Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia in February 2008 did not violate international law, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) said today as the United Nations court released its advisory opinion on the issue.
The ICJ, also known as the World Court, was asked by the General Assembly to give its opinion – which is non-binding – on the legality of the independence declaration by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) of Kosovo.
By 10 votes to four, judges at the ICJ concluded that the declaration does not breach either general international law, a Security Council resolution from 1999 following the end of fighting in Kosovo, or the constitutional framework that was adopted by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on behalf of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
UNMIK was established after Western forces drove out Yugoslav forces amid inter-ethnic fighting in 1999. Ethnic Albanians outnumber ethnic Serbs and other minorities by about nine to one in Kosovo.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for dialogue between all sides in the wake of the ICJ advisory opinion.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, he “strongly encourages the parties to engage in a constructive dialogue… [and] urges all sides to avoid any steps that could be seen as provocative and derail the dialogue.”
The statement added that Mr. Ban will forward the opinion to the General Assembly, which will then determine how to proceed.
The ICJ, which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands, is one of the UN’s six principal organs. It is tasked with settling legal disputes between Member States and with providing advisory opinions on legal questions when requested by relevant UN institutions.