Falklands and the right to self-determination (part 2)

The Falkland Islands will have a referendum soon. There are political and legal elements present. Amongst them, a crucial one is the term ‘self-determination’. We have previously seen how this same term has been used by both the governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom with different contents, even in the same country. Moreover, we have mentioned some International Public Law (IPL) documents that embrace the idea. See below the link if you want to revisit the respective post:
Falklands and the right to self-determination

In one case and the other, political speeches and IPL, the main problem is given by the term itself  and its lack of a precise definition. However, that is not exclusive of self-determination. For those who are into political and legal sciences, an ambiguous, not clearly defined concept, is something almost to be expected by default. So let us try and bring some light into what appears to be a dark problem.

In a simple and schematic way, we could see that:
1) Self-determination is globally recognised as imperative even included in many International Public Law documents.
2) Broadly speaking, it means that people “can decide their destiny”.
3) By people it is meant inhabitants.
4) The Falklands/Malvinas Islanders have asserted their right to self-determination.
5) The Falklands/Malvinas Islanders have previously expressed their intention to remain as Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom.
6) In consequence, the rest of the international society can only acknowledge their wishes.

So far it seems a simple, straight forward and –even- logically correct argument. Is this so easy? Why then so many arguments? We will focus now only on one of the elements mentioned in the previous 6 sentences to see possible weakness in this way of understanding self-determination. From there we will see how an easy thing changes into an interpretative and argumentative nightmare.
In the particular case of the Falklands/Malvinas the Argentinean government deny that the islanders are “people”. And let us highlight that not only the Argentinean government but also many others around the world either supporting Argentina’s claim or that have their own similar sovereignty conflicts interpret “people” in the same form.
In any case, assuming we follow this interpretation (Falkland islanders are not ‘people’ in the sense they fulfill the requirements for the right to self-determination), they base their argument in several reasons, being the most important ones:

a) The islanders do not have roots in the territory being claimed. They were “implanted” by one of the competing parties.
This is one of the crucial arguments the government of Argentina uses against the Falklands islanders. A well known counter argument: Argetineans are mainly descendent of European ancestors. Therefore, they would also be a non-original American population and hence somehow implanted. Who is right?!

b) Number: the islanders are too few.
It is a fact: the Falklands islanders are less than 3000 people. Is that a number large enough to acknowledge their right to self-determination? Is any minimum number of inhabitants required at all?
Reality shows as several examples of countries with extremely large populations like China and India. But it also includes others with much smaller number of inhabitants like Vatican
City (even less than the Falklands). It seems numbers do not matter. Or it may seem like numbers do matter, but not absolutely.

c) UN General Assembly Resolution 1514 Art. 6: “Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations”.
That is known as “territorial integrity”. Indeed, Argentina’s continental platform extends upto the Falklands islands. But it is also true that if we applied the principle to the extent, some other countries would be also affected with their overseas territories. And would France be able to claim British territory if they demonstrated they were territorially attached?!

Although this is an interesting point to discuss, there is one more important related to this last argument. What about if self-determination is only a subterfuge for separatists to secede? In other words, is it a right granted by default or does it need to fulfill certain requirements?
We will seek the answers to these and some other questions on Thursday. Until then, see you all.


  1. Rather than publish a reply to your post in Part One, I'm replying to the points you've made above and referring to some of the answers to your previous post.Argentina denies that the Falkland Islanders are a people and that they are implanted. If this was so, it would imperil the Argentines of European descent and strengthen the claims of the Mapuche Indians to have Argentina returned to the original Amerindian inhabitants. The vast majority of Argentine citizens have ancestors that originated in Europe during the last 2 centuries. I believe that the census suggests that fewer than 0.5% of the Argentine population are pure Amerindian (or maybe less) and another 10-15% are of mixed descent. The white (Blanco) population mostly originated from Spain and Italy with a sprinkling of other Europeans & other South American nations. The Falkland Islanders are also of mixed descent. They are not solely from Britain, but the vast majority can trace their ancestry back to people also born in the islands. There were no natives in the Falklands. If there were, I accept that they would most likely have come from the Amerindians on the mainland. However, there is no evidence of any settlements. The key point is that far from the population being ‘implanted’ it grew by natural migration, just as Argentina did. The original settlers that came in 1826 and chose to remain after the Lexington in 1831 and the Clio in1833 stayed there. So to challenge the rights of the islanders is also ironically directly challenging the rights of Vernet’s settlers too. Do you see what I am getting at? Suggesting that the Falkland Islanders had no right to Self Determination means that Vernet’s settlers had no rights to Self Determination and that cancels one of the arms of the Argentine claim.However, let’s look at this from another point. You say that 30 countries have accepted and supported Argentina’s sovereignty claims. Who are those countries? Most of them are either neighbours of Argentina in South America, or countries that hold a grudge of some kind against the United Kingdon. None of these countries are what you would say, first world developed countries. Indeed, France (including most of the EU) and most of the Commonwealth countries support the British claim to the Islands. The United States stays neutral to the matter only because they do not want to cause a rift in the OAS. However, if they were forced to support one side or the other, we know which they would back. Not only because Britain is a NATO partner, but because Argentina has maintained a claim against the United States for the actions of the Lexington.I will continue…


  2. Argentina gained support from other countries by feeding them lies. I referred to this in my response to Part One. You say that there is a British history of the Islands and an Argentine history of the Islands and you do not refer to it in your discussions over Self Determination. However, it is important to refer to some of the key claims that Argentina used to gain support for their claims from other nations and expose the fact that these claims contain lies.Specifically what I am referring to is the claim that ALL Argentines were forcibly evicted from the Islands in 1833. This is the most obvious lie repeated by CFK and what is so damning is that the Argentine historical records do not support it. When the commander of the Argentine Garrison returned to Buenos Aires, he made a detailed report. He was facing a Courts Martial after all, not only for failing to keep the Islands, but also for the murder of his commanding officer. In that report, which has been published on-line in the original Spanish, he states the exact events as they happened and lists the people that remained on the Island. The 22 Vernet colonists who chose to remain. So you see, even though the Argentine Government knows that not all the Argentine colonists left, they still claim that ALL Argentines were expelled. It’s a lie and the nations that support Argentina have fallen for this lie.Let’s look at another lie. The Argentine Government claims that David Jewett raised the flag and claimed the Islands for Argentina in 1820. But this statement calls into question the validity of the Uti Possidetis claim. If you already own something, why do you have to go to the Islands again and make that claim? Are they not yours already? Or is it that you need to make a claim, because the Islands do not belong to you, they belong to the two nations that laid claim to them before, Spain and Britain. You might respond to say that the Islands naturally passed ownership when Argentina rebelled against Spain in 1810. But the people on the Islands at the time were still loyal to Spain & the records show this. When the last Spanish person left the colony in 1811, it invalidated the transfer agreement between Spain and France and the sovereignty passed back to the owners of the first colony, the French. Only they were not interested at the time as they were rather wrapped up in invading Russia! Jewett was not the only one to raise the Argentine flag to make a territorial claim. A certain Hippolyte de Bouchard (another Argentine corsair/pirate) also raised the Argentine flag in California. Yet funnily enough, Argentina doesn’t try to claim that they own California. Surely if you were maintaining that ‘territorial integrity’ had any validity, then you would be demanding that the United States hands over California immediately!The point is Jewett did not have instructions to make a claim in the Islands and the Argentine Government only found out about it 2 years after the event. Why would they need to instruct someone to make a claim if they already had ownership. It’s about as stupid as walking down to my car every morning, standing beside it and shouting to the world that it is my property, then raising a flag, singing a national car anthem and saluting it. Do you see what I am getting at? The Jewett matter actually weakens the Argentine claim to have accepted ownership automatically from Spain. Then there is the matter of Spain’s response. You see Spain never relinquished sovereignty until they accepted that the British had it in 1863. So even while the Argentina declared independence in 1816, Spain still claimed ownership of all the South American territories and only gave up on these when they recognised Argentina as a state and Britain’s rights to the Islands.


  3. I believe that you have already accepted that there is no number limit to Self Determination. There are examples of people setting themselves up as independent nations even though they consist of the members of one family. Suffice to say that there is no limit on the numbers that could claim Self Determination. Whether they would be recognised as a nation is very much a matter of a) whether they would be recognised as independent by other states and b) whether they are viable, would they be capable of self-sustaining. A nation would not be viable if all the members of it caught the flu and died. Who would other nations turn to, if all the members of the state were deceased? The state would become ‘Res Nulis’. That has particular relevance for the Falkland Islands, because the Lexington declared Res Nulis, that there was no state ownership in 1831.As you pointed out, if the ‘Territorial Integrity’ argument had any weight then France would be claiming Britain and vice versa. The crowns of Britain and France were combined at several points through the past 1,000 years. Just being on the continental shelf does not imbue you with sovereignty rights, otherwise the United States would have claimed both Canada and Mexico. They tried militarily but failed, just as Argentina tried and failed. Territorial integrity has no validity at all and also works on the supposition that the territory in question was ‘integrated’. You must recall that Vernet, the founder of the colony from 1826, stated many times that the sovereignty of the Islands belonged to Britain. It is one of the funnier aspects of the oft repeated claim by the Argentine Government, that their colony was ejected, that the owner of that colony (who was still the owner after 1833!) stated that the colony was on British sovereign territory, both before 1833 and after! Bit difficult for Argentina to maintain that claim in the face of the rebuttal from their own man. Which is why Argentina repeats the other arms of their claims, Spanish inheritance or Jewett and glosses over the inconsistencies.


  4. I’m posting later today the last of three articles in relation to self-determination and the Falklands. What I intend to do and I’ve been doing is stating what self-determination is, and arguments in favour and against the institution when applied to the Falklands both from the governments of the United Kingdom and Argentina.The historical argument is one of the many both governments have used and still use. You rightly mentioned part of what the British historical account. Argentina’s Foreign Affairs Ministry official website states their side of the historical argument. Below the link, and there you’ll find the tab to select English option:http://www.mrecic.gov.ar/es/la-cuesti%C3%B3n-de-las-islas-malvinas/antecedentesAs you will see (and I’m sure you already know) there are discrepancies in key points. Now, who is right? Who is wrong? Who is accurate? I have posted my opinion in regards these questions: as long as we keep on focusing on them, we will only secure a never ending story:Falklands: another never ending story? (part 1)http://london1701.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/falklands-another-never-ending-story.htmlFalklands: another never ending story? (part 2)http://london1701.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/falklands-another-never-ending-story_17.htmlI believe the key is to recognise the three parties. The United Kingdom has always done so with the Falklands islanders. Argentina’s Foreign Affairs Ministry official website states in relation to the Falklands/Malvinas case: “[…] The Argentine Government intends to recover the islands peacefully, in accordance with the principles of International Law, and bearing in mind the interests of the inhabitants.” But I’m not clear to whom they are referring to. To the Argentineans or to the Falklands islanders?Next week Argentinean Foreign Affairs Minister Hector Timerman will be taking the Falklands/Malvinas sovereignty claim to London where he is scheduled to meet outstanding figures from 18 European countries that have been calling for a resumption of negotiations, according to a release from the Argentine embassy in UK. Article available on: http://en.mercopress.com/2013/01/30/timerman-taking-the-falklands-dispute-to-london-in-an-event-with-eu-figuresWhat is going to happen? More debate about, amongst other arguments, the historical claim. And we all know the outcome: a never ending story! So until all the parties recognise reciprocally their existence and claims, the case won’t move forward (in fact, it won’t move anywhere). There’s always the chance that one of the three claiming parties leads by example. Time will tell!In the meantime, I’ll post later today the latest article about self-determination.


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