Self-determination in Chechnya: Between Politics and International Law by Micheal Missan (Speech at European Parlament)
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow to thank to me organizers for carrying out of such interesting and necessary hearing. Acting to me have concerned some aspects of a question of self-determination of the Chechen Republic. I would like to be connected to this interesting discussion and to tell some words about the status of the Chechen Republic according to international law.
From the point of view of international law, the basic problem consists not in a recognition of the Chechen republic Ichkeria Russia and the international community, but in its self-determination. The fundamental question costs so: whether Chechens have the right to self-determination?
Self-determination of the nations is one of the questions at issue of today’s international relations. On the one hand, self-determination is perceived as expression of human rights which already are called by nobody into question. On the other hand, fear of destabilization on international scene leads to that many countries interfere with any real attempts of self-determination.
The principle of self-determination is quite often considered as contradicting a principle of territorial integrity and the state sovereignty. The impression of desperate position, impossibility to reconcile these two fundamental principles is made.
The people struggling for the independence, prefer to refer to the right of self-determination of the nations, but the states which are afraid of separatism, always underline a principle of territorial integrity. Vudrou Wilson, one of fathers of primogenitors of a principle of self-determination, considered this principle as an exception (the law specialis) from a principle of inviolability of borders for the sake of world preservation. In practice of modern international law the special way of life for coordination of these two principles has been created . The basic role in this compromise is played by a principle uti possidetis.
Uti possidetis (that in Latin means «as you own») it is a principle of international law which is used for delimitation of the new independent states by maintenance of conformity of these borders to borders of former colonial territories on which basis they have been created. This principle has arisen in the South America in the beginning 19го centuries. The new states have made decision to establish the borders on the basis of borders of administrative units of the Spanish empire. The same principles were applied in Africa during an epoch of decolonization and during recent times after wreck of communism and dissolution of the former Yugoslavia and Soviet Union.
The Chechen Republic was one of the former republics USSR who has carried out self-determination according to a principle uti possidetis. The country has inherited the territory from Checheno-Ingush АССР. The border with Ingushetia which remained as a part of the Russian Federation, has been defined on the basis of the former border between Chechen and Ingush independent districts, before creation of the general administrative formation in 1936. But the international community did not recognise self-determination of the Chechen Republic though then it has found much bigger support in societies of many republics USSR.
In 90е years of 20 centuries attempt to limit principle application uti possidetis has been made by the former union republics. In Latin America Симона of Bolivar, as well as during decolonization of Africa, the new states were created in borders of administrative units which possessed the different status within the limits of the former colonial mother countries. These distinctions quite often were much more deeply, than distinctions between allied and autonomous republics USSR. In practice, Soviet Union was highly centralised state which is pursuing a policy of russification in all territory of the country.
Whether the Chechen Republic itself represented the state, despite lacking the international recognition? Yes, represented, the state the fact objective, instead of simply one of jurisprudence interpretation. Despite some elements of anarchy in internal policy the Chechen republic Ichkeria had effective powers and the control over the territory and has proved the ability to protect the independence during wars with Russia in 1994-96 and from the beginning of 1999. In the Chechen Republic invariably there was a public support of idea of independence which was once again shown by general election 1991 and 1997.
There is a whole precipice between international law and a political reality. The Chechen Republic realised the self-determination from the point of view of international law. But absence of a recognition has prevented the Chechen Republic to participate in the international relations as the state. As a result existence of the Chechen state and viability of its self-determination depend more on results of war with Russia, rather than from international law principles.
The second big problem for the Chechen self-determination consists in internal split of emancipating movement after president Dokku Umarov has proclaimed Caucasian Islamic эмират in October, 2007. The Chechen parliament has found the constitutional decision in exile to this problem, having presented this declaration эмирата the former president «self-elimination of the president from execution of presidential duties». After that Ahmed Zakaev has been appointed by the Chairman of cabinet CHRI. It is possible to doubt, certainly, legitimacy of such procedure, but it is not necessary to forget, that many recognised governments in exile during the Second World War (for example, Charles French cabinet де Gaulle) had under themselves much weaker constitutional bases, than the today’s government of the Chechen Republic.
Chechens and many other things nations of the world aspire to self-determination. There is a contradiction between the importance of self-determination which is underlined in the major international documents, and reluctant desire of the states to create a condition for realisation of this principle. It causes anxiety that refusal of granting of the right to self-determination quite often goes a hand about a hand with the gross infringements of human rights and terrorism.
The Chechen people became a victim of the conflict between international law and a policy. The tragical situation in which it has appeared, should convince the international community, in particular, the countries of Europe reconsiders the relation to self-determination. It is impossible to bring human rights and aspirations of the people in a victim of long-term international safety. Negation of the right to self-determination leads радикализации approaches, escalation of conflicts and is frequent to their distribution on the next regions.
“Situation in Chechnya, EPP-ED Hearing, European Parliament, Brussels, 17th March 2009″
Attorney Micheal Missan