Minority rights

Minority rights are the normal individual rights as applied to members of racial, ethnic, class, religious, linguistic or gender and sexual minorities; and also the collective rights accorded to minority groups. Minority rights may also apply simply to individual rights of anyone who is not part of a majority decision.

Civil rights movements often seek to ensure that individual rights are not denied on the basis of membership in a minority group, such as global women's rights and global LGBT rights movements, or the various racial minority rights movements around the world (such as the Civil Rights Movement in the United States).


The issue of minority rights was first raised in 1814, at the Congress of Vienna, which discussed the fate of German Jews and especially of the Poles who were once again partitioned up. The Congress expressed hope that Prussia, Russia, and Austria would grant tolerance and protection to their minorities, which ultimately they disregarded, engaging in organized discrimination.

The 1856 Congress of Paris paid special attention to the status of Jews and Christians in the Ottoman Empire. In Britain, William Gladstone made the massacres of Bulgarians by the Ottoman Empire a major campaign issue and demanded international attention. The Congress of Berlin in 1878 dealt with the status of Jews in Romania, especially, and also Serbia, and Bulgaria.

On the whole, the 19th century congresses failed to impose significant reforms. Russia was especially active in protecting Orthodox Christians and Slavic peoples under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Persecution or discrimination against specific minorities was increasingly the subject of media attention, and the Jews began to organize to protest the pogroms in Russia. However, there was little international outrage regarding treatment of other minorities, such as black people in the southern United States.

The first minority rights were proclaimed and enacted by the revolutionary Parliament of Hungary in July 1849.[1] Minority rights were codified in Austrian law in 1867.[2]

Minority rights at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919

At the Versailles Peace Conference the Supreme Council established 'The Committee on New States and for The Protection of Minorities'. All the new successor states were compelled to sign minority rights treaties as a precondition of diplomatic recognition. It was agreed that although the new states had been recognized, they had not been 'created' before the signatures of the final peace treaties. The issue of German and Polish rights was a point of dispute as Polish rights in Germany remained unprotected, unlike the German minority in Poland. Like other principles adopted by the League, the Minorities Treaties were a part of the Wilsonian idealist approach to international relations; like the League itself, the Minority Treaties were increasingly ignored by the respective governments, with the entire system mostly collapsing in the late 1930s. Despite the political failure, they remained the basis of international law. After World War II, the legal principles were incorporated in the UN Charter and a host of international human rights treaties.

International law

Minority rights, as applying to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples, are an integral part of international human rights law. Like children's rights, women's rights and refugee rights, minority rights are a legal framework designed to ensure that a specific group which is in a vulnerable, disadvantaged or marginalized position in society, is able to achieve equality and is protected from persecution. The first postwar international treaty to protect minorities, designed to protect them from the greatest threat to their existence, was the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Subsequent human rights standards that codify minority rights include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 27), the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, two Council of Europe treaties (the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages), and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Copenhagen Document of 1990.

Minority rights cover protection of existence, protection from discrimination and persecution, protection and promotion of identity, and participation in political life. For the rights of LGBT people, the Yogyakarta Principles have been approved by the United Nations Human Rights Council. For the rights of persons with disabilities, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been adopted by United Nations General Assembly.

To protect minority rights, many countries have specific laws and/or commissions or ombudsman institutions (for example the Hungarian Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minorities Rights).[3]

While initially, the United Nations treated indigenous peoples as a sub-category of minorities, there is an expanding body of international law specifically devoted to them, in particular Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (adopted 14 September 2007).

In 2008, a declaration on LGBT rights was presented in the UN General Assembly, and in 2011, a LGBT rights resolution was passed in the United Nations Human Rights Council (See LGBT rights at the United Nations).

There are many political bodies which also feature minority group rights, which might be seen in affirmative action quotas or in guaranteed minority representation in a consociational state.

National minorities in the law of the EC/EU

The direct role of the European Union (and also the law of the EU/EC) in the area of protection of national minorities is still very limited (likewise the general protection of human rights). The EU has relied on general international law and a European regional system of international law (based on the Council of Europe, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, etc.) and in a case of necessity accepted their norms. But the “de-economisation of European integration”, which started in the 1990s, is changing this situation. The political relevance of national minorities' protection is very high.

Now (2009), although protection of the national minorities has not become a generally accepted legally binding principle of the EU, in several legal acts issues of national minorities are mentioned. In external relations protection of national minorities became one of the main criteria for cooperation with the EU or accession.[4]

See also


  • Barzilai, G. 2003. Communities and Law: Politics and Cultures of Legal Identities. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  • Fink, Carole. 2006. Defending the Rights of Others: The Great Powers, the Jews, and International Minority Protection, 1878-1938 excerpt and text search
  • Henrard, K. 2000. Devising an Adequate System of Minority Protection: Individual Human Rights, Minority Rights, and the Right to Self-Determination Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers
  • Jackson Preece, J. 2005. Minority Rights: Between Diversity and Community Cambridge: Polity Press
  • Malloy, T.H. 2005. National Minority Rights in Europe Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Pentassuglia, G. 2002. Minorities in international law: an introductory study Strasbourg: Council of Europe Publications
  • Šmihula, D. 2008. "National Minorities in the Law of the EC/EU", Romanian Journal of European Affairs, Vol. 8 no. 3, pp. 2008, pp. 51–81. online
  • Thornberry, P. 1991. International Law and the Rights of Minorities. Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • Weller, M. (ed.) 2006. The Rights of Minorities in Europe: A Commentary on the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Weller, M., Denika Blacklock and Katherine Nobbs (eds.) 2008. The Protection of Minorities in the Wider Europe Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

External links


  1. ^ Laszlo Peter, Martyn C. Rady, Peter A. Sherwood: Lajos Kossuth sas word...: papers delivered on the occasion of the bicentenary of Kossuth's birth (page 101)
  2. ^ Staatsgrundgesetz vom 21. Dezember 1867 (R.G.Bl. 142/1867), über die allgemeinen Rechte der Staatsbürger für die im Reichsrate vertretenen Königreiche und Länder Archived 7 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine — see Article 19 (in German)
  3. ^ Homepage of the Parliamentary Commissioner Archived 23 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Daniel Šmihula (2008). National Minorities in the Law of the EC/EU in Romanian Journal of European Affairs, Vol. 8 no. 3, Sep. 2008, pp.51-81. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 August 2011. Retrieved 23 August 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

External links

  1. ^ ""Protecting and promoting minorities" German Institute for Human Rights (DIMR)". In: D+C, Vol.42.2015:5.
1989 Liechtenstein referendums

Four referendums were held in Liechtenstein during 1989. The first two were held on 19 March and concerned introducing referendums to decide on international treaties and amending the health insurance law. The treaty proposal was rejected by 56.8% of voters, whilst the health insurance law was approved by 59%. The third and fourth were held on 3 December on amending the sections of the constitution regarding the control of the justice administration and minority rights. Both were approved by voters.

1989 Quebec general election

The Quebec general election of 1989 was held on September 25, 1989, to elect members of the National Assembly of the Province of Quebec, Canada. The incumbent Quebec Liberal Party, led by Premier Robert Bourassa, won re-election, defeating the Parti Québécois, led by Jacques Parizeau.

This election was notable for the arrival of the Equality Party, which advocated English-speaking minority rights. It won four seats, but never had any success in any subsequent election.

2004 Slovenian minority rights referendum

A referendum on minority rights was held in Slovenia on 4 April 2004. Voters were asked whether they approved government proposals to restore basic rights to ethnic minorities who had been erased from the citizen registry in 1992. The proposal was rejected by 96.05% of voters, with a turnout of 31.55%.The referendum was backed by oppositional Slovenian Democratic Party, whilst the government called for a boycott.

Attica Scott

Attica Woodson Scott is an American politician from the Commonwealth of Kentucky. A member of the Democratic Party, she serves in the Kentucky House of Representatives for the 41st district.

Scott graduated from Knoxville College with a bachelor's degree in political science, and earned a graduate degree from the University of Tennessee in communications. She worked as a community organizer on the issues of racial equality and criminal justice. The Louisville Metro Council selected Scott to replace Judy Green, who they removed from the council due to ethics violations, in 2011. She won a special election to fill the remainder of Green's term in 2012, but lost her reelection in 2014 to Jessica Green, Judy's daughter.In 2016, Scott ran for the Kentucky House, defeating Democratic incumbent Tom Riner in the primary election. She had no Republican Party opponent in the general election, and became the first African American woman to serve in the Kentucky General Assembly since 2000.Scott is a single mother and has two children.


Austro-Marxism was a Marxist theoretical current, led by Victor Adler, Otto Bauer, Karl Renner and Max Adler, members of the Social Democratic Workers' Party of Austria in Austria-Hungary and the First Austrian Republic (1918–1934). It is known for its theory of nationality and nationalism, and its attempt to conciliate it with socialism in the imperial context. Hence, Otto Bauer thought of the "personal principle" as a way of gathering the geographically divided members of the same nation. In Social Democracy and the Nationalities Question (1907), he wrote that "The personal principle wants to organize nations not in territorial bodies but in simple association of persons", thus radically disjoining the nation from the territory and making of the nation a non-territorial association.

Dettmer v. Landon

Dettmer v. Landon, 799 F.2d 929 (4th Cir. 1986), is a court case in which the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that although Wicca was a religion, it was not a violation of the First Amendment to deny a prisoner access to ritual objects.

Kiddinan Sivanesan

Kiddinan Sivanesan (Tamil: கிட்டிணன் சிவனேசன் (Kiţţiṇaņ Civaņēcaņ); 21 January 1957 – 6 March 2008) was a Sri Lankan Tamil politician and former Member of Parliament. He was killed by a roadside bomb alleged to have been placed by the Sri Lanka Army's Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (Deep Penetration Unit).

Majority rule

Majority rule is a decision rule that selects alternatives which have a majority, that is, more than half the votes. It is the binary decision rule used most often in influential decision-making bodies, including all

the legislatures of democratic nations.

Marc Morial

Marc Haydel Morial (born January 3, 1958) is an American political and civic leader and the current president of the National Urban League. Morial served as mayor of New Orleans, from 1994 to 2002. He is married to Michelle Miller, who has won awards as a CBS News Correspondent.

Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government

The Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government of the Government of Serbia (Serbian: Министарство државне управе и локалне самоуправе / Ministarstvo državne uprave i lokalne samouprave) is the ministry in the Government of Serbia which is in the charge of public administration and local self-government. The current minister is Branko Ružić, in office since 29 June 2017.

Minority Rights Action Party

The Minority Rights Action Party or Malay: Parti Tindakan Hak Minoriti, abbreviated MIRA, is a political party in Malaysia. The party was initially registered as New Generation Party or Parti Generasi Baru (NewGen Party) among the latest 20 new parties registration approved by the Registrar of Society (RoS) in 2013. NewGen Party was founded by former Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) leader S. Gobi Krishnan who aims for youth with age under 50 year old and qualification above Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) for membership. NewGen Party being the first Indian Malaysian national bilingual and multi-racial party hope to join Pakatan Harapan (PH) to represent Indians. On 31 March 2017, NewGen Party applied to change its name to Parti Bebas Rasuah (PBR). Secretary-general S. Gobi Krishnan announced several new appointments, including former PKR, United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and Malaysian United Indigenous Party (PPBM) member Mohamad Ezam Mohd Nor as the new president and former Batu Kawan Umno deputy head and PPBM member Khairuddin Abu Hassan as the new deputy president. However, the application ran into controversies, leading Ezam, Khairuddin to resign from NewGen Party. A group comprising G. Kumar Aaman, Jeevakumar and Zaini Jaafar tried to impersonate as party members by misusing party letterhead but was exposed. ROS found that G. Kumar Aaman is not party member and has misappropriated party funds. Under a new president A. Rajaretinam, the NewGen Party was renamed to Minority Rights Action Party (MIRA) and was officially accepted as strategic partner of Pakatan Harapan 2017.

Minority Rights Group International

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is an international human rights organisation founded with the objective of working to secure rights for ethnic, national, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples around the world. Their headquarters are in London, with offices in Budapest and Kampala. MRG has an international governing Council that meets twice a year. MRG has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and observer status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

The organisation was set up in the 1960s by a group of activists and academics "who feel a special concern that the rights of minorities to preserve and develop their cultural integrity are being infringed in many countries ... the MRG has been established to protect the rights of minorities to co-exist with majorities, by objective study and consistent international public exposure of violations of fundamental rights as defined by the UN Charter". Its first director was David Astor, editor and proprietor of The Observer newspaper at the time.

MRG raises funds for its work from individuals, trusts and foundations, governments, and the European Union. All of MRG's publications, films and databases are available for free from the website but the organisation does encourage anyone using them to make a donation to support the work of the organisation for future research, advocacy and support to partners.

Minority Treaties

Minority Treaties refer to the treaties, League of Nations Mandates, and unilateral declarations made by countries applying for membership in the League of Nations and United Nations. Most of the treaties entered into force as a result of the Paris Peace Conference.

The treaties conferred basic rights on all the inhabitants of the country without distinction of birth, nationality, language, race or religion and protected the rights of all nationals of the country who differed in race, religion, or language from the majority of the inhabitants of the country. The country concerned had to acknowledge the clauses of the treaty: as fundamental laws of state; and as obligations of international concern placed under the guarantee of the League of Nations, or United Nations.

Minority group

In sociology, a minority group refers to a category of people who experience relative disadvantage as compared to members of a dominant social group. Minority group membership is typically based on differences in observable characteristics or practices, such as: ethnicity (ethnic minority), race (racial minority), religion (religious minority), sexual orientation (sexual minority), disability, or gender identity. Utilizing the framework of intersectionality, it is important to recognize that an individual may simultaneously hold membership in multiple minority groups (e.g. both a racial and religious minority). Likewise, individuals may also be part of a minority group in regard to some characteristics, but part of a dominant group in regard to others.The term "minority group" often occurs within the discourse of civil rights and collective rights, as members of minority groups are prone to differential treatment in the countries and societies in which they live. Minority group members often face discrimination in multiple areas of social life, including housing, employment, healthcare, and education, among others. While discrimination may be committed by individuals, it may also occur through structural inequalities, in which rights and opportunities are not equally accessible to all. The language of minority rights is often used to discuss laws designed to protect minority groups from discrimination and afford them equal social status to the dominant group.

Murder of Betty Van Patter

Betty Louise Van Patter (née Floyd; October 12, 1929 – circa December 13, 1974 [body discovered on January 17, 1975, date on gravestone]), was a bookkeeper for the Black Panther Party, although she herself was white.

Aged 45, after being missing for five weeks, her body was found. She had been beaten to death. Some sources indicate she had been raped. While no one was ever charged for the crime, many believe it was committed by members of the party. She had reportedly threatened to make public her discovery that the party doctored its books and had major tax problems.

National Commission for Minorities

Constitution of India doesn't define the word 'Minority' but has used the word minorities considering two attributes religion or language of a person. For minorities Constitution of India has envisaged a number of rights and safeguards. To provide enough equality and to dwindle the discrimination, makers have spelt out various things in Fundamental Rights (PartIII); Directive Principles of State policy (Part IV) and also the Fundamental Duties (Part IV-A). However, with rising right and rising wedge between right and left and also the ephemeral political aspirations of various political parties have diluted the discrimination safeguards.

The Union Government set up the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992. Six religious communities, viz; Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians (Parsis) and Jains have been notified in Gazette of India as minority communities by the Union Government all over India . Original notification of 1993 was for Five religious communities Sikhs, Buddhists,Parsis,Christians and Muslims.

Ohrid Agreement

The Ohrid Framework Agreement (Albanian: Marrëveshja e Ohrit, Macedonian: Охридски рамковен договор, romanized: Ohridski ramkoven dogovor) was the peace deal signed by the government of the Republic of Macedonia and ethnic Albanian representatives on 13 August 2001. The agreement was signed by the country's four political parties after international mediators demanded for their commitment to its ratification and implementation within a four-year period.

Presidential Council for Minority Rights

The Presidential Council for Minority Rights (PCMR) is a non-elected government body in Singapore established in 1970, the main function of which is to scrutinize most of the bills passed by Parliament to ensure that they do not discriminate against any racial or religious community. If the Council feels that any provision in a bill amounts to a differentiating measure, it will report its findings to Parliament and refer the bill back to Parliament for reconsideration. The Council also examines subsidiary legislation and statutes in force on 9 January 1970. One member of the PCMR is nominated by the Chairman to the Presidential Elections Committee, which is empowered to ensure that candidates for the office of President have the qualifications required by the Constitution. The President also appoints and dismisses the chairman and members of the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony ("PCRH"), established by the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (Cap. 167A, 2001 Rev. Ed.), on the advice of the PCMR, and the PCMR is responsible for determining whether PCRH members who are not representatives of major religions in Singapore have distinguished themselves in public service or community relations in Singapore.

The Council is made up of its Chairman (as of 6 November 2012 the Chief Justice of Singapore, Sundaresh Menon), up to ten permanent members who are appointed for life, and up to ten ordinary members who are appointed for a period of three years and may be re-appointed. Appointments are made by the President on the advice of the Cabinet. If the President does not concur with Cabinet's advice, he may veto appointments. However, he is required to consult the Council of Presidential Advisers ("CPA"), and if the CPA does not concur with his view, Parliament may override his decision with a resolution passed with a two-thirds majority vote. The President has no power to remove current PCMR members.

The Constitution only requires members of the Council to be Singapore citizens residing in Singapore who are at least 35 years old. There is no restriction on Cabinet ministers and members of political parties. Moreover, the Prime Minister may authorize any Minister, Minister of State or Parliamentary Secretary to attend Council meetings. It has been noted that this may have a chilling effect on the Council's deliberations as such a guest might be the author or a vocal proponent of the legislation under scrutiny. On the other hand, it has been suggested that members with political affiliations can often make the biggest contribution towards the Council's discussions. Another criticism of the PCMR's composition is that having judges on the Council may lead to a conflict of interest as they may have to exercise judicial review over Acts of Parliament they have either endorsed or rejected previously.

All proceedings of the Council are conducted in private, and the Council is prohibited from hearing objectors or examining witnesses regarding any bill or law under consideration. Since its establishment, the PCMR has not found any legislation to contain differentiating measures.

T. Maheswaran

Thiyagarajah Maheswaran (Tamil: தியாகராஜா மகேஸ்வரன்) (10 January 1966 – 1 January 2008) was a Tamil Sri Lankan Member of Parliament (MP) from Colombo. He belonged to the main opposition United National Party and was critic of Rajapakse government's war against Tamil rebels. He was the former Hindu Affairs minister and a former Member of Parliament for Colombo District, escaped an assassination attempt on the final day of the 2004 election campaign in Colombo. He was assassinated by a gunshot on 1 January 2008 while worshipping at a Hindu temple with his family. Number of other devotees were also injured. The injured gunman has been apprehended and is in police custody in a hospital.

Related concepts
Groups by region
Multiethnic society
Ideology and
ethnic conflict
Indigenous and minority rights
Non-governmental and
political organizations
Legal representation
Historical cases

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