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Serbia Requests ICJ Opinion on Legality of Kosovo Independence

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Serbia is seeking the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) opinion on the legality of Kosovo's independence and says it will abide by its decision. Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia in February, but Belgrade has refused to recognize its sovereignty. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said Friday that he has formally asked the U.N. General Assembly to support his government's request to ask the International Court of Justice to issue an advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence.

"Today I submitted this demand," he said. "The General Assembly is going to consider it this coming autumn. I hope that the majority of member states of the U.N. will support Serbia's request."

Serbia must go through the U.N. General Assembly, because only organs of the U.N. can ask the court for advisory opinions.

A simple majority of the General Assembly's 192 member states is required to approve the request for the court's opinion. The General Assembly would then make the request, not Serbia.

Jeremic said Serbia strongly believes Kosovo's declaration violated numerous international laws and mechanisms.
"Serbia has asked for the advisory opinion of the ICJ, because Serbia strongly believes international law was violated, that the Security Council Resolution 1244 was violated, that the U.N. Charter was violated, that the Helsinki Final Act was violated by Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence," he said.

The ICJ, which is based at The Hague, is the principle judicial organ of the United Nations. It settles legal disputes between states and gives advisory opinions on legal matters. Its judgments are legally binding, but its advisory opinions - what Serbia has asked for - are not.

However, Jeremic said his country would respect the court's decision.

"Since we are the party that is seeking the ICJ's opinion, we are saying we believe in the ICJ," he said. "We believe in international institutions. We are going to respect the ruling of international institutions."

If the court says Kosovo violated international law, it will strengthen Serbia's assertion that Kosovo's move to independence was illegal.

Serbia and its ally Russia, have not recognized Kosovo's independence. The United States and more than 40 other countries have. While independent, Kosovo is not yet a member of the United Nations.
 

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