On 28 April 2023, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) ruled that the Maldives will acquire a major sea-region over the Chagos Islands border dispute with Mauritius.
ITLOS had split 95,000 sq. km sea between the Indian Ocean neighbors, with Maldives allocated a slightly larger share of 47،232 sq. km and Mauritius receiving 45,331 sq. km.
The President of Maldives stated that the decision is a victory for the Maldives and that the nation’s maritime boundary is now fully settled in accordance with international law.
According to 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, countries with ocean borders have control of the waters extending 230 miles from their coast. Mauritius and the Maldives disagreed on where the distance should be measured from.
As per Mauritius, the point of determining the base point would start from the Blenheim Reef. In this case, the Maldives would be allocated 47,172 sq. km and Mauritius would be allocated 48,458 sq. km.
However, the Maldives argued that that the base point cannot be determined by a reef spotted during low tide and the separation from the sea should be determined from the coast of Chagos Islands. ITLOS ruled in favor of the Maldives, allocating a ratio of 1:0.960 to the parties.
Following the success, the government held a special cabinet meeting at the President’s Office. Speaking at the meeting, the President stated that the Maldives has been fighting for this issue for several years and described it as a key milestone that established the Maldives’ southern maritime boundary. They also discussed what the relevant Ministries would do to accommodate the changes now that the Maldives’ maritime boundary has been established.
While the Maldives’ southern exclusive economic zone has been established for the first time, it is also the first time an international court had been asked to determine a maritime boundary between two archipelagic states.
Read the judgment by ITLOS on 28 April here.