Position Paper

Topic: Kurdish Self-Determination under International Law

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Committee: The Sixth Committee – Legal

Country: United Kingdom

” To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;” – Article 1(2) of the UN Charter. 

Over 28 million Kurds, an ethnic group of Iranian origin, spread across four different nations, seek the right to self-determination, aiming to secede and form ‘Kurdistan’. But before we can even discuss the legality of these secession claims, it is important to dissect the very ‘right of self-determination to peoples’ under the International Law.

The aforementioned right, first established by the Article 1(2) of the UN, was clearly defined under the 1960 UNGA Resolution 1514 or the Declaration on Granting Independence to Colonial Countries and People where in paragraph 2 of the declaration, it is stated that: “All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” It achieved its legal status under the two International Covenants of 1966, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), becoming a part of the customary international law, and thus, very imperative in light of the Kurdish question.

 

The right to self-determination – also included in the jus cogens (the international peremptory norms)- can be divided into two clear aspects, the external and internal right to self determination. The external self-determination is the right of peoples to determine their own political status and to be free of alien domination, including formation of their own independent state whereas the internal self-determination is the right of the people of a state to govern them without outside interference. While the United Kingdom agrees on the prevention of foreign domination and other forms of alien governance and subjugation, it is the internal right that causes the most debate among nations, when the right of ‘peoples’ to choose conflicts with the territorial integrity of states.