Recognition of Opposition Groups as the Legitimate Representative of a People
Chinese Journal of International Law 12 (2013)
Bonn Research Papers on Public International Law No 1/2013
33 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2013 Last revised: 19 Mar 2013
Date Written: March 3, 2013
During the civil wars in Libya and Syria, the rebel opposition groups were recognized as ‘the (sole) legitimate representative of the people' of these States. This paper, using the situation in Syria as a case study, examines what it means to recognize an opposition group as ‘the legitimate representative of a people’, while the State’s government is still in place. It is shown that with regard to recognition statements wording is all important and that the Syrian Opposition Council has been recognized in at least six different capacities of varying legal significance. The paper sets out the difference between the ‘legal’ and the ‘political’ act of recognition and finds that recognition as ‘the legitimate representative of a people’ is a political act. Although four normative criteria for the status of ‘legitimate representative of a people’ can be identified what is lacking are clear standards for their application. The paper outlines the consequences of political recognition and examines its legality in terms of international law and its suitability as a political tool.
Keywords: Civil war, Syria, recognition, self-determination, people
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