Home > ALB, KOS, NATO, SERBIA, UN > The implications of the International Court of Justice verdict legitimizing Kosovo’s secession from Serbia

The implications of the International Court of Justice verdict legitimizing Kosovo’s secession from Serbia

July 23, 2010


The decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to “legitimize” Kosovo’s secession from Serbia establishes a precedent with wide ranging implications. The fact that the court’s ruling is being described in government and diplomatic circles as “vague” is what opens it up to varied interpretation — giving, on the one hand, hope to ethnic minorities seeking independent states, while, on the other hand, prompting calls from governments that the court’s decision “is unique to Kosovo” and sets no precedent other than what is stipulated in that case.

The Republic of Kosovo is, for all practical purposes, the world’s first “NATO state” — occupied as it was under the pretext of protecting the Kosovars from the Serbs, the country will likely forever remain a NATO territory. The claim put forth by the propagandists is that perpetual NATO occupation of Kosovo is necessary to protect the people from future Serb aggression. The real reason, however, is that Kosovo’s population is predominantly Sunni Muslim and a continuous NATO presence is needed to prevent the emergence of an Islamic Republic in the middle of Europe.

The ICJ’s decision to legitimize Kosovo’s unilateral secession from Serbia should come as no surprise. Decisions proclaimed by so-called “impartial” international bodies, such as the ICJ and UN, tend to favor Western interests. The problem with the court’s ruling is its “vagueness” — causing, for example, Germany’s foreign minister to quickly proclaim that the verdict “does not apply to the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus or any other country”, uttered almost simultaneously against the praises heaped upon the “precedent setting decision” by such groups as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The question that remains unanswered is this: “Is a territory within a sovereign state entitled to unilaterally declare its independence simply because the population within that territory is ethnically distinct from the country’s majority?”

The answer to this question can be found in a little-known book written by Turkmenistan’s late president, Saparmyrat Niyazov. The book, Ruhnama (or Book of the Soul), consists of two volumes of Niyazov’s personal philosophy and spiritual ramblings about good citizens and good governance. He addressed the general topic of ethnic sovereignty as follows:

One feels sorrow for the peoples of the world who have not yet achieved nationhood; and one feels twice that sorrow for those who leave the path of the nation and consider this great idea, the nation, to be merely the detritus of history. [Ruh. I:146, English edition, Ashgabat 2005.]

Whereas Niyazov fully supported the United Nations as a means of resolving disputes “among” nations and providing various programs “for” nations — he clearly rejected the idea of abolishing nations in preference to a “world government” often championed by UN visionaries. Furthermore, since he writes in Ruhnama of his goal to “abolish tribalism” among the Turkmens as a means of enhancing equality among citizens, we can conclude that “tribal units” are not eligible for independence apart from a larger ethnic parent group. However, based on Niyazov’s philosophy it would appear that “distinctive ethnic groups” such as Tatars, Kurds, Chechens, Palestinians, etc. would be entitled to independent states in the world community simply because they don’t have them yet.

Which brings us to Kosovo and its majority population of “ethnic Albanians”.

The International Court of Justice has opened the proverbial ‘can of worms’ in legitimizing Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) while failing to establish firm criteria that can be applied to other ethnic groups contemplating similar secession coupled with international legitimacy. Whereas the ICJ has failed to supply a generalized criteria I will defer to Niyazov.

There is nothing in either volume of Ruhnama that even remotely implies that a geographic region within a sovereign state (i.e. Kosovo within Serbia) is entitled to independence merely because the majority population of that region is ethnically distinct from the state’s overall majority population when the ethnic group already has an independent state. As such, the Kosovar Albanians — who are ethnically Albanian and have an independent state (Albania) — would not have a legitimate claim to an independent state unless obtained through the good graces of the Serbian government.

In light of the vagueness of the ICJ’s ruling, it has opened its doors for every imaginable ethnic group and tribal entity to waste the court’s time in these matters until such time as case law is firmly established.


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Categories: ALB, KOS, NATO, SERBIA, UN