The exercise of the right to self-determination may result in one of the following: the emergence of a sovereign State, the free association of the peoples with an independent State, or integration into an existing State. Whatever the result of the exercise of this right, it has to be determined by a free and genuine expression of the will of the peoples.
Regardless of the fact that this right is an essential principle of international law, political and socio-economic factors may prevent its exercise, and consequently, the realisation of its benefits by ‘peoples’. Such is the situation of the Saharawis of Western Sahara in North-West Africa. The question of Western Sahara came before the International Court of Justice in 1975, the court finding that neither Morocco nor Mauritania had sovereignty over the territory, and that the Saharawis have a right to self-determination (SeeWestern Sahara, Advisory Opinion, I.C.J. Reports 1975, p. 12). Till date, this right is yet to be given effect regardless of the wish of the Saharawis.
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