May 13, 2014

Sovereignty and International Law [guest post by Mr. Floyd, Edanian Citizen]

What makes a country a country? Is it the fact that countries have millions of citizens? Is it due to countries being in the United Nations? Most people do not think about this issue, which is a key part of micronationalism. Micronations, as described by Microwiki, the micronation encyclopedia, are “small unrecognized nations which are often eccentric in nature” (Main Page). Micronations are self-declared independent states that wish to become countries. Micronations are generally groups of people who declare themselves countries. There are hundreds of micronations that currently exist as simulations of real world states or legitimate new nation projects that have declared independence from their associated macronation, or what micronationalists consider conventional countries. There are micronations with many types of governments and diverse cultures, as well as holidays and customs, which are created by their members. No micronation has been accepted into the United Nations, but they have obtained de facto recognition through negotiations and visits with ambassadors from some countries. Because of legal loopholes, legislation and international treaties, micronations should be considered sovereign nations and recognized as such.

First, there are many legal loopholes that allow for micronations to exist in the world. One of the most utilized loopholes is the Treason Act of 1495 which states that “An Acte that noe person going wth the Kinge to the Warres shalbe attaynt of treason.” (Preamble) This is generally interpreted by scholars as any person acting as the de facto sovereign in a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations will be considered the monarch and it is thus illegal to deny their reign. One notable micronation, known as the Principality of Hutt River, declared independence under this provision in the Australian legal code. The self-proclaimed prince stated he would become a new nation loyal to England. The police came to his farm-nation as they claimed to be independent and did not pay taxes. After the farmer went to court with the Australian government, the court ruled it was illegal for the state to dispose of the leadership as they were acting with royal power over the land. Now, the self-proclaimed nation does not pay taxes to the Australian government and does not need to abide by their laws Another piece of legislations that is used by United States citizens declaring their homes as self-governing is the Declaration of Independence, which was passed by the Continental Congress in 1776 which affirms “That whenever any Form (sic) of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…” This proves that the United States was founded on the idea that the people have a right to declare independence and to rule themselves through a government by the people if the government does become authoritarian or undemocratic in nature. Many micronationalists believe that most micronations are not in touch with the people and thus are not compelled to take their best wishes into account.

Secondly, international agreements and treaties confirm that micronations have a right to sovereignty. The Atlantic Charter reads: “respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live.” This was signed by the US, the UK and many other nations in 1941. In a similar notion, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed in 1966, states that “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status…” Self determination is the right of people to rule over themselves and create their own state. These treaties clearly state that people have the right, under international law, to create their own nation and rule over it freely.

Finally, the most well-known and widely used piece of information for micronationalists is the Montevideo Convention. For the western hemisphere, the treaty outlines the duties and of a state in the international community. In the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States,  article one proclaims, “The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.” Micronations do obtain governments, and most if not all have full constitutions. A defined territory generally consists of the houses of its members. A permanent population is comprised of the micronation’s citizens, and it has the capacity to enter relations with other states if they are asked. “The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states”, stated in article three, proves that even without recognition, micronations can operate as international entities. Article five goes on to state, “The fundamental rights of states are not susceptible of being affected in any manner whatsoever,” meaning that countries have no right to impede the workings of micronations. This is explained more in article eight with the clause “No state has the right to intervene in the internal or external affairs of another.” Even without recognition, this applies to any state that fits the criteria affirmed in the treaty.

        On the contrary, many people do not believe micronations are true countries because they cannot exhibit sovereignty over their land. According to Joseph Duncan, President of the People’s Republic of Tiana, “Well [if a person said I could not exhibit sovereignty], I'd say – ‘you're under arrest according to section 5, subsection 6, article 2c of the criminal code of the People's Republic of Tiana. You have the right to remain silent.’” By this statement, he is affirming the fact that micronations can enforce their own laws within their land. The definition of sovereignty, according to Webster’s dictionary, is “Supreme power especially an over body politic,” meaning that micronations can exert sovereignty if they can create their own laws and enforce them. This shows that micronations are sovereign states because they can be free from external influence through having their own government that creates policies and laws. Others will say that states must be a member of the United Nations to be a country, but nowhere in legal documents, unlike the declarative method to statehood, does it state that that is required of them. If this theory is correct, then no countries would have existed until after World War II and if a state needs consent to declare independence, then the United States is still a part of England.

        Are micronations legitimate countries? Evidence shows that they should be recognized as such because of current laws and treaties signed by major world powers. Most micronationalists would agree, “We have a government, a flag, and meet the terms of the montevideo [sic] convention.” says Duncan. Since many micronations meet all the criteria necessary to become a state according to the international community, they should be given the sovereignty they deserve. All legal documents say that they are equal to current states, so they should be given the rights they are entitled to have.

​​Works Cited

Atlantic Charter. Treaty. August 1941.

Duncan, Joseph, Right Honourable, Sir, MZP DSU OWC KBOS OZL ZPO HZW

KC MLEB MLLB, Prime Minister, Minister of Health and Minister of Culture of The Kingdom of Zealandia, Supreme People’s Commissar of Tiana, Sultan of Hakka, Member of the Zonian Parliament, Flanderensisian Ambassador to the United States, Marquis and Viscount. Personal Interview. 1 February. 2012.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Treaty. 16 December. 1966.

“Main Page.” Microwiki. 6 Feb. 2012. Microwiki.org.uk. 18 Jan. 2012

        < http://microwiki.org.uk/index.php?title=Main_Page>

Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States. 26 December. 1933.
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