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Amity Haven

The Right of Self-Determination

Instead of me telling you what ‘Self-Determination’ is, I’d prefer to show you what a great many intellectuals of the past have to say.

Socrates 399 BC (by Plato)… “…we further proclaim to any Athenian by the liberty which we allow him, that if he does not like us when he has become of age and has seen the ways of the city, and made our acquaintance, he may go where he pleases and take his goods with him.”

Aristotle ~350 BC… “those who are as different as the soul from the body or man from beast, and they are in this state if their work is the use of the body, and if this is the best that can come from them, are slaves by nature. For he is a slave by nature who is capable of belonging to another, which is also why he belongs to another, and who participates in reason only to the extent of perceiving it, but does not have it.”

Cicero 56 BC (by Grotius)… “no one is forced to remain in a state against his will” and “each man’s power to retain or abandon his right is the foundation of liberty”.

Law of Nations (Vattel)… “Each individual, moreover, is intimately conscious that he can neither live happily nor improve his nature without the intercourse and assistance of others.”

Law of Nations (Vattel)… “every man is born free; and the son of a citizen, when come to the years of discretion, may examine whether it be convenient for him to join the society for which he was destined by his birth. If he does not find it advantageous to remain in it, he is at liberty to quit it.”

U.S. Constitution of 1787 Article 1: Section 8. Paragraph 10… “To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations.”

French Constitution of 1791… guaranteed as a natural and civil right, ‘the freedom of everyone to go, to stay, or to leave, without being halted or arrested’

1859 Case of Christian Ernst, the US Attorney-General described the right to free movement as ‘the natural right of every free person who owes no debts and is not guilty of crime to leave the country of his birth in good faith and for an honest purpose’.

Theodore Roosevelt 1907 — “…it behooves us to remember that men can never escape being governed. Either they must govern themselves or they must submit to being governed by others. If from lawlessness or fickleness, from folly or self-indulgence, they refuse to govern themselves, then most assuredly in the end they will have to be governed from the outside. They can prevent the need of government from without only by showing that they possess the power of government from within, a sovereign cannot make excuses for his failures; a sovereign must accept the responsibility for the exercise of the power that inheres in him…”

Charles Caleb Colton “Liberty will not descend to a people, a people must raise themselves to liberty; it is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed.”

January 1918, President Woodrow Wilson, as the “Touchstone for peacemakers at Versailles” and as part of his Fourteen Points document, described ‘self-determination’ as an “imperative principle of action.” Another important element was the creation of the ‘League of Nations’ (that would eventually become the United Nations), with the stated desire to prevent future wars.

1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States

Article 3. “The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by other states.”

Article 4. “States are juridically equal, enjoy the same rights, and have the same capacity.”

Article 6. ”Recognition is unconditional and irrevocable.”

Article 7. “The recognition of a state may be express or tacit.”

Article 8. “No state has the right to intervene in the internal or external affairs of another.”

1941 Atlantic Charter, Article 3 “They respect the rights of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live, and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.”

Jan 1942 Washington DC, The Atlantic Charter is signed by 26 Nations and the United Nations effectively becomes International Law.

1945 San Francisco Conference, the Soviet Union proposed a United Nations Amendment that would end up in the UN Charter as (Chapter IX) Article 55, “With a view to the creation of conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of people, the United Nations shall promote.”

1945 United Nations Charter

1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which included in Article 2 “No distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”

1948 American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, Article XIX, “Every person has the right to the nationality to which he is entitled by law and to change it, if he so wishes, for the nationality of any other country that is willing to grant it.”

1949 the Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, Article 1 Section 4, “in the exercise of their right of self-determination, as en-shrined in the Charter of the United Nations and the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among states in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.”

1955 first congress of International Commission of Jurists, who are affiliated with the International Court of Justice where the participants gave effect to the Act of Athens, which resolved: “(9) The recognition of the right to self-determination being one of the great achievements of our era and one of the fundamental principles of international law, its non-application is emphatically condemned. (10) Justice demands that a people or an ethnic or political minority be not deprived of their natural rights and especially of the fundamental rights of man and citizens or of equal treatment for reasons of race, color, class, political conviction, caste or creed.”

1960 United Nations resolution 1514 (XV) Section 2, by a vote of 89 to 0, Declaration on granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples. “All peoples have the right of self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

1960 United Nations resolution 1541 (XV) Affirmed 12 principles to ensure complete compliance with the right of self-determination.

1962 United Nations resolution 637 (VII) The Rights of peoples and nations to self-determination, “Whereas the rights of peoples and nations to self-determination is a prerequisite to the full enjoyment of all fundamental human rights.”

1962 Chapter XVI was added that included Article 103, “In the event of a conflict between the obligations of the Members of the United Nations under the present Charter and their obligations under any other international agreement, their obligations under the present Charter shall prevail.”

1966 Two Conventions on human rights came into force — the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. The Covenants have a common Article 1, which states: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development.” Further, in section 3: “The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.”

1969 Vienna Conventions on Law of Treaties, Article 27, states “that internal law cannot be used as justification for its failure to perform a treaty.”

1970 the United Nations resolution 2625: Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. “By virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, all peoples have the right freely to determine, without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social, and cultural development, and every state has the duty to respect this right in accordance with the provisions of the Charter.”

In 1975 The Advisory Opinion of the International Court relating to the Western Sahara Case reconfirmed as well “the validity of the principle of self-determination” in the context of international law.

In 1975, Final Act of the Helsinki Conference, “by virtue of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, all peoples have the right, in full freedom, to determine, when and as they wish, their internal and external political status, without external interference, and to pursue as they wish their political, economic, social, and cultural development.” Also, “The participating States, will refrain in their mutual relations, as well as in their international relations in general, from the threat or use of force against territorial integrity or political independence of any State.” Lastly, “frontiers can be changed, in accordance with international law, peaceful means, and by agreement.”

1987 Note: In the RESTATEMENT OF THE LAW, THIRD, FOREIGN RELATIONS LAW OF THE UNITED STATES;Section 102; Sources of International Law — (h) The United Nations Charter. The Charter of the United Nations has been adhered to by virtually all states. Even the few remaining non-member states have acquiesced in the principles it established. The Charter provisions prohibiting the use of force have become rules of international law binding on all states. (k) Peremptory norms of international law (jus cogens). Some rules of international law are recognized by the international community of states as peremptory, permitting no derogation. These rules prevail over and invalidate international agreements and other rules of international law in conflict with them. Such a peremptory norm is subject to modification only by a subsequent norm of international law having the same character. It is generally accepted that the principles of the United Nations Charter prohibiting the use of force (Comment h) have the character of jus cogens.

In 1993, 171 states adopted the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights that was then adopted by the 48th session of the General Assembly (48/21), “2. The World Conference on Human Rights considers the denial of the right of self-determination as a violation of human rights and underlines the importance of the effective realization of this right” and “83. The World Conference on Human Rights, urges Governments to incorporate standardsas contained in international human rights instruments in domestic legislation and to strengthen national structures, institutions and organs of society which play a role inpromoting and safeguarding human rights.”

If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” — James Madison

The happiness of society is the end of Government.” — John Adams

Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” — Johann Wolfgang van Goethe



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