The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and United Kingdom Law

By David Harris; Sarah Joseph | Go to book overview

18
The Rights of Minorities

PATRICK THORNBERRY


Article 27

In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and to practise their own religion, or to use their own language.


INTRODUCTION

On 'Minority Rights'

Minority rights in international law have re-emerged as a category right in the context of a broadly universalist scheme of rights for all human beings.1 The immediate post-war antipathy to minority rights, generated in part by the experience of the League of Nations, led to the omission of specific minority rights from the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.2 The UN General Assembly considered nevertheless that the Organization 'cannot remain indifferent to the fate of minorities'3 which suggested that the case for a category of minority rights had not fallen out of consideration. The Commission on Human Rights established a Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities at its first session.4 The Sub-Commission embarked on a

____________________
1
There is a growing literature on minority rights in international law. For some evolutionary perspectives in recent writings, consult Lerner, N., 'The Evolution of Minority Rights in International Law, and Nowak, M., "'The Evolution of Minority Rights in International Law, Comments'" in Brölmann, C., Lefeber, R., and Zieck. M. (eds.), Peoples and Minorities in International Law ( Dordrecht, 1993), 77-101, 103-18. See also Thorn P. berry , International Law and the Rights of Minorities ( Oxford, 1991 and 1992)
2
See Thornberry, n. 1 above, chs. 9, 10, and 13.
3
GA Res. 217C (III), 10 Dec. 1948.
4
The terms of reference of the Sub-Commission, clarified and extended at the 5th session of the Commission in 1949, included a brief to undertake studies and make recommendations to the Commission on Human Rights on discrimination in the field of human rights and 'the

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