Minorities - Research Guide International Law

A systematic approach of international protection of minority rights began after the First World War by the League of Nations. The minority protection system was meant to protect group rights of homogenous populations within States, to further the idea of self-determination. After the Second World War the United Nations the focus was on universal rights of individuals, rather than on minorities. The end of the Cold War, and the many conflicts with ethnic dimensions marked the revival of the protection of minority rights. The result was the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities by the UN General Assembly in 1992. The 21st Century faces the challenge to achieve a peaceful coexistence within the multicultural nations of the world.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for legal research on Minorities. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section.
Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's classification index code 106. Minorities and subject heading (keyword) Minorities are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.

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  • Pulla, V., (ed.), The Lhotsampa People of Bhutan: Resilience and Survival, Houndsmill, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

    pulla, lhotsampa people of bhutan

    This book provides insight into one of the world's quietest human rights abuses. The story of the Lhotsampa people of Bhutan describes their journey of coping and resilience, incorporating qualitative research undertaken in the refugee camps in Nepal and resettlement areas in Australia and elsewhere in the world.

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  • Prina, F., National Minorities in Putin's Russia: Diversity and Assimilation, London, Routledge, 2016.

    pruna, f , national minorities in putin's russia

    Using a human rights approach, the book analyses the dynamics in the application of minority policies for the preservation of cultural and linguistic diversity in Russia. Despite Russia’s legacy of ethno-cultural and linguistic pluralism, the book argues that the Putin leadership’s overwhelming statism and promotion of Russian patriotism are inexorably leading to a reduction of Russia’s diversity. Using scores of interviews with representatives of national minorities, civil society, public officials and academics, the book highlights the reasons why Russian law and policies, as well as international standards on minority rights, are ill-equipped to withstand the centralising drive toward ever greater uniformity. While minority policies are fragmented and feeble in contemporary Russia, they are also centrally conceived, which is exacerbated by a growing democratic deficit under Putin. Crucially, in today’s Russia informal practices and networks are frequently utilised rather than formal channels in the sphere of diversity management. Informal practices, the book argues, can at times favour minorities, yet they more frequently disadvantage them and create the conditions for the co-optation of leaders of minority groups. A dilution of diversity, the book suggests, is not only resulting in the loss of Russia’s rich cultural heritage but is also impairing the peaceful coexistence of the individuals and groups that make up Russian society.

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  • McDougall, G., The First United Nations Mandate on Minority Issues, Leiden, Brill/Nijhoff, 2016.

    the first un mandate on minority issues mcdougall

    Across the world, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities are subjected to hate crimes, systematic discrimination and marginalization. Religious minorities have recently faced particular threat in certain regions, while in other parts of the globe identity based on race or ethnicity has been used as a basis for exclusion.

    In The First United Nations Mandate on Minority Issues, Gay McDougall curates a selection of reports she produced as UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues. The collection, with her introductory analysis, reveals the challenges and opportunities faced in her attempt to highlight the plight of these oppressed communities around the world and to shape an important new mechanism for the UN’s protection of their rights.

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  • Hofman, R. (et al.)(eds.), Rahmenübereinkommen zum Schutz nationaler Minderheiten, Handkommentar, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 2015.

    rahmenubereinkommen zum schutz nationaler minderheiten

    Das Rahmenübereinkommen zum Schutz nationaler Minderheiten
    ist das mit Abstand wichtigste völkerrechtliche Instrument im Bereich des Minderheitenschutzes, nicht zuletzt dank eines erfolgreichen Überwachungssystems, bei dem das Ministerkomitee und ein Beratender Ausschuss eng zusammenarbeiten. Unterschiedliche Situationen von Minderheiten in den verschiedenen Mitgliedstaaten und die Problematik, dass oft politisch sensible Bereiche betroffen sind, führen dazu, dass seine Bestimmungen verschiedene Interpretationen und Anwendungsmethoden zulassen.

    Der neue Handkommentar
    bietet als erste umfassende deutschsprachige Darstellung eine verlässliche Interpretationsquelle, die den Inhalt der einzelnen Artikel des Rahmenübereinkommens vollständig erfasst und gemeineuropäische Standards entwickelt. Zusätzlich wird die einschlägige Lage in den deutschsprachigen Mitgliedstaaten (Deutschland, Österreich und Schweiz) sowie in Italien (mit Schwerpunkt Südtirol) erörtert.

    Zugrunde gelegt sind dem die Interpretationen der Staaten, die aus den Staatenberichten ersichtlich sind, bezüglich ihrer Verpflichtungen aus dem Rahmenübereinkommen, zum anderen die Stellungnahmen (opinion) des beratenden Ausschusses und die Resolutionen (resolutions) des Ministerkomitees.

    Besonders hilfreich
    Zu jeder Bestimmung ist ein Abschnitt zur aktuellen Lage (etwa Reformbedarf oder Feststellung eines rahmenübereinkommensgemäßen Zustandes) in den deutschsprachigen Mitgliedstaaten vorangestellt.

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  • Ippolito, F. and S. Iglesias Sánchez, Protecting Vulnerable Groups, The European Human Rights Framework, Oxford/Portland, Hart, 2015.

    ippolito protecting vulnerable groups, the european human rights framework

    The concept of vulnerability has not been unequivocally interpreted either in regional or in universal international legal instruments. This book analyses the work of the EU and the Council of Europe in ascertaining a clear framework or a set of criteria suitable to determine those who should be considered vulnerable and disadvantaged. It also explores the measures required to protect their human rights.  Four chapters concern minorities:

    6. European Law and Regional or Minority Languages: Cultural Diversity
    and the Fight against Linguistic Vulnerability
    Olivier Dubos and Victor Guset ...................................................................115
    7. The Many Vulnerabilities of the Roma and the
    European Legal Framework
    Tawhida Ahmed.............................................................................................141
    9. The Protection of Religious Minorities in Europe: Strengths
    and Weaknesses
    Erica Howard .................................................................................................181
    10. The Protection of Sexual Minorities in European Law
    Peggy Ducoulombier.....................................................................................201

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  • Boulden, J. and W. Kymlicka (eds.), International Approaches to Governing Ethnic Diversity, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015.

    International approaches to governing ethnic diversity  edited by Jane Boulden and Will Kymlicka

    One of the most remarkable features of the post-Cold War period has been the upsurge of international involvement in questions of ethnic diversity. From the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights to diverse international philanthropic and advocacy organizations, a wide range of international actors have adopted policies and principles for addressing questions of ethnic rights, identity, and conflict.

    International Approaches to Governing Ethnic Diversity explores whether and how these international actors contribute to the peaceful and democratic governance of ethnic diversity. It focuses on two broad areas of international work: the evolution of international legal norms regarding the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples, and international approaches to conflict and post-conflict development. The book charts new territory by mapping the range of international actors who affect the governance of ethnic diversity, and exploring their often contradictory roles and impacts. Most international actors come to questions of ethnic diversity indirectly and reluctantly, on the basis of widely varying mandates many of which were established to fulfill other objectives.They naturally therefore have different priorities and perspectives. And yet, the book identifies a striking convergence amongst international actors around discourses of diversity and equality, demonstrating the existence of an epistemic community where actors work within common vocabularies, discourses and principles that attempt to link human rights, pluralism, development and peace.

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  • U. Caruso and R. Hofmann, The United Nations Declaration on Minorities: An Academic Account on the Occasion of its 20th Anniversary (1992-2012), Brill/Nijhoff, 2015.

    U. Caruso and R. Hofmann, The United Nations Declaration on Minorities An Academic Account on the Occasion of its 20th Anniversary (1992-2012), Brill Nijhoff, 2015

    Created in order to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (1992-2012), this publication aims to offer readers a comprehensive review, written by a variety of scholars in the field, of the value and impact of the standards formulated in the Declaration. In so doing, it hopes to stimulate attention for and debate around the Declaration and its principles. The regional perspectives and case studies included further enable the identification of positive initiatives and good practices as well as persistent gaps in the implementation of the standards enshrined in the Declaration.

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  • G.N. Toggenburg, Die Europäische Union und das Rahmenübereinkommen zum Schutz nationaler Minderheiten: ignorieren, parallell “umsetzen“ oder gar beitreten?, European Diversity and Autonomy Papers, 2014.

    Die Europäische Union und das Rahmenübereinkommen zum Schutz nationaler Minderheiten

    This paper looks at the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) through the lense of European Union law. It does so by posing four major questions: does the fact that 24 of 28 Member States of the EU ratified the FCNM have any legal implications for the European Union itself? Secondly, turning to the national level, does it make a difference for the implementation of the FCNM whether or not a state that has ratified the FCNM is also a member to the European Union? Thirdly, returning to the European Union itself, can and should the EU accede to the FCNM? Or are there, finally, any means beside ratification that would allow the European Union to implement the objectives and obligations as enshrined in the FCNM? These four questions are analysed in detail before the paper concludes on the potential role of the European Union in managing diversity and protecting (persons belonging to) minorities.

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  • T.H. Malloy and J. Marko, Minority Governance In and Beyond Europe: Celebrating 10 Years of the European Yearbook of Minority Issues, Leiden/Boston, Brill, 2014.

    Minority Governance In and Beyond Europe. Celebrating 10 Years of the European Yearbook of Minority Issues

    Minority Governance in and beyond Europe offers a review of contemporary developments in minority relations. The publication addresses normative and institutional developments in a pan-European context. It tackles the theoretical and practical implications of power-sharing; the dichotomy of ‘old’ and ‘new’ minorities; human rights violations; public institutions for minority protection and abating discrimination; theoretical reflections on minority activism; political participation of minorities; justifications of minority protection; the evolution of language rights, and minorities in relation to EU law. It offers a lens that provides the reader with a clearer understanding about academic thinking and indicates where political will is needed to advance the minority rights protection regime in the future. Compiled to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the European Yearbook of Minority Issues, and offering a selection of the most important articles published in the Yearbook, this collection will be of great interest to scholars, students and policymakers engaging in minority-related activities and interested in multiethnicity and cultural pluralism in Europe.

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  • L. Salat (eds.) (et al), Autonomy Arrangements Around the World, ISPMN Publishing, Cluj-Napoca, 2014


    The volume compiles the articles presented at the conference on Autonomy Arrangements organized in Flensburg in September 2012. The initiative aimed to invite scholars, researchers and practitioners to engage in identifying, researching and analyzing as many operational autonomy arrangements as possible in a standard format, with special focus on the lesser-known cases. The contributions include:

    • Continuity and Change in South Tyrol's Ethnic Governance, by Elisabeth Alber and Carolin Zwilling
    • Territorial (Sub-State) Autonomy in India, by Thomas Benedikter
    • Weaving Miskito and Mestizo Imaginations: the Atlantic Coast Autonomy of Nicaragua, by José-María Arraiza
    • Jammu and Kashmir: A Case of Eroded Autonomy, by Sergiu Constantin and Karl Koessler
    • The Special Status of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, by Zahid Shahab Ahmed
    • From Soviet National Policy to Contemporary Russian Federalism: the Past and Future of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, by Marharyta Fabrykant
    • Continuity and Change in South Tyrol's Ethnic Governance, by Elisabeth Alber and Carolin Zwilling
    • The Autonomous Structures of Native American Reservations, by Sherrill Stroschein
    • The Roots, Development and Challenges of Autonomy Claims in Tanzania, by Alexander B. Makulilo and Sergiu Gheghina
    • Power Sharing and Informal Autonomy in the Republic of Macedonia, by Aneta Cekik
    • Fragile Autonomy Arrangements in the Republic of Serbia: The Territorial Autonomy of Vojvodina and the National Minority Councils, by Katinka Beretka
    • Between Importing and Exporting Minority Rights: the Minority Self-Governments in Hungary, by Balázs Dobos
    • National-Cultural Autonomy in Contemporary Estonia, by David J. Smith
    • National-Cultural Autonomy in the Russian Federation: the Case of the Tomsk Oblast, by Sara Barbieri
    • Autonomy Through Sub-State Institutions and Administrative Duality: the Case of Acadians in Canada, by Daniel Bourgeois
    • The Irish Gaeltacht: the Limitations of Regional Development and Linguistic Autonomy, by Éamonn Ó Neachtain
    • The (Dys-) Functional Autonomy of the Muslim Turkish Minority in Western Thrace, by Sebahattin Abdurrahman and Ali Huseynoglu
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  • Barten, U., Minorities, Minority Rights and Internal Self-Determination, Cham, Springer, 2014.

    barten, u., minorities rights and internal self-determination

    The book questions the classic idea of self-determination – the right to self-determination is a right of peoples, not of minorities – by examining the content of the right to self-determination and the content of minority rights. Self-determination has four dimensions: the political, the economic, the social and the cultural dimensions. Minorities have minority rights that touch on most aspects of life as a member of a minority. If there is an overlap between minority rights and the different dimensions of self-determination, the concept that the right to self-determination is only applicable to peoples loses credibility. No global and general conclusion is envisaged; there are restrictions in place. The work is limited to the European framework and is further restricted to classic minorities. The argument is based on a legitimacy and justice approach. The analysis in this book shows that some minority rights overlap with the different dimensions of internal self-determination. In short, classic minorities in Europe have a right to internal self-determination.

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  • OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Handbook on observing and promoting the participation of national minorities in electoral processes, Warsaw, ODIHR, 2014..

    Handbook on observing and promoting the participation of national minorities in electoral processes
    The present publication buildson the 2001 Guidelines to Assist National Minority Participation in the Electoral Process by including new material on the development of internationalstandards and good practice in the field of promoting the participation of national
    minorities in electoral processes.
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  • Roma in Europe

    Cor de Vos, former mayor of Nieuwegein, representative of the Netherlands in CAHROM, the Comittee of the Council of Europe for ROMA issues talks about the policies which are needed in Europe to address the living conditions of Roma. A very big effort of all authorities on European, national and local level is needed and should be directed at lifting the miserable conditions of the Roma people at the grassroots, first of all in Central and Eastern Europe, in order to prevent an even worse scenario of riot and violence.

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  • “People must be able to look one another in the eye”. Plans of the Dutch Government to ban face-covering clothing.

    The Dutch Government chose to ignore the advice of the Council of State concerning the ban on face-covering clothing. The Council of State, the advisory organ of the Government, heavily criticised the legislative proposal. First, the Council of State does not consider the complete ban as necessary and useful. Second, the Council of State is of the opinion that a ban on face covering clothing is an infringement of the freedom of religion.

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  • Roma Rights in the European Union.

    In July 2010, The French government decided to begin to expel Roma’s, mainly from Romania and Bulgaria, as many of them were living in France illegally. This decision caused much controversy within the Institutions of the EU. This blog will briefly discuss in what way EU institutions have responded to recent Roma issues and what can be done to improve the position of this marginalized community in Europe.

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  • The Islamic veil, secularism and freedom of religion

    “The burqa is a massive attack on the rights of women. It is a mobile prison”, Silvana Koch-Merin stated. Silvana, a German representative of the European Parliament, called for a ban on face-covering veils throughout Europe [1].There are many kinds of islamic veils, such as the niqab, burqa, chador, and khimar (see picture below). The […]

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  • Cultural Diversity

    On Monday the 17th of August 2009 the Centre for Studies and Research in International Law and International Relations of the Hague Academy of International Law started. The Centre takes place annually at the Academy and Library building of the Peace Palace. The purpose of the Centre is to bring together advanced young scholars of […]

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  • Australian Key Ruling on Indigenous Fishing Rights

    On Wednesday, 30 July, the Australian High Court in Canberra in a key ruling (Northern Territory of Australia v Arnhem Land Aboriginal Land Trust [2008] HCA 29, judgement here) upheld a decision by the Federal Court earlier this year granting Aboriginal people rights of ownership over a large part of the Northern Territory’s (NT) coastline.

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