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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 9: A proposal for a new framework on secession

Milena Sterio


As other chapters have already noted, international law on secession is neutral. While no specific norms prohibit secession, there is no positive entitlement either under international treaty or custom that would bestow secession rights on any particular peoples or other groups. This state of affairs is unsatisfactory because it allows secessionist conflicts to be governed by geopolitics and because having a normative framework on secession would impose legal constraints on the behavior of powerful states and contribute to the resolution of secessionist conflicts. In addition, developing a legal framework on secession would not undermine the existing international law system, because such a framework would combine traditional norms of territoriality and state sovereignty with the protection of human and group rights. This chapter develops such a legal framework on secession.

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