This interview with Alfred de Zayas was conducted by @mediat.ak, an independent digital journal in Abkhazia, known for its incisive analysis of regional and international issues. Mr Zayas also shared his insights with AbkhazWorld, offering a detailed perspective on Abkhazia and its right to self-determination.
Various independent international political scientists and diplomats often provide more objective assessments of international conflicts. In the global expert community, there is support for Abkhazia's aspiration to be an internationally recognised nation.
We aim to frequently share the independent perspectives of academic scientists and practitioners. Thus, we present an interview with Alfred Maurice de Zayas, an expert in human rights and international law, who has extensive experience working at the UN. @mediat.ak
- In your view, how can Abkhazia break the information blockade and achieve widespread international recognition?
Alfred de Zayas: The UN's inaction is partly due to misinformation about Abkhazia and South Ossetia spread by Washington and Brussels. As a result, you are globally perceived as separatists, a term laden with negative connotations. They don't acknowledge you as freedom fighters or as a people desiring independence and decolonisation from Georgia. Instead, they label you as 'bad' separatists. Such propaganda, unfortunately, pervades the air and becomes entrenched in history books as the dominant narrative.
Regrettably, you lack sufficient resources to counter this propaganda. Following the USSR's collapse, the USA decided to dictate the system of international relations, instigating colour revolutions as seen in Georgia and Ukraine, or toppling figures like Milosevic.
However, Abkhazia can find allies elsewhere. I am confident that most people in Latin America, Africa, and Asia don't view the Abkhazians as separatists. It's vital to spread information about Abkhazia in these regions.
This endeavour will require substantial resources, which are, regrettably, scarce. Russia may offer assistance. I believe countries like China, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa could eventually recognise Abkhazia's independence."
"People aspire to self-determination; they reject living as colonies under foreign dominance. A prime example is Saakashvili's actions in 2008, attempting to forcibly reincorporate South Ossetia and then Abkhazia into Georgia. South Ossetia and Abkhazia share no ties with Georgia. Historically, Abkhazia was part of the Russian Empire [In 1810, Tsar Alexander I issued a Charter recognising Abkhazia as an autonomous principality under Russian protection. Under the Princes Chachba, Abkhazia retained political autonomy within Russia until 1864. That year, following extended conflicts in the Caucasus, Abkhazia became the last Caucasian principality to be forcibly incorporated into the Russian Empire. —Ed.] independently of Georgia and was a Soviet Socialist Republic from 1921 to 1931. There are no linguistic or ethnic connections between Georgia and Abkhazia. Abkhazia has every right to be an independent country and I am confident it will gain broad international recognition.
+ Alfred-Maurice de Zayas Speaks Out on Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and the Right of Self-Determination
+ The International Legal Status of the Republic of Abkhazia In the Light of International Law, by Viacheslav Chirikba
+ The right of peoples to self-determination in the post soviet area: the case of Abkhazia, by Yugina Mishota
You have already been recognised by several UN member states, with operational embassies from Nicaragua, Venezuela and Syria. More countries will soon realise your distinct identity from Georgia and acknowledge the Abkhaz people's desire for independence.
I have appealed to the UN Secretary-General, stressing that implementing the principle of self-determination of nations is crucial to preventing conflicts. The UN's primary objective is to maintain peace among the world's states and peoples.
In 1991, the UN should have conducted referendums in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Transnistria, honouring the people's will. Instead, referendums were held in places like Indonesia and Sudan after hundreds of thousands had perished. My vision is for the UN to be a proactive conflict-prevention organisation, acting before wars erupt. Such measures in Abkhazia and elsewhere could have spared many lives and much destruction."
- The right of nations to self-determination is a core tenet of the UN Charter, yet it is selectively applied. For the international community, especially Western nations, Kosovo's independence is unquestioned, whereas Abkhazia is seen as part of Georgia, denied the right to independence. Why, in your opinion, does the international community overlook Abkhazia's right to self-determination?
Alfred de Zayas: In 2010, the International Court acknowledged that Kosovo's Declaration of Independence did not breach international law. Similarly, I believe Abkhazia's declaration of independence from Georgia aligns with international law.
Enormous efforts were made to legitimise Kosovo's recognition. The principle of territorial integrity is a cornerstone of international law and is irrefutable. However, the USA has aggressively targeted sovereign states, notably the former Republic of Yugoslavia, comprising Serbia and Montenegro at that time.
Post-USSR, Washington sought to reconfigure the world to suit its geopolitical objectives.
Serbia resisted playing into the hands of the Americans. In 1998, Milosevic erred in granting autonomy to Kosovo within Serbia and Montenegro, yet this did not prevent US and NATO bombardment. This act was a blatant contravention of international law, with the USA and its NATO allies undermining the territorial integrity of a sovereign state.
Territorial integrity is fundamental to international law. The occupation of the Golan Heights by Israel in 1967 is a classic case of violating a state's territorial integrity. However, the concept of 'territorial integrity' should not impede the right to self-determination. This principle applies to Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria. It's untenable to deem Kosovo's case unique, thereby denying other nations their self-determination rights.
Mr. de Zayas recently shared his insights with AbkhazWorld, offering a detailed perspective on Abkhazia and its right to self-determination. His comments on the matter are as follows:
When will Western politicians finally grasp the fact that the realization of the self-determination of peoples is an effective conflict-prevention strategy? Experience shows that hundreds of post-WWII conflicts had their origins in the unjust denial of the right of self-determination. But the mainstream media and the 'establishment' keep harping on the primacy of the territorial integrity of states. This was clearly rejected in paragraph 80 of the ICJ advisory opinion on Kosovo, back in 2010.
However, the press keeps telling you that territorial integrity is somehow superior to the right of self-determination of peoples, anchored in articles 1 and 55 of the UN Charter and in article 1 common to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights/International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It doesn't.
Moreover, it is worth recalling that it was NATO that destroyed the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia in its unprovoked war against Serbia and Montenegro in 1999, an act of naked aggression in violation of article 2(4) of the UN Charter, a crime against peace under article 6(a) of the Nuremberg Statute, and article 5 of the Statute of Rome and its Kampala definition of aggression.
It is inconceivable that Abkhazia will ever 'return' to Georgia, because Abkhazia was not there by its own choice, but by Stalin's decision. Moreover, Abkhazia's declaration of independence is just as valid (if not more valid) than the declaration of independence of Kosovo.
Doubtless, Kosovo confirmed a precedent already established in post-decolonization secession, following up on the secession of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc. You cannot 'undo' these international law precedents.
But, of course, the US, EU, and NATO want to create their 'own' international law, outside of the UN Charter. They can demand it a thousand times, and will be proven wrong a thousand times.