Rule of Law in the Secessionist States

  • Christopher P. M. Waters
Part of the Euro-Asian Studies book series (EAS)


Any account of the rule of law in the South Caucasus would be incomplete without considering the situation in the separatist territories of the region.1 Nagorno Karabakh (‘Karabakh’), South Ossetia and Abkhazia are often portrayed as lawless areas and have received little scholarly attention beyond analyses of the conflicts themselves.2 This chapter aims to foster a broader understanding of the secessionist territories by taking a closer, internal look at the rule of law in two of the three territories, South Ossetia and Karabakh. It does so by examining how local actors — lawyers, judges, law-makers and citizens — behave with respect to law. For present purposes, the views of the international community on territorial integrity, self-determination and recognition are relevant, only insofar as they impact on the behaviour of local actors. Sidestepping the question of international legal personality allows for a neglected sociolegal analysis of these territories and, specifically, offers insight into the conditions necessary for the rule of law to emerge in territories at the margins of both the region and international life.


Legal System Supra Note Territorial Integrity Legal Education Show Factor 
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    The absence of scholarship on these states has been called a ‘critical gap’ in our understanding of the former Soviet Union. See D. Lynch, ‘Separatist States and Post-Soviet Conflicts’, International Affairs, 78 (2002), pp. 831, 832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Other aspects of statehood are discussed below. I take no position here on whether the territories in question should be recognized and my use of the term ‘state’ is simply shorthand for the fact that these territories meet the territorial effectiveness test. In that sense I am operating under the declaratory theory of international law, which holds that recognition is merely evidence of statehood and does not create states. The leading text on statehood — and the effects of recognition — remains J. Crawford, The Creation of States in International Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979).Google Scholar
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© Christopher P. M. Waters 2005

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  • Christopher P. M. Waters

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