Minority Rights in International Law

36 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2008 Last revised: 10 Nov 2008

See all articles by Patrick Macklem

Patrick Macklem

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Date Written: July 1, 2008


Why should international human rights law vest members of a minority community - either individually or collectively - with rights that secure a measure of autonomy from the state in which they are located? To the extent that the field offers answers to this question, it does so from its deep commitment to the protection of certain universal attributes of human identity from the exercise of sovereign power. It protects minority rights on the assumption that religious, cultural and linguistic affiliations are essential features of what it means to be human. There exists an alternative account of why minority rights possess international significance, one that trades less on the currency of religion, culture and language and more on the value of international distributive justice. On this account, international minority rights speak to wrongs that that international law itself produces by organizing international political reality into a legal order. This account avoids the normative instabilities of attaching universal value to religious, cultural and linguistic affiliation and instead challenges the international legal order to remedy pathologies of its own making.

Keywords: international law, minority rights, human rights

Suggested Citation

Macklem, Patrick, Minority Rights in International Law (July 1, 2008). U Toronto, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-19, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1262967 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1262967

Patrick Macklem (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

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