- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
The section of the E.U.’s recently released fact-finding report (more here) on the 2008 Georgia war that deals with the question of South Ossetian and Abkhaz independence is also worth taking a look at:
Both South Ossetians and Abkhaz consider their right to self-determination as the legal basis for their quest for sovereignty and independence of the respective territories. However, international law does not recognise a right to unilaterally create a new state based on the principle of self-determination outside the colonial context and apartheid. An extraordinary acceptance to secede under extreme conditions such as genocide has so far not found general acceptance. As will be shown later, the case of the conflict in August 2008 and the ensuing recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Mission has found that genocide did not take place.
Furthermore, much of international state practice and the explicit views of major powers such as Russia in the Kosovo case stand against it. This applies also to the process of dismemberment of a stae, as might be sdiscussed with regard to Georgia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. According to the overwhelmingly accepted uti possidetis principle, only former consituent republics such as Georgia but not territorial sub-units such as South Ossetia or Abkhazia are granted independence in case of dismemberment of a larger entity such as the former Soviet Union. Hence, South Ossetia did not have the right to secede from Georgia…
It’s interesting that they raise the example of Kosovo. I can’t help thinking that this very same argument could apply their declaration of independence. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Serbian government seized on this report in their campaign to have Kosovo’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence deemed illegitimate.