The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to demand that Britain end its "colonial administration" of the Chagos Islands, which include the U.S. air base on Diego Garcia, and return them to Mauritius within six months. The 193-member world body approved a resolution supporting an advisory opinion in February by the International Court of Justice that the Indian Ocean island chain be given back to Mauritius. The vote was 116-6 in favor, with 56 abstentions. The General Assembly resolution, like the court's ruling, is not legally binding but it does carry weight since the ruling came from the U.N.'s highest court and the assembly vote reflects world opinion.
The court said in its opinion that Britain had unlawfully carved up Mauritius, which the Chagos Archipelago was a part of, in 1965 when Mauritius was a British colony. It said that "the United Kingdom is under an obligation to bring to an end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible."
Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth said the court established the right of the people of Mauritius to self-determination which the U.K. violated "by excising the Chagos Archipelago" without their consent. He said all nations, including the United Kingdom, are obligated to comply with international law. Britain evicted about 2,000 people from the Chagos Archipelago in the 1960s and 1970s so the U.S. military could build the air base on Diego Garcia. Many resettled in the U.K. and have fought in British courts to return to the islands.