Alfred de Zayas, “United Nations Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order”, published an article on his own private blog yesterday containing, inter alia, the following statements about self-determination:
While some lawyers, even professors of international law, pretend that self-determination is limited to the decolonization process, they ignore the progressive development of international law since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the self-determination wars in the former Yugoslavia, the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice concerning the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo, and the peaceful divorce of the Czech Republic from the Slovak Republic — all legal precedents that cannot be ignored, as if nothing had happened and we were back in the 1960’s and 70’s.
Admittedly, self-determination is not automatic or self-executing. The right is certain, the modalities of implementation are not always available. Many peoples who have the right of self-determination do not always have the opportunity to exercise it. All peoples including the Kurds, the Tamils, the Saharaouis, the Catalans have the right to internal or external self-determination. Whether they will be able to exercise this right, however, is another matter. Their right can be frustrated by States that violate international law and international human rights law with impunity — and there are many in this category.
Yet, it bears repeating that the right of self-determination is a human right, recognized by States as universal. It is not a right of States to selectively grant it or not — Article 1 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights cannot be applied à la carte. Right holders are the peoples – not States!