The Right to Self-determination Under International Law: “Selfistans,” Secession, and the Rule of the Great Powers, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Right to Self-determination Under International Law

“Selfistans,” Secession, and the Rule of the Great Powers, 1st Edition

By Milena Sterio


224 pages

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This book proposes a novel theory of self-determination; the Rule of the Great Powers. This book argues that traditional legal norms on self-determination have failed to explain and account for recent results of secessionist self-determination struggles. While secessionist groups like the East Timorese, the Kosovar Albanians and the South Sudanese have been successful in their quests for independent statehood, other similarly situated groups have been relegated to an at times violent existence within their mother states. Thus, Chechens still live without significant autonomy within Russia, and the South Ossetians and the Abkhaz have seen their conflicts frozen because of the peculiar geo-political equilibrium of power within the Caucuses region.

The Rule of the Great Powers, which asserts that only those self-determination seeking entities which enjoy the support of the majority of the most powerful states (the Great Powers) will ultimately have their rights to self-determination fulfilled. The Great Powers, potent military, economic and political powerhouses such as the United States, China, Russia, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy, often dictate self-determination outcomes through their influence in global affairs. Issues of self-determination in the modern world can no longer be effectively resolved through the application of traditional legal rules; rather, resort must be had to novel theories, such as the Rule of the Great Powers.

This book will be of particular interest to academics and students of law, political science and international relations.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. The Notion of Self-determination 2. Recent Applications of Self-determination 3. Self-determination and Other Theories 4. The Great Powers’ Rule or a New Theory of Self-determination 5. International Jurisprudence 6. Case Study 1: East Timor 7. Case Study 2: Kosovo 8. Case Study 3: Chechnya 9. Case Study 4: Georgia (South Ossetia and Abkhazia) 10. Case Study 5: (South Sudan) 11. Conclusion

About the Author

Milena Sterio is an Associate Professor of Law at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, where she specializes in international law, international human rights law, and international criminal law. Her work has been published in numerous academic journals, including the American University Law Review, the Connecticut Journal of International Law, and the Minnesota Journal of International Law.

About the Series

Routledge Research in International Law

The series offers a space for new and emerging scholars of international law to publish original arguments, as well as presenting alternative perspectives from more established names in international legal research.  Works cover both the theory and practice of international law, presenting innovative analyses of the nature and state of international law itself as well as more specific studies within particular disciplines. The series will explore topics such as the changes to the international legal order, the processes of law-making and law-enforcement, as well as the range of actors in public international law. The books will take a variety of different methodological approaches to the subject including interdisciplinary, critical legal studies, feminist, and Third World approaches, as well as the sociology of international law. Looking at the past, present and future of international law the series reflects the current vitality and diversity of international legal scholarship.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / International
LAW / Indigenous Peoples
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / Diplomacy
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / Treaties