The right of self determination is recognised


The right of self-government is recognised as a group right of peoples to freely find ( for themselves ) their political position and to freely prosecute their economic, societal and cultural development. [ 1 ] Some legal experts trace the rule of self-government as far back as the Gallic Revolution [ 2 ] but the bulk agree that the rule was strongly advocated during the decolonization epoch. As argued by Higgins [ 3 ] , the rule of self-government was, in its earliest signifier, intended for the publicity of peace and regard among already independent provinces. This was extended to dependent districts which included non-self-governing provinces and trust territories. [ 4 ] The principle was the gift of people with the right to self-determination without intervention from others. Self authorities could be expressed through independency, fall ining with another province or a constitutional understanding with the former colonial Masterss. [ 5 ] The most popular pick was the first, independency. Following the development of the rule, General Assembly declarations 1514 & A ; 1541 were passed showing the ‘right’ to self-government and this was farther steadfastly entrenched in the 1966 International Covenants ( Civil and Political Rights, and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ) .

The transmutation of the rule from a legal duty to a human right can be read with the demands of the decolonization epoch. However the greatest challenge faced in the publicity of this right is its application in a post-colonial context. The St. Martine Island inquiry soon under consideration represents this quandary. If the rule of self-government was intended merely to ease self authorities and consequence in independency, is it possible to keep a right to self-government after independency? The usage of the phrase “all peoples” in the antecedently mentioned texts and its repeat in the Helsinki Declaration of 1970 ( parity. VIII ) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights ( Article 20 ) has been independently interpreted to intend that the right accrues to all groups of people under any signifier of subjugation or subjection and non entirely to intend people under colonial regulation. The Committee on Human Rights, in measuring province studies, takes non merely external self-government of dependent districts into history but besides chances within the province for equal internal self-government. This was supported by the International Law Commission in its 1988 study to the General Assembly which stated that the rule was of cosmopolitan application. [ 6 ]

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However, uninterrupted looks of the right to self-government in post-colonial state of affairss are discouraged ( largely by authoritiess which exercised the right themselves and gained autonomy as a consequence ) because of frights of atomization and changeless differences. Akehurst notes a seeming dual criterion which encourages self-government of people including non-colonial groups and at the same clip discourages sezession. [ 7 ] This is worsened by the fact that secessionist efforts by some groups are accepted ( such as the General Assembly’s credence of Palestine’s attempts and the so South Africa ) while others are rejected ( Katanga in Congo and Biafra in Nigeria ) . [ 8 ] The statement is that sezession from an independent province does non represent self-government, instead it challenges province sovereignty. Therefore self-government may be exercised within a autonomous province to the bounds of its sovereignty and non beyond that.

Some parametric quantities have been laid down as justification for the exercising of the right and armed battles tagged ‘national release movements’ can be supported by 3rd provinces. [ 9 ] However the reading of ‘people’ to whom the right attaches raises statements of whether it refers to groups within a province or the full population. [ 10 ] So although self-government has been recognised as an duty erga omnes ( owed by all world ) and upheld in several ICJ determinations [ 11 ] , the tendency of international jurisprudence and province pattern has been to reject external self-government within an already crowned head, independent province in favor of internal self-government by full engagement in administration determinations. [ 12 ] It does non merely average independency but means the free pick of peoples. [ 13 ]


Based on the foregoing, self-government by the Northerners of St Martine Island may be encouraged when expressed internally and without the external look of sezession. The rules of territoriality and sovereignty upheld by the UN Charter [ 14 ] are frequently cited as most of import in dealingss among provinces and external self-government may be viewed as a menace to these rules. This leads to the farther rule of ‘uti possidetis’ ; this Latin rule developed into two signifiers, uti possidetis juris and uti possidetis de facto. The former is the modern look of the rule relevant for our intent which protects ownership of district based on former administrative boundaries, peculiarly colonial boundaries. The rule was used to set up the frontiers of freshly independent provinces based on the old colonial boundaries in order to advance peace and prevent intervention among provinces. This mode of protection of equal rights of provinces to be free from intervention and to exert self-government is regarded as the footing for the rule of uti possidetis. [ 15 ] Ironically, post-colonial self-government and the rule of uti possedetis are by and large viewed as two opposing rules. [ 16 ] The rule foremost emerged in South America and was upheld in post-colonial Africa. The Administration of African Unity in 1964 passed a declaration ( AGH/Res.16 ( I ) ) showing the intangibleness of frontiers drawn up by former colonial Masterss and moved for stableness among boundary lines. The ICJ has, in several determinations, referred to the rule and stated that it is logically connected to the phenomenon of independency. [ 17 ] The Court besides acknowledged that the rule appears to be in straight-out struggle with the right of self-government but that guaranting stableness is the wisest class to take. Thus uti possidetis must be taken into history in construing the right to self-government.

The international jurisprudence place is, hence, easy identified with respect to uti possidetis juris and self-government. However the jobs associated with colonial boundaries which cut through cultural and cultural groups spliting them are widespread and noteworthy. In Africa, the Eritrea-Ethiopia war of 1998-2000 and the secessionist efforts by groups in Congo and Nigeria, to call a few, reveals that the uti possidetis regulation is fraught with jobs besides. Most frequently than non, the colonial boundaries are ill-defined and failed to take into awareness pre-colonial limits. [ 18 ] Under what conditions can a echt demand for liberty be recognised and allowed? Self-government for laden people is by and large acknowledged peculiarly where there is cogent evidence of denial of human rights but when weighed with the uti possidetis regulation the international community seems inclined to continue the latter as a peremptory norm over any claims of subjugation. [ 19 ] Kaczorowska observes that there are political considerations which determine which ‘oppressed’ group is accepted and supported as holding a legitimate right. [ 20 ]

The uti possidetis rule, though, does non stop dead boundaries for all clip. [ 21 ] By understanding ( through pact ) and acquiescence, the boundaries can be adjusted to suit new territories/states. This implies that the regulation is non a difficult and fast regulation ( or jus cogens ) which wholly excludes future exercising of the right of self-government. The nucleus of the inquiry, in the St Martin Island instance, turns on the demand for self-government and how much it undermines province sovereignty when considered globally.


  1. Akehurst M. , 1987. A Modern Introduction to International Law, ( Sixth edition ) Allen and Unwin, London.
  2. Brownlie I., 2002. Basic Documents in International Law, 5Thursdayedition, Oxford University Press, London.
  3. Cassese A., 2005. International Law, Oxford University Press, London.
  4. Hamilton K., 2000. Beyond the Border War: The Ethio-Eritrean Conflict and International Mediation Efforts, 11 Princeton Journal of Public and International Affairs. 113-136. Online:
  5. Hasani E., 2003. Uti Possidetis Juris: From Rome to Kosovo, Fletcher Forum of World Affairs ; International Law under Fire. Online: hypertext transfer protocol: //
  6. Higgins R., 1994. Problems & A ; Procedure: International Law and How We Use It, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
  7. Kaczorowska A. , 2002. Public International Law, Old Bailey Press, London.
  8. Pellet A., 1992. Appendix: Opinions 1, 2 & A ; 3 of the Arbitration Committee of the International Conference on Yugoslavia, 3:1 EJIL 182-185
  9. Pellet A., 1992. The Opinions of the Badinter Arbitration Committee: A Second Breath for the Self-Determination of Peoples, 3:1 European Journal of International Law 178-181
  10. Werner G. Wouter,2001. Self-government and Civil War, 6:2 Journal of Conflict and Security Law, 171-190



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