Constance Halaveli aux Maldives se retrouve à la 19e place du classement
  • Ibrahim Riffath, AG des Maldives : « There can be no dispute over maritime delimitation until the dispute between Mauritius and the United Kingdom over sovereignty has been resolved »

L’archipel des Maldives a opposé une fin de non-recevoir à la demande de Maurice au sujet de la délimitation des frontières maritimes au nord des Chagos. Que ce soit dans les Preliminary Objections en date du 18 décembre 2019, les Written Objections du 15 avril 2020 ou encore à l’ouverture, hier, des délibérations devant la Special Chamber de l’International Tribunal Law of the Sea, siégeant à Hambourg, les Maldives réitèrent leur position selon laquelle « there can be no dispute over maritime delimitation until the dispute between Mauritius and the United Kingdom over sovereignty has been resolved ». Et ce, tout en ajoutant de manière formelle que « la Chambre spéciale n’est pas compétente pour trancher ce litige sous la loi ». L’Attorney General des Maldives, Ibrahim Riffah, a souligné que l’absence de la Grande-Bretagne lors de ces procédures est un facteur susceptible de peser lourd au final. Il devait également regretter les accusations comme quoi l’archipel des Maldives est considéré « opposé à la décolonisation ».

Intervenant devant la Special Chamber de l’ITLOS, l’Attorney General des Maldives affirme que son pays se voit être traîné contre son gré dans un litige au sujet de la délimitation de la frontière maritime au nord de l’archipel des Chagos. De ce fait, « Maldives was left with no choice but to make the Preliminary Objections to the jurisdiction of the Special Chamber regarding the dispute, although the island nation has a long history of supporting multilateralism and respect for the international law ».

Soutenant sa position selon laquelle « the Special Chamber (of ITLOS) cannot rule on disputes over land territory », les Maldives expliquent qu’à ce stade il n’y a pas de différend avec Maurice sous les dispositions de la Convention des Droits de la Mer. « The reason why negotiations have not taken place is simple. Mauritius’ maritime boundary claim with respect to the Maldives is predicated on its claim to sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago, yet the United Kingdom continues to claim sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago, which it still controls ». Les documents officiels déposés devant cette instance des Nations unies ajoutent que « until that sovereignty dispute is settled, the Maldives is unable to negotiate a maritime boundary agreement with Mauritius. For the same reasons, it is neither possible nor appropriate for the parties to seek to negotiate the provisional arrangements envisaged by Articles 74(3) and 83(3) ».

L’archipel des Maldives, qui s’appuie sur le fait que « there can be no dispute between the Maldives and Mauritius over maritime delimitation until such time as Mauritius becomes the undisputed opposite coastal State within the meaning of UNCLOS Articles 74(1) and 83(1) », maintient que « accordingly, no dispute had crystallised at the critical date, and the Tribunal lacks jurisdiction over Mauritius’ claims (…) let alone where one of the parties to the dispute is not even present to argue its case ». L’argument mis en exergue est que « the precondition to the existence of any maritime boundary dispute between Mauritius and the Maldives is the resolution of the dispute between Mauritius and the United Kingdom over sovereignty in respect of the Chagos Archipelago, which has not occurred ».

La position affichée par les Maldives pour contester le recours à l’International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea est que Maurice n’a pas encore obtenu le statut d’Opposite or Adjacent Coastal State. Ainsi, dans les Written Objections du 15 avril dernier, mention est faite que « the tribunal’s (ICJ) findings necessarily treat the United Kingdom as the relevant coastal State for the purpose of managing maritime zones around the Chagos Archipelago. Indeed, the very fact that Mauritius alleged a breach of these provisions of UNCLOS implies that it accepted the right of the United Kingdom to act as a coastal State, subject to the relevant provisions of UNCLOS ».

À ce stade, les Maldives soutient la thèse qu’il n’y a aucun différend avec Maurice sur cette question de frontière maritime. « Furthermore, even if the dispute over territorial sovereignty between Mauritius and the United Kingdom was not at issue, there is still no dispute between the parties regarding maritime delimitation. Mauritius’ Notification does not point to any positively opposed claims regarding the delimitation of the EEZ or continental shelf. »

Les Maldives contestent l’affirmation de Maurice à l’effet que « the Advisory Opinion (of the ICJ) has already determined that the United Kingdom has no sovereign rights in regard to the Chagos Archipelago, so that the Special Chamber should consider that the United Kingdom’s claim to sovereignty or sovereign rights is not plausible ». Les autorités de Malé campent sur leur position de la sorte : « The Special Chamber (of ITLOS) should acknowledge that the sovereignty dispute between the United Kingdom and Mauritius does exist and has not been resolved as a matter of fact ».

Par ailleurs, les Written Objections des Maldives balaient également d’un revers de la main la Résolution 73/295 de l’assemblée générale des Nations unies du 22 mai 2019 : « The UNGA Resolution does not provide evidence that the sovereignty dispute between Mauritius and the United Kingdom has been resolved, for three reasons. »

Lors de son intervention devant la Special Chamber, l’Attorney General des Maldives a tenu à répéter que « we hold in the highest regard the far reaching contributions of the International Court of Justice and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Tribunals in promoting the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes. But we are left with no choice than to make preliminary objections to the jurisdiction of the Special Chamber. The Maldives has no dispute with Mauritius, a state with which we enjoy friendly relations. The only dispute is between Mauritius and the UK. And that dispute is about sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago not maritime boundary delimitation. The Maldives cannot be expected to take side in that dispute especially in proceedings before this Tribunal ».

« It is unfortunate that Mauritius has decided to use these proceedings to settle its territorial dispute with the UK at the expense of Maldives. We have been pushed in the middle of a conflict which is not of our making. It is especially regrettable that Mauritius attempts to portray us as opposing decolonisation. Such accusations are offensive and unfair. Nothing could be further from the truth that Maldives has been a strong advocate of upholding international principles and adhering to international obligations », a-t-il regretté.

Mauriuce doit intervenir devant la Special Chamber de l’ITLOS demain pour répondre à l’argumentation des Maldives. La partie mauricienne était représentée à Hambourg par l’ambassadeur Jagdish Koonjul et les hommes de loi de Matrix Chambers dont Philippe Sands QC. Le Solicitor General, Dhiren Dabee, a suivi la séance d’hier par visioconférence.