Scales for Justice

Working towards peace and reconciliation

Minority Rights

Minority rights are the normal individual rights as applied to members of racial, ethnic, class, religious, linguistic or 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. (Wikipedia)

International law

The protection of the rights of minorities is provided for under article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, holding that "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 practise their own religion, or to use their own language." The right is re-affirmed in article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, stating that "In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities or persons of indigenous origin exist, a child belonging to such a minority or who is indigenous shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practise his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language."

Violations of Minority Rights

Minorities in all regions of the world continue to  face serious threats, discrimination and racism, and are frequently excluded  from taking part fully in the economic, political and social life of their countries.  Today, minority communities face new challenges, including legislation,  policies and practices that may unjustly impede or even violate minority rights. Although a great variety of minority situations exist, common to all is the fact that, too often, minorities face multiple forms of discrimination resulting in marginalisation and exclusion. Achieving effective participation of minorities and ending their exclusion requires that we embrace diversity through the promotion and implementation of international human rights standards.

The task of the UN

Minority rights are being increasingly recognized as an integral part of the United Nation's work for the promotion and protection of human rights, sustainable human development, peace and security.The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities sets essential standards and offers guidance to States in adopting appropriate legislative and other measures to secure  the rights of persons belonging to minorities.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has a leading role within the UN system in this respect and has often highlighted countering discrimination as one of its priorities.

Forum and the Independent Expert

Established by the Human Rights Council on 28 September 2007, the Forum on Minority Issues, provides a platform for promoting dialogue and cooperation on issues pertaining to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. Its annual two-day session brings together several hundred experts, representatives of Governments, Non-Governmental organisations, persons belonging to minorities, and other stakeholders to examine specific thematic issues and focus on concrete measures and recommendations aimed at protecting minority rights.

The Forum is guided by the Independent Expert on minority issues. This mandate was established by the Commission on Human Rights and renewed by Human Rights Council. The Independent Expert receives information from diverse sources and based on such  information will issue communications to States, submit annual  reports, undertake  thematic studies as well as country visits observe relevant programmes  and policies, register concerns, and identify areas for cooperation as well as study national legislation, policy, regulatory frameworks and institutions and  practices, in seeking to promote the effective implementation of the  Declaration on the Rights of Minorities.

What Scales for Justice (S4J) does

S4J is concerned about the Rights of Minorities and there are different means to advocate for these rights on an international level. Next to advocacy work and grassroot campaigns, Scales for Justice participates in relevant meetings of the UN and brings the issues to the attention of the concerned human rights bodies. S4J regularly attends the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues and supports the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Independent Expert on minority issues. One of the most effective means is the direct submission of information. Individuals facing restrictions can therefore send an urgent appeal to S4J , which will study the case and discuss appropriate action. Based on it experience S4J may prepare a communication to the UN and organize follow-up meetings with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In cases of urgent concern S4J may also invite the individual to Geneva to assist meetings of the UN Human Rights Council and present his/her case in person.

Source: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)