Friday, July 23, 2010

Kosovo / Serbia / International Court of Justice

World Court Rules Kosovo Declaration Was Legal
By Dan Bilefsky
The New York Times, July 22, 2010
Photo: "Kosovo Albanian children played on a bridge dividing the Serbian north and the Albanian south of the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica on Thursday." (Laura Boushnak/Agence France-Presse -- Getty Images.)
"Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 did not violate international law, the United Nations' highest court said Thursday in a ruling that Kosovo heralded as a victory but that legal experts warned could spur separatist movements around the world. Legal experts said that while the International Court of Justice had ruled that Kosovo's declaration of independence was legal, it had avoided saying that the state of Kosovo was legal under international law, a narrow and carefully calibrated compromise that they said could allow both sides to declare victory in a dispute that remains raw even 11 years after the war there. Political analysts said the advisory opinion, passed in a 10-to-4 vote by the court judges, is likely to spur other countries to recognize Kosovo's independence. Of the 192 countries in the United Nations General Assembly, so far only 69, including the United States and a majority of European Union nations, have recognized Kosovo. Reading the nonbinding opinion, whose political consequences could reverberate far beyond Kosovo, Hisashi Owada, president of the International Court of Justice, said that international law contained no 'prohibition on declarations of independence' and consequently that Kosovo's declaration 'did not violate international law.'
Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership welcomed the court's decision. ... But Serbia was adamant that it would never recognize what it had previously called a false state, while Russia, one of its staunchest allies, insisted that the court's decision did not provide a legal basis for Kosovo's independence. ... James Ker-Lindsay, a Balkan expert at the London School of Economics, said the court had trod carefully in weighing the right of a people to self-determination over the right of a sovereign state to territorial integrity, and had decided to sidestep the issue altogether. 'It has essentially said that Kosovo's legitimacy will be conferred by the countries that recognize it rather than by the court,' he said. [...]"

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