Secession as a remedial right

Inquiry 50 (4):395 – 423 (2007)
Abstract
Allen Buchanan holds that nations do not have a general primary unilateral right to secede. However, nations could legitimately secede if there were a special right to do so, if it were the result of negotiations and, more importantly, if some previous injustice had to be repaired. According to Buchanan, the three kinds of injustice that allow for unilateral secession are: violation of human rights, unjust annexation of territories, and systematic violations of previous agreements on self-government. I agree that nations only have a general remedial right to unilateral secession. But I argue that nations also have a general primary right to self-determination not held by other cultural groups. In virtue of this general primary right, nations also have a primary right to internal self-determination. I will then argue that the "past injustices" should include a failure to comply with internal self-determination. I also want to show that this alternative version of the Remedial Right Only theory meets the constraints, imposed by Buchanan himself, upon any satisfactory institutionalization of the principles governing secession. In the end, it will appear that my own version fares much better than Buchanan's in meeting these constraints.
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