Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Thomas D. Grant

First Page



This Article seeks to assess how the U.N. system has enforced regimes of non-recognition under international law. Claims by certain communities to constitute states and claims by some states to hold title to certain pieces of territory have met with opposition from various quarters. At times, the United Nations has attempted to organize international non-recognition of such claims. The claim by the state of Indonesia to hold title to East Timor presents a vivid and important example of an attempt to set up a regime of non-recognition by the United Nations.

The Article examines how the United Nations addressed the Indonesian claim and inquires whether this amounted to a self-enforcing regime of non -recognition. The Article examines in detail U.N. practice in other regions of the world, including Katanga, Rhodesia, the South African "Homelands," Namibia, Israel, Cyprus, and Kuwait, in which the United Nations legislated rules of non-recognition. In light of these examples, the Article concludes with a discussion of the East Timor case, in which the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decided that U.N. resolutions had not in fact created an international rule of recognition or non-recognition regarding the status of East Timor. Nonetheless, the Article speculates that the ICJ may have left open the possibility of adjudication of claims of illegal recognition, thus creating a future mechanism of regulating controversial claims concerning territory and statehood.