The UN's highest court has ruled Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia did not violate international law. The decision rejects a claim by Serbia but is non-binding.
Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority declared independence from Belgrade in February 2008, after UN-brokered negotiations failed. The US and most European nations recognized the move, but Serbia – backed by Russia and China – called it a violation of its territorial integrity.
Kosovo had previously been administered by the UN, following the NATO bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999.
Washington-based journalist and historian Nebojsa Malic calls the decision a “death sentence for international law.”
“It is a clear violation of UN Resolution 1244 and all the accepted norms of international law. I honestly was expecting a more nuanced decision. I did not expect the court to take such a directly pro-American position,” he said.
As for Kosovo itself, Malic is convinced that “independent” is not the word to describe it.
“Kosovo is as independent as Vichy France was in WWII. It’s a puppet state. It suffers from endemic corruption, abuse of power. Its governmental structure can be better described as organized crime,” the journalist added.
According to Balkans expert Marco Gasic, the court made a decision it wanted to make and ignored the main question.
“This ruling by the ICJ appears to be an attempt to avoid the real question asked by the General Assembly,” he told RT. ”The question the General Assembly really wanted answered is as to whether unilateral secession is legal under international law.”
Russia says that the ruling of the International Court of Justice will not change its stance on the status of Kosovo, which Moscow does not recognize as an independent state. A statement on the issue has been published on Russia’s Foreign Ministry web site.
“The court has only assessed Kosovo’s declaration of independence, noting that it has not considered more widely Kosovo’s right to unilateral secession from Serbia,” the statement reads. “Also, in its ruling the court has not assessed either the consequences of the adoption of this document, namely whether Kosovo is a state, or the legitimacy of its recognition by a number of countries.”
Political analyst Vladimir Kozin sees beyond “the trickery of the UN Court of Justice”.
“They are playing with words. ‘Declaration of independence’ or independence per se as and act as a gesture means nothing. In both cases it is a gross violation of international law: chapter 2 of the UN Charter, the Declaration On International Law adopted by the UN in 1970, a number of key OSCE documents including the Charter on New Europe, the resolution of the UN Security Council 1244, plus another five previously adopted resolutions on the Kosovo issue,” Kozin told RT.
Bojan Brkic, a foreign policy editor at Serbian public TV, says all attempts by Belgrade to negotiate the status of Kosovo have been declined.
“Serbia does not want to rule over Albanians and decide about their lives," he said. "It only wants a minimum of sovereignty over the territory recognized. Serbia had in the past several different proposals on how to resolve this, all of which were quickly rejected by big powers, except for Russia and China.”