Our Head of Chambers, Stuart Stevens, was one of seven panelists, who were invited to address the IHRAAM at the United Nations in Geneva on the 20th of Sept, on the subject ‘Obstacles to Self-determination’. The agenda included the situations in Kashmir, Hawaii, Alaska, the Kurds and other regions.
It is not generally known that the kingdom of Hawaiian Islands is actually an existing sovereign independent country with international recognition and treaties, with the United Kingdom, France, and other states, including even the USA, until it was ‘annexed’ by USA in 1893. Native Hawaiians have been fighting to regain their independence and sovereignty since.
A similar scenario applies to Alaska where the USA, Great Britain and others asserted the independence of Alaska from the Russian monarchy in the 19th century and asserted international rights to directly trade with Alaska’s indigenous people. The 1867 Treaty of Cession between Russia and the USA did not grant title or jurisdiction to the USA. However once again with all its valuable natural resources it was annexed, and both Alaska and Hawaii have been incorporated as states in the USA.
The tragic situation in Jammu and Kashmir is widely known. At the time of independence to India and Pakistan, the Hindu ruler of the Muslim majority kingdom, Hari Singh, initially chose to be independent, however under invasion from Pashtun forces, opted to join India. There has been a state of war and human rights abuses ever since, despite the U.N. Security Council resolution 47 in April 1948 mandating a plebiscite to decide whether the territory to accede to India or Pakistan. The resolution sadly did not provide an option to the people of Kashmir to choose independence.
Mr Stevens in his address, pointed out that although he was addressing the IHRAAM in the U.N building, and although there were clearly moral and legal rights raised, they might as well had the meeting in the middle of wilderness as the major powers consistently ignored the reports and the issue of self determination itself had been removed from the Council’s agenda. He pointed out that domination and exploitation by major states was the major obstacle to self determination, with inevitable human right abuses, and to achieve any practical results there had to be both the political will and powerful backing which attracted worldwide media interest. An example being South Sudan, where George Clooney added his voice to the efforts being made by Amal Clooney. A-list celebrities backing make for international awareness in our digital world, in the cases of Hawaii, Alaska and others, whilst a buffer state on Swiss canton lines may be the only solution for Kashmir.
The panels report will be forwarded to the Council, for consideration.