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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 8: Inadequacy of existing international law rules

Milena Sterio


This chapter analyzes existing international law norms relevant to the issue of secession, and emphasizes the current failure of international law to appropriately address secession. It briefly analyzes existing treaties and customary rules related to secession, as well as recent case law by the International Court of Justice. The chapter concludes that international law currently does not contain a positive norm on secession, and that existing norms and principles on self-determination are inadequate to address all secessionist conflicts. It also concludes that the legal vacuum regarding secession has resulted in the fact that secessionist outcomes seem entirely dominated by the geopolitical interests of the most powerful states, and that this unfortunate situation could be ameliorated through the development of an international law framework on secession, which would constrain the behavior of all, including very powerful, states. Thus, the chapter concludes that it is necessary to develop a new normative framework on secession.

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