UN expert applauds European Parliament’s moves to protect national and linguistic minorities
21 December 2020
GENEVA (21 December 2020) – The UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, today welcomed the adoption of a resolution by the European Parliament to protect national and linguistic minorities, calling it one of the most important developments in decades for minorities.
“These are much needed and welcome developments, as the human rights of minorities appear increasingly threatened or ignored in many countries, even by international and regional organisations,” the UN expert said.
He pointed out that the resolution underlines concerns about the alarming increase of hate crime and hate speech, motivated by racism, xenophobia or intolerance, directed at people belonging to national and linguistic minorities in Europe.
The resolution, which as adopted on 17 December 2020, was in a response to a massive petition submitted as a European Citizens’ Initiative ‘Minority SafePack – one million signatures for diversity in Europe’.
De Varennes said minorities worldwide were being scapegoated and increasingly subjected to discriminatory treatment. “We must urgently take stock and address the rise of hate speech targeting minorities in social and other media, the increase in minorities being excluded from citizenship, and even rollbacks on matters which should be uncontroversial such as the right to be educated in or to be taught one’s own language,” he said.
“The European Parliament’s resolution makes a similar point which I made in relation to the concept of a minority - that it is important to distinguish the various categories of minorities in international law. This resolution does this by acknowledging that there are distinctions between the concept of national and linguistic minorities,” he said.
Fernand de Varennes (Canada), was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues by the Human Rights Council in June 2017. He is tasked by the UN Human Rights Council with promoting the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, among other things. He is Extraordinary Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Pretoria in South Africa; Cheng Yu Tung Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong; and Visiting Professor at the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland-Galway. He is one of the world's leading experts on minority rights in international law, with more than 200 publications in some 30 languages.
Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.