Uti Possidetis Iuris

Fozia Lone

in International Law

ISBN: 9780199796953
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:
Uti Possidetis Iuris

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The literature on the concept of uti possidetis shows deep links to colonization, self-determination, territorial integrity, sovereignty, statehood, creation of states, and territorial boundaries. The controversial notion of uti possidetis has shaped many modern states and created new identities for postcolonial states. In creating new identities, it dismantled precolonial identities of nations. Hence, in many instances it became a source of relentless battles and on many occasions bloody wars. A prodigious amount of literature exists on the principle of uti possidetis, including its origin, usage, and relation to issues of decolonization and self-determination. This Roman law doctrine was used to stabilize the border not only in the Spanish Empire in South America after the Spanish withdrawal but also during the decolonization process in Africa and Asia. The purpose of this principle was to maintain the territorial stability of newly created states at the time of decolonization and also to resolve issues related to title, boundary demarcation, and delimitation of maritime areas in situations in which a treaty did not exist or did not deal with such issues. The legal character of this principle is unclear; however, depending on various situations, it has been referred to as a rule, principle, customary international law, technique, policy decision, and political tenet. The principle of uti possidetis iuris favors actual possession regardless of how it was reached and does not distinguish between de facto and de jure possession. These colonial administrative borders almost never were drawn to conform to the boundaries of the inhabiting populations and almost always cut through them, resulting in nations becoming trapped within new states. This indiscriminate application of uti possidetis iuris in the name of acquiring “stability and finality” resulted in many claims of the right to self-determination and border disputes. This principle is prized by states that emerged through the decolonization process, because it guarantees their territorial integrity. Over the years the principle of uti possidetis has been stretched and applied to postcolonial borders to maintain the finality of borders in situations such as territorial breakups, an example being Yugoslavia.

Article.  12947 words. 

Subjects: International Law ; International Courts and Tribunals ; Private International Law and Conflict of Laws ; Public International Law

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