Why Are Minority Rights Important?
Protection of national minorities, rights and freedoms of members of minorities are all part of international protection of human rights. It is necessary to begin the consideration of the legislative framework as a base for creating positive regulations in signatory states with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Covenant is the only global treaty that includes a provision (art. 27) that specifically refers to minority rights.
Minority rights are based on the recognition that minorities are in a vulnerable situation in comparison to other groups in society, namely the majority population, and aim to protect members of a minority group from discrimination, assimilation, prosecution, hostility or violence, as a consequence of their status. It should be highlighted that minority rights do not constitute privileges, but act to ensure equal respect for members of different communities. These rights serve to accommodate vulnerable groups and to bring all members of society to a minimum level of equality in the exercise of their human and fundamental rights.
Minorities require special measures to ensure that they benefit from the same rights as the rest of the population. Hence, minority rights serve to bring all members of society to a balanced enjoyment of their human rights. In other words, their aim is to ensure that persons belonging to a national minority enjoy effective equality with those persons belonging to the majority. In this context, the promotion of equal opportunities at all levels for people belonging to a national minority is particularly important, since it empowers communities and promotes the exercise of individual freedoms.
The sense of belonging to a common society implies that, when the right conditions are in place, individuals, irrespective of their identity, should not only respect the legislation and the rights of others, but should also avoid self‑isolation and take full advantage of their opportunities to channel claims through the legitimate instruments provided by the authorities.
The participation of persons belonging to minorities in public affairs and in all aspects of the political economic, social and cultural life of the country where they live is in fact essential to preserving their identity and combating social exclusion. Mechanisms are required to ensure that the diversity of society with regard to minority groups is reflected in public institutions, such as national parliaments, the civil service sector, including the police and the judiciary, and that persons belonging to minorities are adequately represented, consulted and have a voice in decisions which affect them or the territories and regions in which they live.