Officials in breakaway Abkhazia have welcomed ruling of the International Court of Justice on Kosovo saying that it would add weight to the Abkhaz arguments in favor of independence.
The breakaway region’s Prime Minister, Sergey Shamba, said according to the Abkhaz news agency Apsnipress, that after the ICJ’s decision “international experts would no longer be able to claim categorically that Abkhazia had no right for self-determination and independence.”
He, however, also said that because of the West’s “double-standard policies” no such ruling would have been expected from ICJ, had the Abkhaz case been brought before the Hague-based court.
In 2008 the UN General Assembly, upon Serbia’s initiative, requested the International Court of Justice to provide its advisory opinion on one specific question, whether the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo was in accordance with international law.
The Court said in its non-binding ruling that “general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declarations of independence and accordingly that the declaration of independence of 17 February 2008 [by Kosovo] did not violate general international law."
The court said in its ruling that it had not been asked about the validity or legal effects of the recognition of Kosovo by other states; hence, the court deemed it unnecessary to address such issues as whether or not the declaration had led to the creation of a state.
Tbilisi’s long-standing position has been that parallel between Kosovo and its two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are groundless, referring to, among other issues, the fact that in case of Georgia it was the Georgian population, which became victim of ethnic cleansing in those regions.
Another argument often raised by the officials in Tbilisi is a report by EU-sponsored Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia, led by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, which studied causes of the August, 2008 war.
The report, among other things, concluded that “according to the overwhelmingly accepted uti possidetis principle, only former constituent republics such as Georgia but not territorial sub-units such as South Ossetia or Abkhazia are granted independence in case of dismemberment of a larger entity such as the former Soviet Union.”
“Hence, South Ossetia did not have a right to secede from Georgia, and the same holds true for Abkhazia for much of the same reasons. Recognition of breakaway entities such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia by a third country is consequently contrary to international law in terms of an unlawful interference in the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the affected country, which is Georgia,” the report said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on July 22, that the Hague-based court’s ruling did not give any legal basis for Kosovo's independence from Serbia and added that it would continue to lead opposition to Kosovo's drive for international recognition.
A spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, Philip J. Crowley, said on July 22 that ICJ in its ruling was applying to facts, which were unique to Kosovo.
“We don’t think it’s applicable to any other situation,” he said.