Earlier this week, the island nation of Fiji admitted to losing the legal document which confirmed its independence from the UK. Does that threaten its existence as a state? Turns out the answer is no, according to Catherine Redgwell, a professor of international law at University College London.
“If it’s recognised as a state and fully participates in the international community, the loss of documents isn’t going to affect its existence [as an independent state].”
The UK Parliament’s Fiji Independence Act 1970 granted that to the Pacific nation, made up of 800-plus volcanic and coral islands.
“On and after 10 October 1970 Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom shall have no responsibility for the government of Fiji,” it read, before spelling out the nation’s free powers to make laws.
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.