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A protest outside the Houses of Parliament in 2008 over the Chagos Islands, London People protest outside Parliament after a court ruling deciding Chagossians were not allowed to return to their homeland, London, Oct. 22, 2008 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

The U.K.’s Intransigence on the Chagos Islands Dispute Is a Self-Inflicted Wound

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The British government has been vocal about the issue of human rights in China in recent weeks. It recently delivered a joint statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council, on behalf of 27 countries, on abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. And Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has strongly criticized Beijing for imposing sweeping national security legislation that severely undermines the autonomy of Hong Kong, which the Chinese government promised to respect in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. Raab specifically called out Beijing for violating its international legal obligations, while announcing that the U.K. would not shirk from its “historic responsibilities” to Hong Kong’s inhabitants. It subsequently decided to suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.

The U.K.’s appeals to international law in this context are, no doubt, fully justified. However, this kind of diplomacy works best when the advocating state has an impeccable record of compliance with international law. The U.K.’s refusal to relinquish control of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius, in contravention of a recent advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice in The Hague, seriously weakens its ability to lecture other states about living up to their human rights obligations. ...

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