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.
1. Native Title in Australia and South Africa: A Search for Something That Lasts
- Arp, B., International Norms and Standards for the Protection of National Minorities: Bilateral and Multilateral Texts with Commentary, Leiden, Nijhoff, 2008.
- Hofman, R. (et al.)(eds.), Rahmenübereinkommen zum Schutz Nationaler Minderheiten, Handkommentar, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 2015.
- Khan, B.U. and M.M.Rahman, Protection of Minorities: Regimes, Norms and Issues in South Asia, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012.
- Malloy, T.H. and U. Caruso (eds)., Minorities, Their Rights, and the Monitoring of the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities: Essays in Honour of Rainer Hofmann, Leiden, Nijhoff, 2013.
- Wei, H.H.,A Dialogical Concept of Minority Rights, Leiden, Brill Nijhoff, 2016.
- Weller, M. (ed.), Universal Minority Rights: a Commentary on the Jurisprudence of International Courts and Treaty Bodies, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007.
- Weller, M. (ed.), The Rights of Minorities in Europe: a Commentary on the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005.
- Agarin, T., and K. Cordell, Minority rights and minority protection in Europe, London, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.
- Caruso, U., and R. Hofmann (eds.), The United Nations Declaration on Minorities : an academic account on the occasion of its 20th anniversary (1992-2012), Leiden, Brill Nijhoff, 2015.
- McDougall, G., The first United Nations mandate on minority issues, Leiden, Brill Nijhoff, 2015.
- Merino, N. (ed.), Minorities and the law, Greenhaven Press, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning, 2015.
- Thürer, D., International protection of minorities : challenges in practice and doctrine, Zurich, Schulthess, 2014.
Articles, working papers, and reports
- Alfredsson, G., "Minority Rights and the UN", in U. Caruso and R. Hofmann (eds.), The United Nations Declaration on Minorities : An Academic Account on the Occasion of its 20th Anniversary (1992-2012), Leiden/Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2015. pp. 19-45.
- Barten, U., "What’s In a Name? Peoples, Minorities, Indigenous Peoples, Tribal Groups and Nations", JEMIE: Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, 14 (2015), No. 1, pp. 1-25.
- Dessalegn, B., "Comment: The Normative Framework of the African Human Rights Regime on the Rights of Minorities", Mizan Law Review, 8 (2014), No.2.
- Ducoulombier, P., "The Protection of Sexual Minorities in European Law", in F. Ippolito and S. Iglesias Sánchez, Protecting Vulnerable Groups : The European Human Rights Framework, Oxford, Hart Publishing, pp. 201-223.
- Eide, A., "United Nations Standard-setting Regarding Rights of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples", Europa Ethnica, 71 (2014), No. 3/4, pp. 51-61.
- Ferrari, H., Partnership For All? Impact of Eastern Partnership on Minorities, Minority Rights Group International, 9 June 2014.The Institute for International Law and Human Rights, Minority Rights Group International, No Peace Without Justice and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, Between the Millstones: Iraq's Minorities Since the Fall of Mosul, 27 February 2015.
- Girmay, A., "Constitutional Perils of Ethiopia‘s Ethnic Federalism: Insights from Self-Determination Principle in Case of 'Kunama‘ Ethnic Minority," International Journal of Political Science and Development, 3(2015), No. 4, pp. 166-173, april 2015.
- Kuwali, D and G. Alfredsson, "The Responsibility to Protect Minorities: The Question of Protection by Kin-States", Europa Ethnica, 71 (2014), No. 3/4, pp. 62-68.
- Mihlar, F., 'Everything Has Shattered’ – Rising Levels of Violence Against Shi’a in Pakistan, Minority Rights Group International, 11 June 2014.
- Nyambura, C., Looma Ooyaan - No One Cries for Them: The Situation Facing Somalia's Minority Women, Minority Rights Group International and IIDA, 30 January 2015.
- Pentikaïnen, M., "Social Integration of “Old” and “New” Minorities in Europe in Views of International Expert Bodies Relying on Human Rights: Contextual Balancing and Tailoring", JEMIE: Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, 14 (2015), No. 1, pp. 26-47.
- Peroni, L., Minorities before the European Court of Human Rights : Democratic Pluralism unfolded, in J. Boulden and W. Kymlicka (eds.), International Approaches to Governing Ethnic Diversity, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 25-50.
- Rajji, R. el, The Leaves of One Tree: Religious Minorities in Lebanon, Minority Rights Group International, 10 December 2014.
- Raoof, A., Still Dispossessed: The Battle of the Chagos Islanders to Return to Their Homeland, Minority Rights Group International, 26 March 2014.Xanthaki, A., "Indigenous Rights at the United Nations: Their Impact on International Human Rights Standards", Europa Ethnica, 71 (2014), No. 3/4, pp. 69-77.
- Rehman, J., "Adjudicating on the Rights of Sexual Minorities in the Muslim World", in J.A. Green and C.P.M. Waters (eds.), Adjudicating International Human Rights : Essays in Honour of Sandy Ghandhi, Leiden/Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2015, pp. 119-147.
- Scantamburlo, M. and G. Pallaver, Between Secession and “Full Autonomy”: Party Competition over Self-Determination in South Tyrol, EvoNat Research Brief, No. 3, November 2015.
- Varennes, F. De, "R2P and the Protection of Minorities", in P. Hilpold (ed.), Responsibility To Protect : A New Paradigm of International Law?, Leiden/Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2015, pp. 274-292.
- Vezbergaite, I., Self-Determination of the Kurdish People: Undermining the Unity of the «Turkish Nation»?, IFF, Working Paper Online, No. 9, July 2015.
- Wang Linzhu, "The Identification of Minorities in China", Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal, 16 (2015), No. 2, pp. 1-21.
- Exploring the Legal Framework for Minorities in the Criminal Justice System - An IACHR perspective, december 2015.
Documents relevant to minority protection
- Capotorti, F., Study on the Rights of Persons Belonging to Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, U.N. Doc E/CN.4/Sub.2/384/Rev.1.
- UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religous and Linguistic Minorities
Council of Europe
- Council of Europe Framework Convention For the Protection of National Minorities
- Council of Europe Thematic Compilation of Commentaries of the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention
- Council of Europe Thematic Commentaries of the Advisory Committee
- European Charter of Local Self-Government 1985 (CoE)
- European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages 1992 (CoE)
- European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights. (CoE) The relevant article for minorities is article 14, regarding non-discrimination;, technically, this article must be claimed together with one of the other articles of the Convention
- The European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Cooperation (1980) (CoE) Monitored by the Congress of Regional and Local Authorities in Europe, it has also been important for minority rights protection, see Malloy.
- Venice Commission, Report on the Preferential Treatment of National Minorities by their Kin-State, 2001.
- Venice Commission, Report on Non-Citizens and Minority Rights, 2006
- Venice Commission, Report on Dual Voting for Persons Belonging to National Minorities, 2008
- The Copenhagen 'Criteria' 1993. Accession conditions for applicant states.
- The Stability Pact 1995. Most notably, it was designed to offer a framework in which Central and Eastern European countries might attempt to resolve border disputes, address problems of minorities and develop relations with Russia in a post-Soviet era.
- The Amsterdam Treaty 1997 (article 13) and the Equality Directives (Race Directive or Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 and the Equal Employment or Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000)
- The Charter of Fundamental Rights 2000 (article 21; EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights 2002-2005)
- The Reformed Lisbon Treaty 2009 (article 2)
- The Copenhagen Document 1990 (CSCE, now OSCE)). Included for the first time in European history very specific and directional provisions on the protection of national minorities. Not legally binding.
- The High Commissioner on National Minorities (OSCE) 1992. Recommendations and/or guidelines:
- The Oslo Recommendations Regarding the Linguistic Rights of National Minorities & Explanatory Note, 1998.
- The Lund Recommendations on the Effective Participation of National Minorities in Public Life & Explanatory Note, 1999.
- The Bolzano/Bozen Recommendations on National Minorities in Inter-State Relations, 2008.
- The Ljubljana Guidelines on Integration of Diverse Societies, 2012.
Periodicals, serial publications
- Bedrohte Völker 241406749
- Ethnies (catalogue)
- Ethnopolitics (no subscription, direct link Taylor & Francis)
- Europa Ethnica (catalogue)
- Europäisches Journal für Minderheitenfragen
- European Autonomy and Diversity Papers (e-journal)
- European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI) Working Paper
- European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI) Reports
- European Yearbook of Minority Issues
- International Annual Report (State of the World's Minorities)
- International Journal on Minority and Group Rights
- JEMIE : Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe
- Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs
- Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe
- Der Minderheitenschutz im Östlichen Europa
- Minorités linguistiques et société / Linguistic Minorities and Society (Canada)
- Pogrom : Zeitschrift für bedrohte Völker
- Scholar : St. Mary's Law Review on Minority Issues
- International Legal Status of Minorities: Selective Bibliography, The Hague, Peace Palace Library, 1984.
1. Native Title in Australia and South Africa: A Search for Something That Lasts
Shahabuddin M., Ethnicity and international law : histories, politics and practices, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2016.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
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.
Agarin, T., and K.Cordell, Minority Rights and Minority Protection in Europe, London/New York, Rowman & Littlefield International Ltd, 2016.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
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
Saul, B., Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights: International and Regional Jurisprudence, Oxford, UK, Hart Publishing, 2016.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
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.
Wei, H.H., A Dialogical Concept of Minority Rights, Leiden, Brill Nijhoff, 2016.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
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.
Pulla, V., (ed.), The Lhotsampa People of Bhutan: Resilience and Survival, Houndsmill, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
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.
Prina, F., National Minorities in Putin's Russia: Diversity and Assimilation, London, Routledge, 2016.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
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.
McDougall, G., The First United Nations Mandate on Minority Issues, Leiden, Brill/Nijhoff, 2016.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
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.
Ippolito, F. and S. Iglesias Sánchez, Protecting Vulnerable Groups, The European Human Rights Framework, Oxford/Portland, Hart, 2015.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
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
9. The Protection of Religious Minorities in Europe: Strengths
Erica Howard .................................................................................................181
10. The Protection of Sexual Minorities in European Law
Boulden, J. and W. Kymlicka (eds.), International Approaches to Governing Ethnic Diversity, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2015.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
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.
- Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Minorities, International Protection, by Kristin Henrard.
- Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Minority Protection System between World War I and World War II, by Anna Meijknecht.
- Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Minorities, European Protection, by Rainer Hofmann.
- Minority Rights Information System (MIRIS) Database. The MIRIS database includes the most important legal texts relating to minority rights by concentrating upon relevant national legislation and case-law.
- World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. This online directory of minorities and indigenous peoples grew out of Minority Rights Group’s encyclopaedic World Directory of Minorities, first published in 1990 and updated and expanded in 1997. This World Directory has been restructured into database format, updated and expanded, and the entire text is now available free of charge for the use of all those throughout the world with an interest in any aspect of minorities and indigenous peoples, their rights, their historical, political or geographical context.
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.Read more
“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.Read more
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.Read more
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 .There are many kinds of islamic veils, such as the niqab, burqa, chador, and khimar (see picture below). The […]Read more
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 […]Read more
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  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.Read more
- Eurominority.eu. The website of Stateless Nations and minority peoples in Europe.
- European Centre for Minority Issues
- Institute for Minority Rights
- International Center for Minority Studies and Intercultural Relations
- Minority Map and Timeline of Europe
- Minorities at Risk Project. The Minorities at Risk (MAR) Project is a university-based research project that monitors and analyzes the status and conflicts of politically-active communal groups in all countries with a current population of at least 500,000. The project is designed to provide information in a standardized format that aids comparative research and contributes to the understanding of conflicts involving relevant groups. Selected project materials on more than 284 groups (the MAR database and codebook as well as detailed historical chronologies) are available through this site for researchers, public officials, journalists, students, activists, and others interested in the topic.
- Minority Rights Group International
- MIRIS - Minority Rights Information System
- OHCHR - Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues
- OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities
- Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
- World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples
More Research guides on Individuals and Groups
- High Court judgment rules West Sahara trade dispute should go to European Court of Justice, 20-10-2015