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Secession in International Law

A New Framework

Milena Sterio

Secession in International Law argues that the effective development of criteria on secession is a necessity in today’s world, because secessionist struggles can be analyzed through the legal lens only if we have specific legal rules to apply. Without legal rules, secessionist struggles are dominated by politics and sui generis approaches, which validate secessionist attempts based on geo-politics and regional states’ self-interest, as opposed to the law. By using a truly comparative approach, Milena Sterio has developed a normative international law framework on secession, which focuses on several factors to assess the legitimacy of a separatist quest.
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Chapter 5: De facto secessions

Milena Sterio


This chapter analyzes situations of de facto secession—where a secessionist group secedes from its mother state and exercises effective control over its own territory, but where the international community, for a variety of reasons, refuses to acknowledge the existence of the secessionist entity as a new sovereign state. The chapter focuses on three situations: Northern Cyprus, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the so-called frozen conflicts in the former Soviet republics of Georgia (South Ossetia and Abkhazia). It analyzes, for each of these situations, whether the underlying reasons for the international community’s refusal to recognize these secessionist entities stem from law or politics, or a combination of both.

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