Secession And Self Determination


Secession and self determination are amongst the most contested legal issues in International Affairs. The claims of positivists that there can be no right to self determination are obliterated when the urge for self determination among the indigenous people reaches a point where people are willing to give and take lives. The political theory's inability to adjudicate conflicts of political self determination has compelled the political theorists all over the world to have a relook at the moral relationship between individuals, groups and their states. No discussion of indigenous people's rights is complete, without including the notion of self determination, a principle of the highest order within the contemporary international system. Since the primary question in any secessionist conflict concerns the territory contested, there are essentially two factors which ought to be taken first into consideration before going into the intricacies of the case. The first factor to look upon is the ground on which an existing state is claiming to have political jurisdiction over the territory. The other facet to explore is to look into the reasons for which the indigenous people are demanding to secede from their existing state, either to have an independent existence, or to merge with any neighbor state.

One of the founding father of international law, Hugo Grotius, posited that individual human beings had natural rights. The liberal political theory too, enunciated that individuals have moral rights that state must not violate. A determining tenet for liberals all over the world is their sheer commitment for individual liberty. Most states were formed by one community federating with, or seceding from another. The focal question which arises, hence, is why nations engage in palavering when any political referendum takes place to determine the future of a territory, or a part thereof, by ascertaining the will of its indigenous people? If a state can grant its citizens a moral right of religious self determination, what about the cognate rights in the political realm?
The case of secession of Crimea from Ukraine has raised many such apposite questions which are predominantly being answered by various nation states out of their own egotistical geopolitical interests rather than basing their claims in confirmation of any relevant political theory. The first era of secessions of post-Cold War may be over; but the world has been the spectator of instances of secession proliferation arising principally either out of ethnic or cultural disturbances or because of the economic suppression and claims of being denied the benefits of native wealth. The world has witnessed the successful secession of East Timor, Kosovo, Eritrea and South Sudan in recent times, besides the unsuccessful attempts by the provinces of Chechnya of Russian Federation, Transnistria of Moldova and South Ossetia and Abkhazia of Georgia.

The secession of Crimea by Russian Federation has substantial geopolitical relevance as it is threatening the unilateral world order of more than two decades. Therefore, the United States has been persistently challenging the authenticity and genuineness of the Referendum held in Crimea, wherein 83% of the people cast their vote and an overwhelming 96.7% of them voted for secession from Ukraine and annexation to Russia. The Referendum was being observed by 135 representatives of 23 countries and 240 observers represented the Crimean civic society and political parties. Regardless of this fact, the United States along with the EU has been insisting the illegitimacy of the vote ignoring the pragmatic reality of the region. The sole reason which is prima facie evident from the scheme of things is that they are unable to digest the audacity of Russian Federation, which they claim as a nation from second world-order, to exercise its right in such a fashion which is in sheer violation of their political and economic interests.

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