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Generally states are bound under international law to recognize and protect the human right of persons. States would be deemed violators, if the enjoyment of such right is prohibited, criminalized or restricted in any form. The right to self- determination is a right recognised by various international covenants ratified/acceded to by member states.  By virtue of this right each person can freely determine their status, be it political, cultural, social and economic without fear of interference by persons or the state.

Hinged to this right of self-determination are the right to life, right to privacy, sexual self-determination and sexual orientation which relates to the right to equality and non-discrimination. Sexual orientation being a new area in human rights law has attracted a lot of controversy especially in politics. For further reading see http://www.unpo.org/article/4957.

Closely hinged to this concept of self-determination, is the right to life, right to privacy, sexual self-determination and sexual orientation which relates to the right to equality and non-discrimination. Sexual orientation being a new area in human rights law has attracted a lot of controversy especially in politics.

 The problem usually with this concept is that it is a people’s right rather than ‘individual rights’ however in modern day parlance this right is usually expressed as an ‘individual right’ which raises the problem of  how to balance this right of self-determination of the people or a group of individuals, choices made under this right and the outcome of such right with those of the general public on one hand and the State on the other hand, it is worthy of note that these two actors are not only recipients of choices made in asserting this right, they also are entitled to these right and other rights recognised under the law, especially when other rights identified in these instruments are in one way or another linked to this concept of self-determination. For further reading see https://www.humanrights.gov.au/right-self-determination, https://pesd.princeton.edu/?q=node/254.

Ruwanthika Gunaratne ‘Who is a subject of international law?’ (Ruwanthika Gunaratne and Public International Law 2008) https://ruwanthikagunaratne.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/1-2-an-introduction-to-subjects-of-international-law/

 To avoid conflicts of interest, the effectual result of this right of self-determination when asserted, often times determine the attitude of the government to the right and the steps to be taken towards such claim by an individual or a group of persons to this right.  This in essence means there would definitely be a conflict in the exercise of this right, with what the government/other persons think is right, despite it being a right recognised by law.

 This leads to the question: how far is too far in the exercise of this right? When is interference allowed by the government especially when the national aspiration and personality of such government would actively be involved in determining what is allowed and what is excluded?

It is trite that despite recognising this right of self-determination, morality, religion, conscience and personal interest would play a major role in determining how this right would be expressed by persons within the state. For further reading on government interference see, Sheriff Folarin, ‘The ‘Biafra’ self-determination quest’ Today Newspaper (Nigeria, 13 June 2016)  https://www.today.ng/opinion/28042/the-biafra-self-determination-quest.

 

This note was contributed by Ifeoluwa Etomilade-Oduola Research Fellow, Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies Lagos. Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

Further Reading

1)      Sheriff Folarin, ‘The ‘Biafra’ self-determination quest’ Today Newspaper (Nigeria, 13 June 2016) < https://www.today.ng/opinion/28042/the-biafra-self-determination-quest> 

2)      Ayelet Banai, Political Self-Determination and the Normative Significance of Territorial Boundaries, http://eis.bris.ac.uk/~plcdib/territory/papers/banai_selfdetermination.pdf  

3)      Patricia  Carley, SELF-DETERMINATION Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity, and the Right to Secession https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/pwks7.pdf

4)      Ruwanthika Gunaratne ‘Who is a subject of international law?’ (Ruwanthika Gunaratne and Public International Law 2008)  https://ruwanthikagunaratne.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/1-2-an-introduction-to-subjects-of-international-law/  

5)      Christopher J. Borgen, Kosovo's Declaration of Independence: Self-Determination, Secession and Recognition, https://www.asil.org/insights/volume/12/issue/2/kosovos-declaration-independence-self-determination-secession-and