Legitimacy of the Kosovo, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia Secessions: Violations in Search of a Rule
Miskolc Journal of International Law, Vol. 9, 2009
Ukrainian Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 3, 2010
29 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2009 Last revised: 14 Nov 2010
Date Written: September 12, 2009
The secessions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from the Republic of Georgia in the early 1990s moved to the frontburner as a result of the August 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict. The 2008 secession of Kosovo from Serbia ironically became the lightening rod for questioning whether these post-Soviet and post-Yugoslav secessions are legitimate under international law.
The United States and Russia have each unabashedly proclaimed that these particular secessions are "unique." Thus, none of these secessions supposedly established a legitimate precedent for numerous other separatist movements in the world.
This Essay argues, however, that to the extent international law matters, these secessions do not satisfy the "extraordinary circumstances" exception to the general rule eschewing secession. The Essay urges the international community to draft what would be the first multilateral secession treaty. Doing so would trump the contemporary efforts to shoehorn these two regional secessions into the exception to the general rule.
Keywords: international law, secession, separatist movements, Serbia, Kosovo, Georgia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Russia, Georgia-Russia conflict
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation