Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

By Patrick Thornberry | Go to book overview

12

European instruments
on human and minority rights

Emanating principally from the Council of Europe, key European instruments have considerable potential to advance human rights strategies of indigenous groups. The Council of Europe was founded in 1949 as a European organisation for intergovernmental and parliamentary cooperation. The central motive for the creation of the Council was the need to secure democracy in the light of recent and actual totalitarianism and to prevent the recurrence of the gross violations of human rights which took place under Nazi instigation. According to its Statute, the aim of the Council is to `achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realizing the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress'. 1 The Council of Europe's statutory principles are pluralist democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. Two major texts are accounted for in this chapter, neither of which address specific rights to indigenous groups: the European Convention on Human Rights 1950 (ECHR) and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) 1995. Other texts, including those emanating from the OSCE are discussed in the overall narrative of the chapter. A characteristic of European human rights law is its preoccupation with minority rights as well as general human rights. The concern with minorities is historically embedded, even if the texts on minorities are recent products. As with UN instruments, indigenous groups have employed the individual rights mechanisms of the ECHR, and figure in the reporting mechanism of the newer FCNM. Indigenous groups in Europe have been adverted to from time to time in the present study, notably the Saami of Northern Europe. The accession of Eastern European and former USSR States to the European organisations considerably increased the potential range of indigenous groups subject to European instruments and

____________________
1
Article 1(a).

-290-

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