As I was sitting here watching a video on the latest round in the diplomatic spat between the UK and Argentina over the Falklands/Malvinas, it occurred to me, not for the first time, that international law desperately needs to address the issue of a statue of limitations on territorial claims.
Bluntly, how far back in time can a territorial claim go and still remain legitimate?
Because, you see, Argentina does have a very good case for ownership of the islands in question. Historically, the Malvinas were an Argentine possession, inhabited by Argentines. The British Empire seized the islands by force in the 1830's, and forcibly removed the Argentine inhabitants, replacing them with British colonists.
Pardon my extensive use of italics above, but this is an absolutely crucial point. Because the UK's entire claim to possession of the Falklands/Malvinas rests upon a single leg - their assertion that the inhabitants wish to remain part of the UK.
But those inhabitants are colonists, whose ancestors forcibly supplanted the previous population of Argentinian people. Under international law and extensive precedent, this greatly weakens the British claim. Unfortunately for Argentina, the UK has far more clout in the courts of international law than any Latin American nation will ever be permitted to have. You know and I know, that the system is totally rigged. As evidence of this, if you need any, consider the fact that the ICC has never prosecuted any white person who was not Serbian. Think about it.
Back to my central theme. International law needs a judgement on the subject of a statute of limitations on territorial claims. I'm not necessarily saying there should be such a limit, but if there is not, let us clearly understand that there is not.
Personally, I think there needs to be a limit. I think the need for a limit is obvious. But where do you draw the line? One hundred years? Two hundred? The Jews claim Occupied Palestine because their ancestors, (albeit only about 11-14% by DNA testing), lived there two thousand years ago, ignoring the fact that the same DNA tests reveal the Palestinians to be descendants of those ancient inhabitants in equal degree.
So, where do you draw the line?
And, as much as I am loathe to further confuse an already complex issue, there is also a moral problem with a statute of limitations. In effect it says, "If you can steal someone's land, and hang on to it long enough, you can claim it as your own". Because, dear reader, theft is still theft. Robbery is still robbery. No matter how long ago it was.
And this is the point at which some smartass always asks, "So are you going to give North America back to the Indians?"
It is, dear reader, not a simple issue.