The courts of quasi-state entities: toward formulating the issues

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Author: Oleksandr Yevsieiev

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2020-4-111-130

Keywords: judicial system; marginal statehood; post-conflict justice; secession; Universal Jurisdiction; unrecognized states


This article is devoted to the functioning of the judiciary in poorly studied political entities – unrecognized states. Particular examples of marginal statehood are reviewed, ranging from Colombian “selva” to separate areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine. A typology of such judiciaries is shown, with the factors that prompt political elites of incipient state entities to create courts. The complexity of the ethical choice that a judge who was a servant of the “parent” state must make, when he or she enters the service of an unrecognized state, is emphasized. Corresponding statistics are given in connection with the transition of Ukrainian judges to the service of the self-proclaimed DPR and LPR. The author analyzes various options for the relationship of professional judges and young passionate followers endowed with de facto powers of judicial status. Particular attention is paid to partially recognized Kosovo as an example of the most successful construction of statehood and its own judicial system, in which, with agreement of the international community, even judges from developed Western countries took part. The paper considers the particularities of the legal development of the unrecognized states that have taken place, the main laws governing the transformation of their judicial systems from tribunals of separate armed groups into respectable structures that fit in well with the new institutional design. The article analyzes the practice of the European Court of Human Rights in connection with the legal nature of courts established in unrecognized states. It is significant that the Strasbourg Court takes an ambivalent position on this issue. On the one hand, it rejects the approach in which the decisions of such courts are rejected solely on the grounds that the territorial entities within which they are created are considered illegal from the point of view of international law. On the other hand, the ECHR only once, in the case of the courts of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, considered them “established by law”. The phenomenon of partisan justice, which is an extreme form of such courts and is carried out by militants in the so-called insurgent areas, is especially analyzed. The Colombian example shows that the structures of partisan justice may well coexist with the so-called community justice administered by representatives of the territorial community (peasant, Indian, etc.).

About the author: Oleksandr Yevsieiev – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Yevsieiev O. (2020) Sudy kvasigosudarstvennykh obrazonvaniy: k posta­novke problemy [The courts of quasi-state entities: toward formulating the issues]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.29, no.4, pp.111–130. (In Russian).


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