Serbia: ICJ Rules Kosovo’s Independence Legal

On Serbia’s official request from September 2008, the UN General Assembly asked the International Court of Justice for Advisory Opinion on Kosovo’s declaration of independence, which was adopted by members of Kosovo’s Parliament on February 17, 2008.

The question that was posed by Serbia, and sent to the ICJ by the General Assembly, was clear:

”Is the unilateral declaration of independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo in accordance with international law?”

For almost two years, president of the Republic of Serbia, minister of foreign affairs and other officials have been spreading diplomatic propaganda around the world, claiming that the act of Kosovo’s Parliament was illegal according to the international law.

Although Serbia’s officials were optimistic, expecting that the Court’s Advisory Opinion would be positive for Serbia, the majority of the public, including some bloggers, believed that the Court would give an ambiguous response that would live up to the expectations of both sides, Serbia and Kosovo.

On July 20, two days before the official announcement of the decision, Jelica Greganovic, a Slovenia-based Serbian blogger, wrote:

The decision of the International Court of Justice in The Hague about the issue of legality of the declaration of Kosovo’s independence is, allegedly, unofficially already known. The independence of Kosovo is in opposition with the international law, but is legitimate because of the genocide against Albanians from Kosovo.

[…] The Slovenian media are already broadcasting the aforementioned unofficial decision by the Court, and the Montenegrin portal “Analytics” asserts that it has already been delivered to Belgrade. Colleague Misa Brkic, in his article on the portal, writes that he found out from one of the insiders that the decision would have two key items: the ICJ will give its advisory opinion, first, that Kosovo’s independence is not in accordance with the International law, and, second, that Serbia, under the former regime of Slobodan Milosevic, committed genocide against Kosovo’s Albanians in 1999, and so, because of that, their reaction is that the declaration of independence is legitimate. […]

At the end of her post, Greganovic notes:

[…] Kosovo declared its independence in February 2008. Since then, 69 countries, 22 of them members of the European Union, have recognized it as an independent country. According to the Slovenian media, only five countries have recognized Kosovo this year.

And she concludes:

It remains to wait for the official statement of ICJ’s decision. Honestly, the aforementioned, alleged and, for now, unofficial decision sounds… predictable to me.

Despite the legitimate diplomatic fight on the international arena to spread its own version of the truth, and a positive, or at least neutral, expectations by its citizen, Serbia had to face the official Advisory Opinion (a .pdf file) of the International Court of Justice, issued on July 22:

Accordingly, [the court] concludes that the declaration of independence on 17 February 2008 did not violate general international law.

The first reaction came to Serbia from Vuk Jeremic, minister of foreign affairs, who was attending the session of the ICJ in The Hague. After the president of the ICJ, a Japanese judge Hisashi Owada, had read the decision of the Court, Jeremic said to the Serbian media that, regardless of the ruling, Serbia would never recognize Kosovo’s independence. He added:

[…] Serbia will continue with a peaceful diplomatic fight for Kosovo. […]

In his appeal to the public, President Boris Tadic said this, among other things:

It is clear that the court was not ruling on the right to secession, but that it decided to debate only the technical content of the declaration of independence. The court avoided to rule on the essential issue and decided to let the top UN organ debate that, and all the political implications. […]

Serbia will never recognize the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo, since we believe that unilateral and ethnically motivated secession is not in line with UN principles […]

Blogger Drago Kovacevic, in his B92 blog, reacted to these statements:

[…] After the announcement of the decision, Vuk Jeremic spoke and promptly announced the extension of the struggle…

President Tadic was more reasonable, and today he was talking with Biden, and said this day was difficult for Serbia and he would consult with the general public. […]

He also criticized Serbia’s diplomacy efforts and concluded:

[…] But, no matter how it was, it’s time that the wrong policy towards Kosovo is changed. […] Tadic was zealously trying to lose Kosovo for the second time and he has succeeded in it. […]

While the parties of Serbia's ruling coalition consider that, nonetheless, the definition of the final status of Kosovo is not finished, announcing intensive diplomatic activity by September, when the session of the UN General Assembly should be held, some opposition parties, such as the Democratic party of Serbia, whose leader is Vojislav Kostunica, who was the Prime Minister at the time when Kosovo declared its independence, asked Boris Tadic to resign because of the catastrophic foreign policy in regard to the southern Serbia’s province – Kosovo:

Now, when it’s certain that ICJ’s Advisory Opinion is absolutely negative for Serbia’s national interest, it is opening the question of responsibility of authors and perpetrators of this defeated policy. Because of their political selfishness and inadequacy, they [and] the President of the Republic, have to resign as soon as possible.

Blogger Sasa Radulovic believes that the International Court of Justice didn’t say anything in its Advisory Opinion:

The question was:

“'Is the unilateral declaration of independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo in accordance with international law?”

The response by the Court: not… because the Declaration was not adopted by temporary institutions of Kosovo’s self-management, but by Djura and Pera [Serbian names which mark some people who are not credible], and the two of them were not acting out of the UN legal frame established with the Resolution 1244.

The International Court of Justice established that the international law does generally not ban unilateral declarations about independence, not discussing the issue whether such declarations then cause independence.

According to the advisory opinion of the Court, the Declaration about Kosovo’s independence was not contrary to the Resolution 1244, nor to the temporary law order which has been established by the Resolution because the authors of the Declaration were not the temporary institutions of self-management in Kosovo, but a group of people who defined themselves as democratically elected leaders of Kosovo’s people.
According to the Court, authors of the Declaration, as well as the Declaration itself, were acting out of a UN legal frame established by the Resolution 1244, which did not explicitly refer to the final status of Kosovo.

Djura and Pera = a group that defined itself as democratically elected leaders of Kosovo’s people

Why the Court defined the question in such an absurd way, I’ll leave to numerous analysts. So it has caused damage to itself the most. And to all of us. And in this way the Court said to the world that it was not ready to assume its role in the world order as a legal authority. And it withdrew into a shell.

The fact is:

The Court didn’t say that the independence had been declared in accordance with the international law, as well the actions that followed after that.

The Court said that what the mentioned group of citizens had declared did not have any legal importance from the International law’s point of view, and it couldn’t be in conflict with the law.

The Court said nothing.

That Serbia is really far away from reality in regard to Kosovo in every sense is highlighted by the fact that the priests and believers of the Serbian Orthodox Church, whose most famous monasteries are located in Kosovo, started to pray in all churches all over Serbia for a positive decision of the ICJ at 5pm, when the Court already said that the unilateral declaration of Kosovo’s independence was legal.


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