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The Legitimacy of Minorities' Claim for Autonomy through the Right to Self-Determination

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The grant of autonomous powers to minorities is considered as a threat to the stability of the nation-State system. Nonetheless, many academics and jurists now believe that autonomy can be used to reduce ethnic conflicts, provided that parties to such arrangements are willing to implement them in good faith. In contemporary debate amongst academics it is frequently argued that there is an apparent link between minorities' rights and autonomy. Moreover, some minority rights campaigners stress that minorities' right to autonomy emanates from the right to self-determination. Such claims are, however, contested by most nation-States on the ground that autonomy is not a right in international law. It is only a small number of States that are prepared to experiment with autonomous arrangements to address minorities' concerns within their constitutional structure. Whilst investigating the current developments in United Nations and State practice with regard to autonomy, this article critically analyses whether autonomy gains its legitimacy through the right to self-determination and the extent to which autonomy is being evolved as an integral part of the internal right to self-determination.

Affiliations: 1: Attorney-at-Law of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka


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