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Harvard Law Review
RECENT INTERNATIONAL ADVISORY OPINION: International Law - Unilateral Secession - International Court of Justice Concludes that Kosovo's Uni-lateral Declaration of Independence Did Not Violate International Law. - Accordance with International Law of Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Respect of Kosovo, Advisory Opinion (July 22, 2010), http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/141/15987.pdf.
Harvard Law Review
124 Harv. L. Rev. 1098
That each state's territorial integrity is inviolable and that all peoples have a right to self-determination are bedrock principles of international law enshrined in the U.N. Charter. 1 Yet these two principles conflict when an oppressed minority seeks to achieve self-determination by seceding from an existing state. Such a conflict emerged when Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008. 2 Recently, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion, Accordance with International Law of Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Respect of Kosovo, 3 concluding that Kosovo's declaration of independence did not violate international law. 4 However, the ICJ refused to address the consequences of that declaration, particularly the question of whether Kosovo is entitled to statehood. 5 This unnecessarily narrow opinion failed to clarify the boundaries of the right to self-determination, while also weakening the principle of territorial integrity by giving separatist movements around the world legal license to declare independence. The ICJ should have affirmed Kosovo's right to secede on the grounds that it suffered repression and denial of fundamental rights, thereby distinguishing Kosovo's claim from weaker separatist claims.
Kosovo is a former autonomous province of Yugoslavia contained within Serbia 6 with a population consisting of approximately ninety percent ethnic Albanians. 7 In 1989, Serbia revoked Kosovo's autonomy, 8 leading Kosovo to declare independence and various armed groups to launch attacks under the banner of the Kosovo Liberation Army. 9 In response, the Serb government initiated repressive actions and ...
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