Journal Article

Minority rights in international law

Patrick Macklem

in International Journal of Constitutional Law

Published on behalf of The New York University School of Law

Volume 6, issue 3-4, pages 531-552
Published in print January 2008 | ISSN: 1474-2640
Published online September 2008 | e-ISSN: 1474-2659 | DOI:
Minority rights in international law

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  • Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • UK Politics


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Why should international human rights law vest members of a minority community with rights that secure a measure of autonomy from the state in which they are located? Answers to this question typically rest on a commitment to the protection of certain universal attributes of human identity from the exercise of sovereign power. Minority protection thus operates on the assumption that religious, cultural, and linguistic affiliations are essential features of what it means to be human. This essay offers 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 approach, international minority rights speak to wrongs 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.

Journal Article.  10294 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law ; UK Politics

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