Who, what, why: What happens when a country loses its 'birth certificate'?





Fiji has admitted losing the legal document confirming its independence from the United Kingdom. But does that threaten its existence as a state?

However, as Fiji celebrated the 40th anniversary of winning independence from the UK, its government admitted it had lost the legal Independence Order presented to ministers by Prince Charles in 1970.

And after five years of scouring files in government departments, it was forced to take the embarrassing step of asking its former colonial masters for a photocopy.

But when a country loses such a document, does the right to independence go with it?

Almost certainly not, according to Catherine Redgwell, professor of international law at University College London.

Independence papers, meanwhile, are largely symbolic items.

In the same way that losing your birth certificate does not mean you cease to exist, the legitimacy of a state does not rest on a piece of paper, agrees Prof Roda Mushkat....



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