Assessing the Legal Issues of the Moldovan Separatist Conflict

by Chris Borgen

Following up on my earlier posts on the separatist crisis in Moldova (see chain of links below), here is my summary of the legal issues that we considered in preparing the NY City Bar’s report on the on the Transnistrian conflict. While a blog post can’t go into great detail due to length, I hope this may at least set out the rough outline of the issues we considered.

The report focuses on three main questions: (a) whether the so-called Transnistrian Moldovan Republic or “TMR” has a right under international law to sovereignty; (b) whether the “privatization” of property by the TMR’s leadership was legally binding on Moldova; and, (c) what role “third-party” States have in the ongoing conflict and, in particular, the international legal implications of Russian economic pressure and military presence in Transnistria. In assessing these issues we looked to diplomatic practice, cases before international courts, treaties, declarations, and other examples of state practice.

The rest of the explanation is after the jump…

3 Responses

  1. Though not mentioned explicitly in your blog post, I think a helpful case for readers on the point on the international law of sovereignty is the Quebec Secession case from the Canadian Supreme Court, available here. The Quebec Secession case gives credence to the test you outlined above.

    “The chief concern of the secessionist leadership, as I mentioned in a previous post, likely stems not from any nascent Transnistrian nationalism but rather from the lucrative smuggling, money-laundering, and ‘privatization’ rackets run by them.”

    One might have been able to say that about some of the smugglers who led our Revolution here in the U.S., Chris!

  2. Nonliquet:

    Thanks for noting the Quebec secession case. As it turns out I used it a great deal (and also the report of the panel of experts that was commissioned to analyze the issue) in the report’s discussion of self-determination. I agree with you: it is very clear and useful.

    As for our own founding fathers: well there are bound to be some rascals, I guess, at just about every founding. The question, though, is whether there are any credible for claims secession besides get-rich-quick schemes.

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