Breaking News: AP Reports ICJ Rules in Favor of Kosovo
According to the Associated Press:
The United Nations’ highest court says Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia did not break international law.
The nonbinding opinion sets the stage for a renewed push by Kosovo for further international recognition of its independence.
Reading the opinion Thursday, International Court of Justice President Hisashi Owada said international law contains no “prohibition on declarations of independence.”
Kosovo’s statehood has been recognized by 69 countries, including the United States and most European Union nations. Serbia and Russia lead a handful of others in staunchly condemning it.
The opinion is being read at the moment. Once I have had a chance to sift through it, I will post further thoughts. Based on the AP’s pull-out quote, though, it seem that the court has gone for a narrow interpretation of the question that was put before it (“Is the unilateral declaration of independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo in accordance with international law?”) and has chosen to rule only on the issue of the declaration itself, rather than on the broader (and more politically contentious and legally difficult) question of recognition by third-party states. If that is the case, then this result in favor of Kosovo makes sense as international law is generally silent as to secession and leaves the issue to domestic law. International law can be relevant in issues where a secession would perpetuate an international wrong (such as an illegal international use of force) but that would be primarily on the issue of recognition, as opposed to the declaration itself. In either case, though, it seems that the ICJ may have cabined-off Serbia’s arguments concerning the (il)legality of NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign.
Once I have a chance to read through the opinion, I will write again on these issues.
For now, here’s Marko Milanovic’s advisory opinion preview, the ASIL Insight I wrote on Kosovo’s declaration of independence, and a later piece comparing the situations in Kosovo and South Ossetia.