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Policy Options: Kellie Leitch and Indigenous Rights

On July 26, 1989, then Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic unilaterally dissolved the assembly of the self-governing republic of Kosovo, which was an ethnic Albanian majority jurisdiction in Serbia.

This was followed by a referendum in July 1990, in which the majority Serbian population voted in favour of constitutional amendments that abolished “special status” and self-government for the minority Albanians. Over the next five years the situation disintegrated, with demonstrations, riots, rogue assemblies, and declarations, and eventually civil war and NATO intervention.

Taking away the protective rights and autonomy of national minorities is a dangerous thing. Because of this, actions such as the removal of “special status” without the consent of the affected minority is rare in modern times, seen only in countries like Milosevic’s Serbia or Francisco Franco’s Spain. Such moves are antithetical to what pluralistic democracies stand for, where the idea of “majority rule” is almost always accompanied by “minority rights.”

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