Special Issue "The Protection of Minorities under International Law"

A special issue of Laws (ISSN 2075-471X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2019) | Viewed by 40975

Special Issue Editor

Department of Law, Maynooth University, Maynooth, Ireland
Interests: public international law; language rights; cultural rights; international criminal law; minority identity
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The protection of minorities has been a central issue in inter-state relationships since the rise of the state system in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and indeed, the protection of minority groups is one of the oldest motifs of international law. However, minority groups continue to be targeted in various places around the world, with a recent increase in attacks on minorities through the destruction of cultural property in the Middle East. Minority cultures are being destroyed, their identity is being attacked, and their very existence is under threat. Despite the numerous problems facing the world’s minorities, no universal binding instrument exists to protect them. While the rights of national minorities in the fields of language, ethnicity and religion had been protected under the League of Nations regime, when the UN was created, there was a difference of opinion as to if, and indeed how, the rights of minorities should be dealt with within its framework. The lack of agreement on the question of minorities led to their omission from the UDHR, with only a limited reference to the protection of general cultural rights. Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), adopted in 1966, is the only universal legal binding provision on the rights of minorities, providing that ‘[i]n 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 practise their own religion, or to use their own language’.[1] However, the question must be asked if this provision is adequate to address the multifarious threats facing today’s minority groups, or if the legal framework needs to be re-imagined in the face of increased threats to the survival of minority groups? This is the focus of this Special Issue.

(a) The focus of this Special Issue is the protection of the rights of minorities under international law. It will deal with the extant legal framework, both from an international and regional perspective and analyze how the legal framework is implemented in practice.

(b) Numerous issues face minority groups, and the Special Issue will address a number of these, including minority identity; minority culture; destruction of cultural property belonging to minority groups; linguistic rights; religious rights etc.

(c) The purpose of the Special Issue is to bring together academics working in the field of minority rights to provide perspectives on a number of current issues facing minority groups and on how the international legal framework applies. The Special Issue will provide an in-depth analysis of the how the extant legal framework on the rights of minorities operates and can apply in practice.

The Special Issue will draw on, and develop, the seminal work on the rights of minorities by Thornberry International Law and the Rights of Minorities, (Clarendon Press, 1991), Minority Rights in Europe (Council of Europe, 2004), Weller, The Rights of Minorities in Europe (Oxford University Press, 2006), Universal Minority Rights (Oxford University Press, 2007) Pentassuglia, Minority Groups and Judicial Discourse in International Law (Brill, 2009) and Castellino, Global Minority Rights (Ashgate, 2011). It will also analyse literature on cultural diversity concerning minority groups, e.g., Pentassuglia, Ethno-Cultural Diversity and Human Rights: Challenges and Critiques (Brill, 2017), religious concerns of minority groups, e.g. Ghanea, The Challenge of Religious Discrimination at the Dawn of the New Millennium (Brill, 2004) and the destruction of the cultural property of such groups, e.g. Turku, The Destruction of Cultural Property as a Weapon of War (Palgrave MacMillan, 2018).


[1] Article 27 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, UNGA Res 2200A (XXI).

Dr. Noelle Higgins
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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  • The rights of minorities
  • international legal framework
  • language rights
  • cultural rights
  • religious rights
  • minority identity
  • destruction of cultural property

Published Papers (1 paper)

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The Uyghur Minority in China: A Case Study of Cultural Genocide, Minority Rights and the Insufficiency of the International Legal Framework in Preventing State-Imposed Extinction
Laws 2020, 9(1), 1; https://doi.org/10.3390/laws9010001 - 11 Jan 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 34629
Raphael Lemkin, the man who founded the term ‘genocide,’ did so with a view to protecting not only physical beings from systematically imposed extinction, but also protecting their cultures from the same fate. However, in the wake of the atrocities and bloodshed of [...] Read more.
Raphael Lemkin, the man who founded the term ‘genocide,’ did so with a view to protecting not only physical beings from systematically imposed extinction, but also protecting their cultures from the same fate. However, in the wake of the atrocities and bloodshed of WWII, cultural genocide was omitted from the 1948 Genocide Convention, and as a result, does not constitute an international crime. This omission has left a lacuna in international law which threatens minority groups. Not a threat of loss of life but rather loss of the culture that distinguishes them and identifies them as a minority. Powerful States with indifferent attitudes towards their international obligations face no significantly harsher punishment for cultural genocide than they do for other human rights transgressions. Consequently, cultural genocide continues as minority cultures are rendered extinct at the hands of States. The Case Study of this article investigates the present-day example of the Uyghur minority in China and analyzes whether this modern cultural genocide can pave the way for the recognition of cultural genocide as an international crime or whether the Uyghur culture will become a cautionary tale for minorities in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Protection of Minorities under International Law)
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