Independence Referendums in International Law

Jure Vidmar, Sarah McGibbon, Lea Raible (eds), Research Handbook on Secession, 2020, Edward Elgar, Forthcoming

18 Pages Posted: 18 May 2020

See all articles by Daniel Moeckli

Daniel Moeckli

University of Zurich, School of Law

Nils Reimann

University of Zurich - Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 21, 2020

Abstract

The rights to self-determination and political participation imply that important decisions concerning a people’s political, economic, social and cultural destiny must be taken in a democratic procedure. The most appropriate procedure for determining whether or not to secede from an existing state and create a new state is by holding a referendum. Accordingly, apart from exceptional cases, an independence referendum has become a necessary condition for achieving statehood. However, international recognition will only follow if the referendum is conducted in accordance with certain international standards: The referendum needs to be held in a peaceful environment, civil and political rights must be effectively protected, voter qualification must be based on reasonable criteria, the question must be clear, it should be monitored by international observers etc. The international legal framework on independence referendums thus appears as a stabilising factor: rather than promoting changes of sovereignty over territory, it makes them more difficult.

Keywords: secession, independence, international law, self-determination, political participation, referendum, direct democracy

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Moeckli, Daniel and Reimann, Nils, Independence Referendums in International Law (April 21, 2020). Jure Vidmar, Sarah McGibbon, Lea Raible (eds), Research Handbook on Secession, 2020, Edward Elgar, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3582119

Daniel Moeckli (Contact Author)

University of Zurich, School of Law ( email )

Raemistrasse 74/50
CH-8001 Zurich
Switzerland

Nils Reimann

University of Zurich - Faculty of Law ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zürich, CH-8006
Switzerland

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