Human rights, self-determination of peoples and secession

AutorHelena Torroja Mateu
H T M
University of Barcelona, Spain
The right of self-determination of peoples is a fundamental Principle
of Public international law and a jus cogens or peremptory norm.
Jus cogens norms are accepted and recognized by the international
community as a whole and can only be modif‌i ed or derogated by another
jus cogens norm. They uphold general values of the international
community. No dispositive norm can contradict them, nor may any state
or group of states act or legislate against them. There are very few jus
cogens norms.
Like all fundamental Principles of Public international law, the
right of self-determination of peoples is also a customary norm. In other
words, it is a tacit norm, adopted by states by consensus and manifested
in state practice and the opinio juris, that is, the belief that this practice
is required by law.
This opinio juris is on display in two famous resolutionsŚ the
Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries
and Peoples (General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December
1960)ś and the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning
Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with
the Charter of the United Nations (General Assembly Resolution 2625
(XXV) of 24 October 1970).
1 For a more detailed explanation, please refer to the study I’ve recently published on
thisŚ Torroja, H., “Libre determinación de los pueblos versus secesión”Ś Cursos de Derecho
internacional y relaciones internacionales de Vitoria-Gasteiz 2018, Thomson Reuters, 2019,
pp. 237-388.

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