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Order and Justice: National Minorities and the Right to Secession

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The Versailles Treaty sought to protect minorities by giving them their own state. This practice, labelled 'self-determination' has changed guise considerably post World War II. Paramount to the emancipation of colonies, it came to be the concept that legitimated the 'rule of the people' over that of their colonial masters. However post-colonial 'self-determined' states are often manufactured entities forced into the strait-jacket of Westphalian statehood; and unlike the states that emanated from the Westphalian Treaty, were given no time to evolve by themselves. As a result these states often house disparate sets of minorities that go unrepresented within the Statist discourse. Further, these states have attempted to suppress their minorities through the various policies associated with nation-building. Today, with secession an increasingly attainable form of self-determination, the question arises as to whether these minorities have a right to form a separate state. The international law of self-determination suggests that this is a right of all peoples. It however leaves the parameters of this 'peoplehood' undefined. This paper seeks to examine the discourse of minority rights within that of the international right to self determination. It seeks to trace the history of minority rights protection, and to examine the way in which minority rights are protected within current international law. In addition, it examines the parameters of peoplehood and concludes by looking at two cases where disaffected minorities in a post-colonial state sought to form their own state.

Affiliations: 1: University of Wolverhampton, UK


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