasts. This was the first time China had circulated a map depicting the “nine-dash” line through an official document. Readmore..


Why Mauritius and the UK are still sparring over decolonisation*

Still on lease: the Chagos island of Diego Garcia. NASA via Wikimedia Commons

 

The UK may have granted Mauritius independence in 1968, but it remains closely tied to the Indian Ocean island nation – and it’s been locked in an on-off territorial dispute with it for decades. Decolonisation, it seems, is not so simple.

The Chagos Archipelago forms the British Indian Ocean Territory, one of the 14 British Overseas Territories. Although the archipelago was discovered by Portuguese explorers in the 16th century, France gained ownership of it after the Dutch abandoned it in the late 18th century. The UK only took possession of the islands as part of the Treaty of Paris after it captured Mauritius in 1810.

Decolonisation was given a major boost when the UN was instituted in the aftermath of World War II. Once self-determination was established as one of the pillars of the UN Charter (Articles 1(2) and 55), decolonisation movements started popping up everywhere. On top of that, the UN General Assembly in 1960 adopted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, which sets forth the basic principles for the emancipation of peoples under colonial rule.

Against this backdrop, in the early 1960s, the UK and the people of Mauritius began negotiations with a view to a full British withdrawal. Mauritius eventually became an independent state in 1968.

Readmore..