The origins of the right to self-determination and the changing attitudes of British government officials involved in the decolonisation process 1942-1961
This work will develop a methodological and theoretical approach to analysing
customary international law, which transcends the strictly defined boundaries of
traditional international legal scholarship. It will be proven that approaches which
utilise such methodologies tend to view the State as a unitary corporate entity, and
therefore only analyse the external conduct of States in order to determine when
custom becomes legally binding.
Instead an interdisciplinary approach, which focuses on the disciplines of diplomatic
history and literature, will be employed in order to understand the underlying
attitudes of British officials involved in the legal decision-making process. In
particular, a methodology that is influenced by thick description as employed by
Geertz, and a 'way of reading' as instituted by Boyd White will be used in order to
identify cultural patterns. The analysis of archival evidence will then be placed
within the above cultural framework. It is considered appropriate to concentrate on
British practice with reference to the development of a right to self-determination,
given the discussion of this particular customary right in the first chapter.
The decolonisation of the Sudan will be examined, and it will be revealed that,
although Bevin alluded to a Sudanese right to self-determination, he in fact used the
language of forbearance and evasion to balance competing interests. This was seen to
result in the undermining of the Sudanese right to self-determination, when this type
of language was used in his meetings with Sidqi.
Furthermore, it will be demonstrated that members of the Sudan Political Service also
used the language of forbearance and evasion to ensure gradual constitutional
development. This is tum resulted, yet again, in the undermining of the right to selfdetermination.
Nevertheless note will also be made of the fact that forbearance was
subverted by Huddleston in response to the perceived threat of Egyptian infiltration.
This resulted in the promotion of the right to self-determinationThe cultural framework will then be applied to the decolonisation of Cyprus. It will
be demonstrated that the use of the language of forbearance and evasion by certain
British officials ensured that British interests were upheld by placing discussion of a
Cypriot right to self-determination in abeyance. This is despite the fact that the
applicability of the right to Cyprus was explicitly mentioned.
In the final two chapters, the subversion of forbearance as a catalyst for the promotion
of the right, and particularly the role of imperial lethargy in that subversion will be
examined. In the first of these two chapters, the decolonisation of Malaya will be
analysed. It will be demonstrated that following the end of the Second World War,
the language of imperial lethargy was clearly being used, resulting in an explicit
recognition of the right self-determination. However the use of the language of
forbearance and evasion in relation to the process of constitutional change resulted in
the impression being presented that the pledge was not seriously made.
The analysis of Sierra Leone within a cultural framework will reveal a clear conflict
between the cultural patterns of forbearance and evasion, and imperial lethargy.
However it will be shown that while the language of forbearance and evasion
continued to be used, the language of imperial lethargy dominated, resulting in the
unqualified recognition of the right of self-determination.
In conclusion it will be maintained that Article 3 8( 1 )(b) promotes orthodox
approaches to the development of customary law, which view the State as a unitary
corporate entity. It will be argued that this results in a pervasive legal formalism. It
will therefore be put forward that it is necessary to engage in an approach which
transcends the boundaries of the discipline, and takes into account the complexity,
and inevitable humanistic nature of state administration. It will be posited that a
cultural framework provides a way of appreciating the complex and ultimately
rhetorical process of legal decision making.