No Right To Self-Determination for Minorities - Cyprus
Legal experts representing the Republic of Cyprus at the UN International Court of Justice in the Hague have argued against the recognition of the state of Kosovo, saying that "the right to self-determination is a right enjoyed by “all peoples” but not by minorities or other groups within a State".
"Minorities enjoy of course the full range of human rights, but they have no entitlement to dismember existing States," said Polyvios Polyviou in closing arguments at the International Court of Justice.
This is the case even in circumstances in which the human rights of a minority might be said to be infringed, he added.
"There are mechanisms for the vindication of human rights: in national laws; before regional bodies such as the European Court of Human Rights; in international bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Council. Every one of them has a range of remedies and mechanisms at its disposal. Not one of them has the power to dismember or amputate a State," said Polyviou.
He went on to say that the people of Kosovo are not, in the view of Cyprus, a “self-determination unit”.
"They are without doubt entitled to have their human rights, and the rights of minorities within a State, respected and fulfilled. That is, of course, beyond question. But if their rights are violated that does not entitle them to break away from, or bring about the dismemberment of, the State," he said.
Cyprus' legal team was eager to point out that the situation in Cyprus is different to that in Kosovo.
"In our case there have been gross violations of the prohibition of the use of force against States. Such violations have their own particular consequences in international law. At the same time, neither situation is outside the scope of international law," said Cyprus Ambassodor to the Netherlands James Droushiotis.
He added "Cyprus’s primary concern and reason for participating in this hearing is to emphasize to the Court the absolutely critical and fundamental importance to Cyprus, and to many other States, of adhering to those principles of international law in the context of this case."
"Like its Balkan neighbours, Cyprus has endured attempts to impose political settlements by armed force. Meeting violence with violence is not the route that Cyprus has chosen. Instead, it has put its full trust in the rule of law in international relations," said Droushiotis.
He distinguished between Cyprus and Kosovo's situations, saying that "the self-styled “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” is created by a process that violates international law. And as Article 41, paragraph 2, of the International Law Commission’s Articles on State Responsibility makes clear, there is a specific legal duty not to recognize situations brought about by unlawful uses of force or other serious breaches of international law."
The ICJ is hearing arguments for and against the legality of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence made by Kosovo in February 2008. Cyprus' legal team consisted of H.E. Mr. James Droushiotis, Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to the Kingdom of the Netherlands; Professor Vaughan Lowe QC, member of the English Bar, Chichele Professor of International Law, University of Oxford;Dr. Constantinos Lycourgos, Senior Counsel of the Republic of Cyprus;Ms Mary-Ann Stavrinides, Senior Counsel of the Republic of Cyprus;Mr. Alexandros Markides;Mr. Polyvios G. Polyviou;Dr. Claire Palley; Professor Colin Warbrick, Honorary Professor at the Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham;Ms Elizabeth Wilmshurst; Mr. Levon Arakelian; and Ms Amy Sander.