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The term minority rights embodies two separate concepts: first, normal individual rights as applied to members of racial, ethnic, class, religious, linguistic or sexual minorities, and second, collective rights accorded to minority groups. The term may also apply simply to individual rights of anyone who is not part of a majority decision.
Civil rights movements often seek to ensure that individual rights are not denied on the basis of membership in a minority group.
 Minority Rights in National and International Law
The first minority rights were created by Diet of Hungary in 1849. Minority rights, as applying to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples, are an integral part of international human rights law. Like children's rights, women's rights and refugee rights, minority rights are a legal framework designed to ensure that a specific group which is in a vulnerable, disadvantaged or marginalised position in society, is able to achieve equality and is protected from persecution. The first post-war international treaty to protect minorities, designed to protect them from the greatest threat to their existence, was the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Subsequent human rights standards that codify minority rights include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 27), the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, two Council of Europe treaties (the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, and the OSCE Copenhagen Document of 1990.
Minority rights cover protection of existence, protection from discrimination and persecution, protection and promotion of identity, and participation in political life.
To protect minority rights, many countries have specific laws and/or commissions or ombudsman institutions (for example the Hungarian Parliamentary Commissioner for National and Ethnic Minorities Rights).
While initially, the United Nations treated indigenous peoples as a sub-category of minorities, there is an expanding body of international law specifically devoted to them, in particular Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (adopted 14 September 2007).
Attempts to codify the rights of sexual minorities in international human rights law have met with strong opposition from a number of member states of the United Nations.
 National Minorities in the Law of the EC/EU
The direct role of the European Union (and also the Law of the EU/EC ) in the area of protection of national minorities is still very limited (likewise the general protection of human rights). The EU has relied on general international law and a European regional system of international law (based on the Council of Europe, OSCE etc.). and in a case of necessity accepted their norms. But the “de-economisation of European integration”, which started in 1990s is changing this situation. The political relevance of national minorities´ protection is very high. Now (2009) although a protection of the national minorities has not become a generally accepted legally binding principle of the EU, in several legal acts issues of national minorities are mentioned. In external relations protection of national minorities became one of the main criteria for cooperation with the EU or accession.
 See also
- Civil rights
- Ethnic group
- Ethnic war
- European Centre for Minority Issues
- Global Human Rights Defence
- Human rights
- Marek Edelman
- Minority religion
- Minority Rights Group International
- National personal autonomy
- Social stratification
- Teaching for social justice
- Tyranny of the majority
 External links
- U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Minorities
- Commentary to the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, United Nations Working Group on Minorities
- U.N. Independent Expert on Minority Issues
- U.N. Forum on Minority Issues, its recommendations
- U.N. Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide
- Minority Rights Group International
- Minority rights implemented at grassroot level
- OSCE Copenhagen Document 1990
- OSCE Hague recommendations regarding the education rights of national minorities & explanatory note
- OSCE Oslo recommendation regarding the linguistic rights of national minorities
- Congress of the Council of Europe Recommendation 222 (2007) Language Education in Regional or Minority Languages
- Documents submitted to the Working Group on Minorities that was replaced by the Forum on Minority Issues, established by Human Rights Council resolution 6/15
- Human Rights Middle East
- Barzilai, G. 2003. Communities and Law: Politics and Cultures of Legal Identities. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
- Henrard, K. 2000. Devising an Adequate System of Minority Protection: Individual Human Rights, Minority Rights, and the Right to Self-Determination. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers
- Jackson Preece, J. 2005. Minority Rights: Between Diversity and Community. Cambridge: Polity Press
- Malloy, T.H. 2005. National Minority Rights in Europe. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
- Pentassuglia, G. 2002. Minorities in international law : an introductory study. Strasbourg: Council of Europe Publications
- Šmihula, D. 2008. "National Minorities in the Law of the EC/EU", in Romanian Journal of European Affairs, Vol. 8 no. 3, pp. 2008, pp.51-81.
- Thornberry, P. 1991. International Law and the Rights of Minorities. Oxford: Clarendon Press
- Weller, M. (ed.) 2006. The Rights of Minorities in Europe: A Commentary on the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
- Weller, M., Denika Blacklock and Katherine Nobbs (eds.) 2008. The Protection of Minorities in the Wider Europe. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.