Secession and the Use of Force



In this chapter secession is analyzed in combination with the use of force. Force is often resorted to by secessionists, parent states and external actors involved in secessionist conflicts. The complexity of this issue renders a legal judgment on the use of force rather difficult: for instance, when external actors fight against the authorities in favor of secessionists, from the secessionists’ perspective, such external involvement represents the furtherance of self-determination and human rights, but from the perspective of non-secessionists, the military support for the secessionist rebellion is detrimental to their right to self-determination over territorial interests and human rights as both have been severely violated by the secessionist violence; worse yet, well-intended external involvement can be maliciously exploited by a conflicting party for political ends, and external actors can also conceal their self-interested motives in the name of upholding noble values of international law. How this theoretical and practical conundrum can be properly addressed through the interpretation of international law is the crux of the matter. A detailed discussion about the general prohibition of the use of force and likely exceptions, including the responsibility to protect and the choice between legality and legitimacy, as well as how to escape from the vicious circle of the use of force, will help bring about a reasonable solution to the highly controversial issue of the use of force in secessionist conflicts. Four cases regarding the use of force in secessionist conflicts, namely Katanga, Bangladesh, Kosovo and Crimea, are analyzed for a better understanding of this issue.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jing Lu
    • 1
  1. 1.School of LawSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina

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