Chapter 12 Group Identities and Human Rights: How Do We Square the Circle in International Law?

In: Populism, Memory and Minority Rights
Gaetano Pentassuglia
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The identity of groups of an ethno-cultural variety has long fallen within the remit of international human rights law. In this context, discussions have been largely concerned with the legal status of groups and/or the nature of the legal right(s) in question. While acknowledging the importance of these dimensions, in this article I seek to provide an alternative account by discussing the continuities and discontinuities in articulating the very concept of group identity. I first examine the potential, limitations and eventual hybridity of human rights practice across the spectrum of minority/indigenous identities. Then, I critique a range of instabilities in human rights discourse relating to the idea of group identities, their personal scope and the role of international law. I argue that such instabilities do not merely mirror the ambivalent outlook of the relationship between human rights and group identities; they raise the broader question of whether there is a relatively more coherent way to capture the legitimacy of group claims. I conclude by pointing to the outer limits of identity claims, the understated interplay of sovereignty and inter-group diversity, and the need to unpack the reasons why certain groups merit protection in the way they do.

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Populism, Memory and Minority Rights

Central and Eastern European Issues in Global Perspective


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