Self-Determination in Regional Human Rights Law: From Kosovo to Cameroon
American Journal of International Law, Vol. 105, No. 60, 2011
40 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2011
Date Written: 2011
The right of self-determination has long been celebrated for bringing independence and self-government to oppressed groups, yet it remains a highly controversial norm of international law. From the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires after World War I to the struggle of colonial territories for independence following the World War II and the later dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, there has been an unavoidable conflict between the efforts of peoples to achieve independence and the demands of existing states to preserve their territorial integrity. This essay focuses on the African and American regional human rights systems and their ability to distinguish internal from external self-determination and indicate the different circumstances under which each variation of the right applies.
The essay begins with a look at the relevant human rights provisions of the two systems, after which it turns to the case law concerning secession claims; the discussion on secession is limited to Africa because no case of this type has come before the American human rights institutions. It then looks at the special self-determination rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, and at the corresponding special state duties owed them. As will be noted, the jurisprudence of the two systems provides some of the answers that the ICJ declined to give in the Kosovo opinion. The final part refers to the written submissions of African and American states in the Kosovo proceedings.
Keywords: self-determination, human rights, independence, secession, indigenous, Africa, America, Kosovo, Cameroon
JEL Classification: K10, K19, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation