In the current issue of the German Law Journal, entirely dedicated to the legal dimension of the future status of the Serbian Province of Kosovo I published an article: Srdjan Cvijic, “Self-determination as a challenge to the legitimacy of humanitarian interventions: The Case of Kosovo”, German Law Journal, Vol. 8, No. 1, January 2007
This article questions the legality of imposing independence for Kosovo without the consent of Serbia. It does so by firmly linking this question to the debate on the nature and legality of NATO’s 1999 humanitarian intervention in the FRY / Serbia. The UN-mediated process for negotiating the future status of this southern Serbian province, as well as the legal origin of the UN-mandated administration in Kosovo (UNMIK), represent a continuation of the original military and political involvement of NATO and the entire international community initiated six years ago. It is for this reason that no decision on the future status of Kosovo can be reached without bearing in mind the original basis of international involvement in FRY / Serbia. This article will analyse authoritative international jurisprudence that demonstrates how only “a thin red line” divides humanitarian interventions from being legal under international law. It further argues that instances of humanitarian intervention can, over time, acquire legality provided that stringent conditions are respected, the most important of which being that they serve no purpose other than the prevention of grave and immediate threats to human life. Consequently, humanitarian intervention should not serve as a tool for achieving political goals such as greater political autonomy, self-determination, or independence for particular groups within any given country. Infringement of this condition would amount to a revolutionary challenge to international law and threaten the return of the predominance of spheres of influence in international relations and law, taking us back to a past where war was considered the legitimate “continuation of politics by other means”. The imposition of an independence status for Kosovo on Serbia would not only amount to a revolutionary challenge to the established norms of international law, but would also jeopardize the development of the doctrine of humanitarian intervention.