The Crisis in Ukraine: The Annexation of Crimea and the Boundaries of the Will of the People
German Law Journal, Vol. 16(3), 2015
19 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2016
Date Written: June 15, 2016
The secession of Crimea and — more broadly — the conflict in Ukraine reopened questions concerning the limits of a democratic expression of the will of the people and the use of force in order to procure annexation of a territory belonging to another State. This article seeks to clarify the law governing the change of the legal status of a territory through secession and merger with another state. It argues not only that the right of self determination does not grant an entitlement to alter the legal status of a territory, but also that general international law does not prohibit such an alteration. The rules of international law favor the stability of the existing international borders and thus the territorial status quo, but this does not mean that a unilateral attempt at altering an existing territorial arrangement automatically constitutes an internationally wrongful act. Any change of the legal status of a territory becomes illegal, however, upon an outside use of force. Such an illegality cannot be “cured” by a democratically expressed will of the people.
Keywords: Crimea, Ukraine, Russia, Referendum, Territorial Integrity, Use of Force
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