The Right of Secession in International Law Reconsidered

The paper seeks to critically review the right of secession in international law. In several states around the world, various ethnic-nationalities and peoples often demand the right to determine their common political destinies. But these demands are frequently denied or crushed by states in defence of the traditional principle of territorial sovereignty. Given these contrasting interests the paper seeks an innovative way out. It asks two crucial questions: (i) whether there is a right of secession?; and (ii) whether states may be justified to resist secession?

I will argue that the legitimacy of secession should be based on four key pillars, namely: (i) the legal right of self-determination; (ii) the moral right of rectification of grave injustice; (iii) the political right of constitutionally negotiated secession; and (iv) international recognition by states. These basic pillars would serve thus to clarify the ambiguous status of secession in international law.