Conceptualizing Declarations of Independence in International Law
32 (1) Oxford Journal of Legal Studies (2012)
37 Pages Posted: 15 May 2012
Date Written: September 15, 2011
In the context of the Kosovo Advisory Opinion, some governments and scholars advanced the view that declarations of independence do not fall within the purview of international law. Declarations of independence may be regulated by domestic law, while they are no more than ink on paper internationally. This article rejects such interpretations and argues that the question of whether or not a certain declaration of independence falls within the ambit of international law depends on the identity of the authors of the declaration. Thus, declarations of independence are not always issued in an international legal vacuum. Referring to the practice of states and UN organs, the article considers in which circumstances a declaration of independence itself, and not only its acceptance, may be illegal under general international law. In so doing, the article also shows that the illegality of a declaration is not determined by its unilateral character. It is concluded that international law neither endorses nor prohibits unilateral declarations of independence, but this is not to say that international law does not regulate declarations of independence at all.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation