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The Distinct Cases of Kosovo and South Ossetia

The Distinct Cases of Kosovo and South Ossetia

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Fordham International Law Journal 
Volume
32,
Issue
6 2008
Article
6
The Distinct Cases of Kosovo and SouthOssetia: Deciding the Question of Independence on the Merits and InternationalLaw
Ronald Thomas
Copyrightc
2008 by the authors.
Fordham International Law Journal 
is produced by The Berke-ley Electronic Press (bepress). http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ilj
 
The Distinct Cases of Kosovo and SouthOssetia: Deciding the Question of Independence on the Merits and InternationalLaw
Ronald Thomas
Abstract
The cases of Kosovo and South Ossetia provide two opportunities for the community of na-tions to reconcile the rights of Serbia and Georgia with the rights of the peoples within theirborders. Instead of doing so, other countries used these cases for ideological and political postur-ing and continued to do so as of the end of 2008. This Note will review Kosovo and South Ossetiaand attempt to take the politics out of an inherently political decision-whether or not to recognizethem as independent states. Part I of this Note will review how the United Nations has approachedthe issues of autonomy, borders, secession, and minorities. It will also provide background onthe doctrines of self-determination and the rights of states. Part II will set out the facts-as theyare generally accepted-of Kosovo and South Ossetia and consider the differing opinions regard-ing independence of the two areas. Part III will review those opinions in light of the goals anddoctrines of the United Nations and how it has approached these issues in the past. The Note con-cludes that recognition of independence of the states should be driven by legal arguments ratherthan political or social alliances and that the goals of the United Nations are best served by beingsteadfast in promoting multi-ethnicity within political entities; Kosovo and South Ossetia shouldbe recognized as autonomous regions within Serbia and Georgia, respectively. The Note also con-cludes that domestic as well as international legal structures must be in place to make autonomyworkable.
 
NOTE
THE
DISTINCT
CASES
OF
KOSOVO
AND
SOUTH
OSSETIA:
DECIDING
THE
QUESTION
OF
INDEPENDENCE
ON
THE
MERITS
AND
INTERNATIONAL
LAW
Ronald
Thomas*
INTRODUCTION
It
is
doubtful
that
all
Georgians
would
say,"we
are
all
Georgians."'Within
the
former
Soviet
nation
of
Georgia
thereare
several
other,
non-Georgian
ethnicgroups,including
the
Ossetians
and
Russians
of
South
Ossetia.
2
Similarly,
Kosovar
Albanians
may
object
to
being
identified
as
"Serbian,"whether
that
term
is
used
to
describe
an
ethnicity
or
a
state's
citizen.
3
As
countries
such
as
France
and
the
Netherlands
struggle
to
assimilate
new
ethnic
groups
into
their
societies
and
within
their
*
J.D.,2009,
Fordham
UniversitySchool
of
Law;M.B.A.,
2006,
FordhamGraduateSchool
of
Business
Administration;
B.A.,
1976,University
of
Denver.
I
would
liketo
thank
Professor
Joseph
Sweeney
for
his
insightfuldirectionon
this
project
and
Annie
Chen
for
her
thoughtfulediting.
I
am
also
grateful
to
my
colleagues
at
Time Inc.
and
William
Stubing
fortheir
steadfast
support,
flexibility
andencouragement.
1.
See
Posting
of Robert
Barnes
to
The
Trail,
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/
the-trail/
(Aug.
12,
2008,14:24EST)
(reportingon thecomment
made
by
SenatorJohn
McCain,
speaking
to
Georgian
President
Mikheil
Saakashvili).
2.
See
Georgia,
in
THE
WORLDFACTBOOK,
https://www.cia.gov/library/
publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gg.html
(Sept.
29,
2009)
(listing
Azeris,
Armenians,
and
Russians
as
the
three
major
ethnic
groups
behind
Georgians);
Memorandum
from
Comm.
forHuman
Rights
&
Ethnic
Minorities
of
the Parliament
of
Georgia
to Giorgi
Topouria
(Dec.
3,
1996),
availableat
http://www.sakartvelo.com/
Files/Conflicts/minorities.html
(identifying
other
groups
as
Armenians,
Azerians,
Russians,Ossetians,Abkhazians,
Greeks,Jews,
and
Kurds).
3.
See,
e.g.,
Serbs,
EthnicAlbanians
Discuss
Kosovo,
CHINADAILY,
Oct.
10,
2003,
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/en/doc/2003-10/15/content_272122.htm
(characterizing
the
meetingsponsored
by
the
United
Nations
("UN")
in
which
Serband
Kosovar
Albanian
leaders"clashed"
and
refused
to
shake
hands);
see
also
Albanians
Flee
Serbia
for
Kosovo,
BBC
NEWS,
Aug.
2,
1999,
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/
410402.stm
(reporting
on
the
effective
partitioningof
Mitrovica,
Kosovo,
betweenSerbs
and
Albanians).
1990

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