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Home Archive for category "State Succession" (Page 2)

Let His People Go: Sudan’s Lesson for Secession

Published on January 24, 2011        Author: 

Timothy William Waters, a professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, is the author of numerous articles on self-determination.

DAYS before it began voting for independence, Africa’s soon-to-be newest country hosted a modern Pharaoh who, not long ago, sent armies to crush its bid for freedom. In a visit to South Sudan’s capital, Juba, just before the week-long referendum began, Sudan’s President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir vowed to respect the region’s right to form a new country: “We cannot deny the desire and the choice of the people of the south,” said Al-Bashir. “This is their right.”

 Sudan’s leader didn’t always talk this way. His new magnanimity follows decades of grinding, wasting struggle pitting the Arab Muslim-dominated government against Christian and animist southerners, in a bid to control their oil-rich land and impose Islamic law onthem. Millions died; thousands were enslaved.  (Al-Bashir has also been indicted for genocide in Darfur.) Pressure from the United States produced the 2005 agreement that gave the South autonomy and led to this week’s referendum. There have been some violent incidents, but nothing like the slaughter of the past. Mostly voters have calming registered their overwhelming desire for independence. Yet only months ago, experts still feared a return to full-scale war if Sudan’s rulers again hardened their hearts.

 Instead there was Al-Bashir, saying these extraordinary things. Though the causes are complex, Khartoum’s acquiescence has made the difference between war and peace. The diplomatic pressure from the US and African states has all been focused on ensuring Sudan’s government allows the vote to proceed and respects the outcome, rather than reverting to war. This holds an important lesson about the sources of violent conflict within states, and shows that the world needs a radically new approach to secession.

Although Al-Bashir acknowledged southerners’ right to secede, it’s a right most peoples don’t have. Since the Second World War, territorial integrity has been a pillar of our international order: states’ borders can’t be changed without their consent. Even the creative diplomacy leading to the 2005 agreement needed Sudan’s signature.

The problem is all the states that aren’t willing. Preventing interstate wars of conquest is clearly positive, but the belief that fixed frontiers reduce internal violence is more assumed than proven. Challenging borders is thought to open Pandora’s box – but what if borders are the problem? Read the rest of this entry…

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In other news…

Published on February 27, 2009        Author: 

… this time from the department of shameless self-promotion: I’ve just posted on SSRN a draft chapter on the territorial application of the Genocide Convention and state succession in the forthcoming Commentary to the Convention edited by Paola Gaeta and published by OUP. Some of my blogging here was based on that piece, so maybe some of the readers would be interested in it. Comments are welcome.

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The Tricky Question of State Succession to International Responsibility

Published on February 16, 2009        Author: 

Consider the following scenario: state A commits an internationally wrongful act (say genocide) against state B, incurring responsibility for doing so and giving state B an entitlement to reparation. Before state B actually manages to obtain reparation from state A, state A dissolves into two new states, X and Y. What happens to A’s responsibility towards B? Does it devolve to X and Y, and how? Alternatively, what happens if A does not dissolve and manages to continue its international personality, but two of its smaller territorial units, X and Y, successfully secede from it, and become states in their own right? What then?

Both of these factual scenarios involve state succession, defined as change or transfer of sovereignty over a territory. The first scenario is one of dissolution. State A and its international personality have ceased to exist, and two new states have emerged. The second scenario is one of succession alongside continuation. State A is territorially diminished, but its identity and international personality remain the same. Again, however, two new successor states have emerged on the territory of their predecessor. The dissolution of Czechoslovakia and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia are examples of the former scenario, while the best example of continuation and separation is the Soviet Union, which continued its existence as the Russian Federation, along a number of new successor states. (Note that a continuator state is often misleadingly termed as the successor state, even though there may be a number of actual successor states alongside the continuator.)

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