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34 Denv. J. Int'l L. & Pol'y 401 (2006)
Law in Places That Don't Exist

handle is hein.journals/denilp34 and id is 407 raw text is: LAW IN PLACES THAT DON'T EXIST
DR. CHRISTOPHER WATERS'
I. INTRODUCTION
With the possible exception of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,
unrecognized defacto states are not household names.2 Indeed, the world's dozen
or so unrecognized, secessionist states are largely ignored by the media and
scholars alike.3 Policymakers are aware of the strategic importance of some of
these defacto states, but have generally pursued a policy of containment and non-
engagement, a policy mirrored by courts.4 When academics have looked at these
territories they usually consider them from the perspectives of international
relations (what role do the territories play in destabilizing regions?) or international
law (are the territories indeed states? do they have a right to independence?).5 This
article aims to foster a more nuanced understanding of secessionist states by taking
a close, internal look at these territories. It does so by focusing on the rule of law
and examining how local actors - lawyers, judges, lawmakers, and citizens -
behave with respect to law. To be clear, while international law is important to
this endeavor, this is not an international law     analysis per se.    For present
purposes, the views of the international community (or the views of international
lawyers) on statehood, territorial integrity, self-determination and recognition are
relevant only insofar as their impact on the behavior of local actors. Sidestepping
the question of the formal legal personality of these separatist territories allows for
1. Senior Lecturer of Law, University of Reading School of Law, United Kingdom. The author
is very grateful to the British Academy for a grant making the fieldwork for this article possible. The
title is drawn from a recent BBC documentary on unrecognized states, Holidays in the Danger Zone:
Places That Don't Exist (BBC television broadcast, Aug. 2005).
2. See  Central  Intelligence  Agency  World   Factbook   (2006),  available  at
http://cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/tw.html (Taiwan is another possible exception, though it
has never formally declared independence from China).
3. Dov Lynch, Separatist States and Post-Soviet Conflict, 78 INT'L AFFAIRS 831, 832 (2002)
(the absence of scholarship on the four unrecognized, separatist states of the former Soviet Union has
been called a critical gap in the literature).
4. Compare Luther v. Sagor, [1921] 1 K.B. 456 (holding that governmental acts of an
unrecognized state cannot be recognized by an English court, though this proposition is not as strictly
applied today as once was the case) with Gardi v Secretary of State for the Home Department, [2002]
EWCA (Civ) 750 (Eng.) (matters involving unrecognized states do inevitably arise in asylum and other
cases, but judicial analyses of governance in secessionist states tends to be superficial). International
tribunals, and as discussed below the European Court of Human Rights in particular, tend to take a
more detailed view. Recent moves in the international community to constructively engage with these
states are discussed in the Conclusion.
5. See generally, e.g., TIM POTIER, CONFLICT IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH, ABKHAZIA AND SOUTH
OSSETIA: A LEGAL APPRAISAL (2000).

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