JEAIL > Volume 1(2); 2008 > Articles
Research Paper
Published online: November 30, 2008

Evolving Concepts of Self-Determination and Autonomy in International Law: The Legal Status of Tibet

Valerie Epps
Suffolk University, U.S.A.
120 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02108. U.S.A.
Corresponding Author:

ⓒ Copyright YIJUN Institute of International Law
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This article traces the evolution of the concept of self-determination from the end of World War I, through the era of decolonization, to the present day when it has become embedded in the human rights framework and, in limited circumstances, is used to justify secession. Various national and international cases are examined in analyzing the jurisprudence of self-determination, as well as the new European standards for State recognition after secession. The concept of autonomy is also examined as possibly providing a solution for disaffected minority groups within a greater territorial unit. The article then applies the self-determination and autonomy frameworks to Tibet and examines possible solutions for assessing Tibet's international status.

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