All States have one or more minority groups within their national territories, characterized by their own national, ethnic, linguistic or religious identity, which differs from that of the majority population.

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 homogeneous 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 systematic classification → Public international law  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.

New titles

1. Sudan
Sudan : a long transition into two states / edited by Ahmed Al-Shahi and Bona Malwal. - [Sudan] : Sudan Currency Printing Press, 2012. - 395 pages. : illustrations. ; 24 cm Papers presented at the Sudanese Programme, St. Antony's College, Oxford University, and published in collaboration with Mohamed Omer Bashir's Center for Sudanese Studies, Omdurman Ahlia University. - 2012
Keywords: Sudan, South Sudan, Nile River, Right of self-determination, Referendum, Peace treaties, Darfur,

2. Asrār ḥarb al-ḥudūd, 1957-1958
Asrār ḥarb al-ḥudūd, 1957-1958 / Muḥammad ʿAǧrūd. - al-Ǧazāʼir : Manšūrāt al-Šihāb, 2014. - 126 pages. ; 24 cm Includes bibliographical references. - 2014
Keywords: Algeria, France, National liberation wars, History,
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Reference works

Relevant books

Articles, working papers, and reports

Documents relevant to minority protection


Council of Europe




Periodicals, serial publications



New titles

1. Sudan
Sudan : a long transition into two states / edited by Ahmed Al-Shahi and Bona Malwal. - [Sudan] : Sudan Currency Printing Press, 2012. - 395 pages. : illustrations. ; 24 cm Papers presented at the Sudanese Programme, St. Antony's College, Oxford University, and published in collaboration with Mohamed Omer Bashir's Center for Sudanese Studies, Omdurman Ahlia University. - 2012
Keywords: Sudan, South Sudan, Nile River, Right of self-determination, Referendum, Peace treaties, Darfur,

2. Asrār ḥarb al-ḥudūd, 1957-1958
Asrār ḥarb al-ḥudūd, 1957-1958 / Muḥammad ʿAǧrūd. - al-Ǧazāʼir : Manšūrāt al-Šihāb, 2014. - 126 pages. ; 24 cm Includes bibliographical references. - 2014
Keywords: Algeria, France, National liberation wars, History,

Librarian's choice

  • Shahabuddin M., Ethnicity and international law : histories, politics and practices, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

    Ethnicity and International Law presents an historical account of the impact of ethnicity on the making of international law. The development of international law since the nineteenth century is characterised by the inherent tension between the liberal and conservative traditions of dealing with what might be termed the 'problem' of ethnicity. The present-day hesitancy of liberal international law to engage with ethnicity in ethnic conflicts and ethnic minorities has its roots in these conflicting philosophical traditions. In international legal studies, both the relevance of ethnicity, and the traditions of understanding it, lie in this fact.

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  • Agarin, T., and K.Cordell, Minority Rights and Minority Protection in Europe, London/New York, Rowman & Littlefield International Ltd, 2016.

    In order to gain access to the EU, nations must be seen to implement formal instruments that protect the rights of minorities. This book examines the ways in which these tools have worked in a number of post-communist states, and explores the interaction of domestic and international structures that determine the application of these policies.Using empirical examples and comparative cases, the text explores three levels of policy-making: within sub-state and national politics, and within international agreements, laws and policy blueprints. This enables the authors to establish how domestic policymakers negotiate various structural factors in order to interpret rights norms and implement them long enough to gain EU accession. Showing that it is necessary to focus upon the states of post-communist Europe as autonomous actors, and not as mere recipients of directives and initiatives from ‘the West’, the book shows how underlying structural conditions allow domestic policy actors to talk the talk of rights protection without walking the walk of implementing minority rights legislation on their territories

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  • Saul, B., Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights: International and Regional Jurisprudence, Oxford, UK, Hart Publishing, 2016.

    Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights explores how general human rights standards have enabled, empowered and constrained indigenous peoples in claiming and defending their essential economic, social, cultural, civil and political interests. The book examines the jurisprudence of United Nations treaty committees and regional human rights bodies (in Africa, the Americas and Europe) that have interpreted and applied human rights standards to the special circumstances and experiences of indigenous peoples. It focuses particularly on how human rights laws since the 1960s have been drawn upon by indigenous activists and victims to protect their interests in ancestral lands, natural resources, culture and language. It further explores the right to indigenous self-determination; civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights (including labour rights); family and children's rights; violence and discrimination against indigenous peoples; and access to justice and remedies for violations. The book also discusses international and regional efforts to define who is 'indigenous' and who is a 'minority', and the legal relationship between indigenous individuals and their communities. The jurisprudence considered in this book significantly shaped the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007, which particularises and adapts general human rights standards for indigenous peoples. The book concludes by exploring future normative and implementation challenges in the light of the standard setting and consolidation, and political momentum, surrounding the UN Declaration and associated UN human rights mechanisms.

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  • Wei, H.H., A Dialogical Concept of Minority Rights, Leiden, Brill Nijhoff, 2016.

    In A Dialogical Concept of Minority Rights, Hanna H. Wei demonstrates that a more plausible and realistic concept of minority rights should consist of not only rights against the state but also rights against the group. She formulates and defends three separate but related rights to dialogue, and thoroughly analyses how they may operate not only to maintain a healthy balance between the minorities’ need to be culturally distinct and their need to relate to and belong in the larger society, but also that they address the generalisations and presuppositions on which the debate of multiculturalism has been based, and constitute the first step of a possible solution to many of the theoretical and practical difficulties of minority protection.

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

    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.

    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.

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

    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.

    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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  • 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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