ICO-Library

ICO  constantly reviews all the existing treaties and recommendations concerning self-determination and minority rights, focusing particularly on mechanisms within the UN and Europe.

These files are part of an open source ICO Library that sustains easy access to the documents for researchers on self-determination and minority rights. Our library seeks to facilitate further research and simplify access to human rights mechanisms. 

Note: Treaties are legally binding documents in international human rights law e.g. Conventions, but other documents such as Recommendations and Declarations are referred as soft-law as they are not enforceable.  Soft-law should be considered as important as treaties, especially in international law, because they lead the development of international standards. For example, all universal human rights treaties are born from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which does not legally bind the parties to the UN. Nonetheless, the Declaration is a solid international norm and represents a commitment that paves the way for universal standards. Consequently, it is important for us to include both hard-law and soft-law in the ICO Library. 

To read a detailed excel report on the ICO-Library please download ICO- review-on-minority-rights-and-self-determination-

Please continue reading below for the summary notes and to download particular documents:

Document Name YearNotesLink
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
1948#Article 2 provides that everyone is entitled to all the rights set forth in the Declaration without distinction of any kind, including, race, language, religion or any other opinion. #Article 15 states that everyone has the right to a nationality and that no one should be arbitrarily deprived of a nationality or denied the right to change nationality.
UDHR
International Covenant on Civil and Political RightsSigned: 1966

Effective from: 1976
#Article 1 sets forth the right of ‘all peoples’ to self-determination. According to the Human Rights Committee, this right doesn’t belong to minorities per se. The articulation of the rights in #Article 27 is relatively narrow and confined to areas concerned with identity and culture. The wording ‘shall not be denied’ suggests that the State is not obliged to adopt positive measures to promote or assist minorities in exercising their rights.ICCPR
Human Rights Committee General Comment No.23/50 on Article 271944The Human Rights Committee observed that States may be required to adopt ‘positive measures of protection to protect rights from being violated’ by the government and by other persons. Although the introductory phrase of Article 27 of the ICCPR may to exclude newly arrived immigrants, the Human Rights Committee has interpreted it broadly so that it includes all those within a State’s jurisdiction, including migrant workers and visitors. Furthermore, although the rights protected under Article 27 are individual rights, they depend in turn on the ability of the minority group to maintain its culture, language and religion. The Committee has also suggested that the State may need to ensure the ‘effective participation of members of minority communities in decisions which affect them’ in order to guarantee full enjoyment of the right to culture.
HRC General Comment 23
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural RightsSigned: 1966

Effective from 1976
Although no article explicitly refers to the rights of minority groups, many articles are relevant to minorities, such as the right to work (#Articles 6 and 7), right to adequate standard of living (#Article 11) and right to education (#Articles 13 and 14). The non-discrimination clause (#Article 2(2)) must be applied immediately, rather than merely progressively. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has made it clear that concrete steps must be taken towards meeting the goals of the ICESCR.ICESCR
Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural RightsSigned: 2008

Effective from: 2013
Optional Protocol to ICESCR
Declaration of Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation Among States
1970The Preamble asserts that the General Assembly is convinced that the ‘principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples constitutes a significant contribution to contemporary international law and that its effective application is of paramount importance for the promotion of friendly relations among States, based on respect for the principle of sovereign equality’. Chapter 5 provides that every state has the ‘duty to promote the realisation of equal rights and self-determination’ and that the State also has a ‘duty to refrain from any forcible action’ which deprives peoples of the aforementioned principle. In doing so, it is established that States have a positive obligation to ensure people enjoy the principle of equal rights and self-determination.
Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations of States
Helsinki Final Act (OSCE)1975States are obliged to respect the equal rights of peoples and their right to self-determination and are asked to ‘recall the importance of the elimination of any form of violation of this principle’, which means that the Act doesn’t specifically impose a positive duty on States to ensure the right to self-determination is respected. States are also required to respect and protect the rights of minorities that exist in their territory. Furthermore, States are to recognise and facilitate the contribution of national minorities to the fields of culture and education.Helsinki Act
Charter of Paris for a New Europe (OSCE)
1990The Charter merely reaffirms the equal rights of peoples and their right to self-determination in conformity with the Charter of the UN and the relevant norms of international law, rather than imposing an additional obligation on states to comply with principle of self-determination. On the other hand, the Charter offers a greater commitment to protecting the rights of minorities. The Charter states that minorities will be able to express, preserve and develop their identity without discrimination, and that this contribution from minorities is significant to peace and the friendly relations between states. The Charter also believes that questions relating to minorities can only be resolved in a democratic political framework. The Charter orchestrated a Meeting of Experts on National Minorities to discuss the issue of minorities and the rights of persons belonging to them, with an emphasis on the diversity of situations and to the legal, historical, political and economic backgrounds.
Charter of Paris for a New Europe
Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action1993While one possible interpretation sees this document as a “well crafted but empty exhortation”, it did come to represent as much of a consensus as could be found on human rights in the early 1990s. And it did in fact set new marks in human rights work in several areas. It established the interdependence of democracy, economic development, and human rights.
Vienna Declaration
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial DiscriminationSigned: 1965

Effective from: 1969
There are no Articles concerning self-determination or minority rights. The Convention defines ‘racial discrimination’ quite broadly so that it is not limited to formal legal schemes that discriminate on colour. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has consistently considered discrimination against minorities in its examination of reports submitted by States. The Committee has also developed a range of measures towards the prevention of serious violations of the Convention and mechanisms to avoid problems escalating into conflict.CERD
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Signed: 1989

Effective from: 1990
#Article 2 provides that the rights in the Convention must be guaranteed without discrimination on the basis of, among other qualities, race, colour, language, religion, national origin or ethnic origin. A number of other rights are of relevance to minorities, although an explicit connection has not been made.CRC
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
Signed: 1979

Effective from: 1981
There are no clauses that refer specifically to minorities. States are required to eliminate discrimination against women by modifying or abolishing any existing laws, regulations customs or practices that have discriminate based on gender.CEDAW
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families
Signed: 1990

Effective from: 2003
Convention on the Protection of Rights of Migrant Workers and their families
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Signed: 2007

Effective from: 2008
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples2007Affirms the principle of self-determination by acknowledging the Charter of the UN, the ICCPR, the ICESCR and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and states that nothing in the Declaration can be used as a mechanism for the denial of the right to self-determination. Indigenous people are explicitly offered the right to form an autonomous local government in order to fulfill their right to self-determination. Bearing in mind that nothing in this Declaration may be used to deny any peoples their right to self-determination, exercised in conformity with international law.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities1992The Declaration covers both civil and political rights as well social, economic and cultural rights.Declaration on the Rights of People Belonging to Minorities
Commentary of the Working Group on Minorities to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities
2005This Commentary was designed to serve as a guide to the understanding and application of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. The Working Group on Minorities was disbanded in 2006 and replaced by the Forum on Minority Issues.
Commentary of the Working Group on UN Declaration on Rights of Minorities
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
Signed: 1948

Effective from: 1951
The Convention is referred to in the UN Minorities Declaration and related to the protection of groups, including minorities, and their right to exist. There is no mechanism in place to monitor the implementation of the Convention.
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide
European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
Signed: 1992

Effective from: 1998
This treaty was adopted to maintain Europe’s cultural traditions and heritage by respecting the right to use a regional or minority language in private and public life. Article 1 specifically defines minority language as that belonging to a citizen of the State and that which is not an official language of the state. Consequently, this Treaty does not apply to the languages of migrants.
European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages
Framework Convention for the Protection of National MinoritiesSigned: 1995

Effective from: 1998
Entire document.
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
Copenhagen Document of 1990 (OSCE)
1990Copenhagen Document
Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Signed: 1966

Effective from: 1976
Optional Protocol to the ICCPR
Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment
Signed: 1984

Effective from: 1987
The Convention does not refer to self-determination or the rights of minorities specifically, members of minority communities have the same right to protection from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment as any other person.
Convention Against Torture
General Comment No. 14 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the right to the highest attainable standard of health
2000Health facilities should be especially accessible to vulnerable or marginalised sections of society, including ethnic minorities, and respectful and culturally appropriate.
CESCR General Comment 14
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
Signed: 1998

Effective from: 2002
The Statute provides for the prosecution of cases that encompass crimes against humanity, including genocide. Forced transfers of population, including minorities, would be a crime against humanity and so would be tried by the International Criminal Court.
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
ILO Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention
Signed: 1958

Effective from: 1960
The Convention requires States to ensure equality in opportunity and treatment in employment, without prejudice towards national or ethnic origin, race or colour.
ILO Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention
ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
1998The enjoyment of equality of opportunity and the treatment of minorities are monitored under this Declaration.
ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage
Signed: 2003

Effective from: 2006
The Convention has established a fund and a listing system of representative and endangered heritage. The Convention is open to accession by territories which enjoy full internal self-government but are yet to acquire independence.
UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural heritage
UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions
Signed: 2005

Effective from: 2007
Preamble, #Articles 2(3), 7(1)(a)
UNESCO Convention on Protection and Promotion of Cultural Diversity
Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Rights on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law
2006The principle of restitution could be broadly interpreted to include the right to have one’s status as belonging to a minority restored, particularly where this is provided for under national legislation and if such status is lost as a consequence of displacement.
Right to Remedy for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law
African Charter on Human and People’s Rights
Signed: 1981

Effective from: 1986
The Charter seeks to promote the right to self-determination by adding that peoples shall have the right to existence and so be able to determine their own political status, economic policy and social development.
African Charter on Human and People’s Rights
Principles and Guidelines on the Implementation of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights
The Commission have clearly included minorities under the category of ‘vulnerable groups’. Since the right to self-determination doesn’t include a right to secession, active steps towards the promotion and protection of minority rights are pivotal in order to avoid secessionist movements.
Principles and Guidelines on Implementation of ESC Rights in the African Charter
Constitutive Act of the African Union
2000#Articles 3 and 4 indicate the AU’s commitment to territorial integrity and the promotion of human rights.
Constitutive Act of the AU
Protocol to the Constitutive Act of the African Union on the African Court of Justice and Human Rights
Signed: 2000

Effective from: 2003

Protocol to the Constitutive Act of the AU on the Court of Justice and HR
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa
Signed: 2003

Effective from: 2005
Considers the principle of non-discrimination (enshrined in #Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
AU Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
Signed: 1990

Effective from: 1999
Although there are no specific references to minorities, #Article 3 states that children should enjoy rights without discrimination towards their race, ethnic group, colour, language, religion, political opinion or national and social origin.
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance
Signed: 2011

Effective from: 2012
#Adopted by the African Union, therefore the members of the AU are the state parties to the Charter.
African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance
AU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa
Signed: 1969

Effective from: 1974
#Article 4 ensures that the Convention is applied without any discrimination as to race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
AU Convention on Refugee Problems in Africa
New Partnership for Africa’s Development
Reiterates the commitment that African leaders should undertake for the protection of human rights.
New Partnership for Africa’s Development Framework
Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance
Reaffirms the importance of human rights protection while acknowledging that minority rights (among other vulnerable groups) need to be advanced further to end moral shame.
Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance
European Social Charter (Revised Version)
Signed: 196

Effective from: 1965

Revised version: 1996
This Charter is adopted by members of the Council of Europe. It aims to apply the Universal Declaration of Human Rights within Europe. To this end, it is linked to the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.
European Social Charter
European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
Signed: 1950

Effective from: 1953
The Convention only refers to minorities in the Article that upholds the principle of non-discrimination.
European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
Charter of the Organisation of American States
Signed: 1948

Effective from: 1951
OAS Charter
Inter-American Democratic Charter
2001#Article 16.
Inter-American democratic charter
Social Charter of the Americas
2012Devotes a chapter to the principles of social development, equal opportunity and non-discrimination.
Social Charter of the Americas
Plan of Action of the Social Charter of the Americas
2015Only refers to the principle of non-discrimination with regard to access to education and access to housing.
Plan of Action for Social Charter of the Americas
American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man
Signed: 1948

Effective from: 1948
#Articles 2-5 relate to the equality of all persons, right to religious freedom etc and so are applicable to minorities generally even if they aren’t mentioned specifically.
American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man
American Convention on Human Rights
Signed: 1969

Effective from: 1978
#Article 1 declares the obligation to respect rights without discrimination.
American Convention on Human Rights
Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Signed: 1988

Effective from: 1999
Represents an attempt to take the inter-American human rights system one step further by enshrining the second generation of human rights, i.e. economic, social and cultural rights. It doesn’t refer to minority rights but includes the principle of non-discrimination in #Article 3.
Additional Protocol to American Convention on ESC Rights
Charter of the United Nations
Signed: 1945

Effective from: 1945
#Article 1, #Article 55
UN Charter
ASEAN Human Rights Declaration
2012Contains principle of non-discrimination (Paragraph 2). The Declaration has been widely criticised by civil society groups and international human rights organisations as being a declaration of government powers rather than a declaration for the protection of human rights.
ASEAN Human Rights Declaration
ASEAN Charter
Signed: 2007

Effective from: 2008
Affirms commitment to non-discrimination.
ASEAN Charter
Cha-am Hua Hin Declaration on the Roadmap for ASEAN Community
2009Seeks to reinforce commitment to the empowerment of peoples of ASEAN and encouraging solidarity to create an inclusive community.
Cha am Hua Declaration
Declaration of the Advancement of Women in the ASEAN Region
1988ASEAN Declaration on advancement of women
Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and Elimination of Violence Against Children in the ASEAN region2013ASEAN Declaration on Elimination of Violence Against Women and Children
Declaration on ASEAN Unity in Cultural Diversity: Towards Strengthening ASEAN Community
2011Although the rights of minorities are not mentioned explicitly, the Declaration seeks to protect and promote cultural diversity. This can be construed as protecting the language, culture, religion etc of minority communities in order to achieve this cultural diversity.
ASEAN Declaration on Cultural Diversity 2011
World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
2001Preamble, General Issues Paragraph 63, Programme of Action Paragraph 151; General Issues Paragraphs 66, 71, 73. Programme of Action paragraphs 46, 47, 48, 49, 74(a), 124, 172.World Conference against Racism, Durban
Report of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
2011The report focuses on the discrimination against Roma but also considers other minorities and regions outside Europe.
Special Rapporteur on Durban
Guidance Note of the Secretary General on Racial Discrimination and Protection of Minorities
2013Entire document.
Guidance Note of SG on Minorities
Guidance Note on Human Rights for Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams
2016Considers the importance of the right of minorities to self-identity, as well as self determination.
UNDG Guidance Note on Human Rights for RCs
Guidance Tool on Descent-Based Discrimination: Key challenges and Strategic Approaches to Combat Caste-Based and Analogous Forms of Discrimination
2016This tool considers minority rights extensively but with an emphasis on descent-based discrimination.
Guidance Tool on Descent-Based Discrimination
Minority Rights: International Standards and Guidance for Implementation
2010The importance of self-identity of minorities is stressed in this document.
Minority Rights: International Standards and Guidance for Implementation
Effective Promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities
2012This report by the Independent Expert considers the role of national institutional mechanisms in the promotion and protection of minority rights.
Independent Expert on Effective Promotion of the Declaration in the Rights of Persons in Minorities
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