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Book Review: Henrard, Devising an Adequate System of Minority Protection.

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  • Stefan Wolff
    Henrard, Kristin, Devising an Adequate System of Minority Protection. Individual Human Rights, Minority Rights, and the Right to Self-Determination. (The
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 21, 2000
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      Henrard, Kristin, Devising an Adequate System of Minority Protection.
      Individual Human Rights, Minority Rights, and the Right to
      Self-Determination. (The Hague, Boston, London: Martinus Nijhoff
      Publishers, 2000); ISBN 90-411-1359-2

      Reviewed by Stefan Wolff, University of Bath, S.Wolff@...

      Should I ever be charged with devising a system of minority protection on a
      remote island and be simultaneously constrained by airline baggage
      allowances, Henrards book would certainly be among the essentials I would
      take along for what she provides is one of the most comprehensive
      treatments of minority protection from a legal perspective that I know of.

      The book is divided into four chapters, preceded by a short introduction
      and followed by an even shorter conclusion. What I found particularly
      reader-friendly is the fact that Henrard spared me from yet another
      extensive discussion of historic developments of minority protection, but
      provides instead a five-page summary of the most important developments
      with rather extensive footnotes referencing the key works that can be
      consulted for further reading. Equally brief but nonetheless informative is
      the discussion of the more fundamental issue of what exactly a minority is.
      From the outset, Henrard acknowledges that there is no universally agreed
      definition. She examines the most influential definitions thus
      far Capotorti and Deschnes at the UN level (pp. 21-24), and various
      proposals at the European level (pp. 25-30) and derives from them a list
      of components that a majority of these definitions include. These
      components (different ethnic, linguistic, or religious characteristics;
      numerical position; non-dominant position; nationality requirement;
      subjective component; official recognition; loyalty requirement) are then
      individually assessed in their importance and a working definition is
      provided (p. 48). After elaborating on the use of qualifying terms, such as
      ethnic, racial, religious, linguistic, and national, Henrard provides her
      own definition which is, unsurprisingly, similar to those previously
      examined, but omits both the nationality (citizenship) and loyalty
      requirements that can be found elsewhere.

      Following this groundwork, chapters II to IV respectively cover the
      contribution of individual human rights, minority rights, and the right to
      self-determination to an adequate system of minority protection. The
      extensive discussion and analysis of the relevant international documents
      (at UN, OSCE, and European level) in each of the chapters is substantiated
      by an examination of court cases, primarily in relation to Article 27 of
      the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Yet, Henrard
      doesnt stop at the level of analysing legal documents but goes further and
      elaborates on current debates among legal experts on such crucial issues as
      special rights (pp. 218-233) and group rights (pp. 233-243) and relates
      them to those aspects of minorities identities that are often the focal
      point of their [i.e., minorities S.W.] more concrete demands (p. 244),
      such as language, religion, culture/ethnicity, education, media, and
      political participation.

      A similarly enlightening analysis of the more fundamental issues that have
      informed the legal as well as the political discourse on minority
      protection is conducted in relation to the right to self-determination. A
      brief discussion of the internal and external dimensions of
      self-determination (pp. 296-306) is then followed by a more detailed
      examination of federalism (pp. 308-311), autonomy (pp. 311-313), and
      power-sharing (pp. 313-314) as forms in which the internal dimension of the
      right to self-determination can be realised.

      Finally, Henrard looks into the relationship between minority rights and
      the right to self-determination (pp. 314-316) and between the latter and
      individual human rights (pp. 316-319). Acknowledging that the issue of
      secession has coloured this debate [on the right to self-determination] in
      the most negative way (p. 314), she recognises that minority rights are
      not always sufficient in their contribution towards an optimal protection
      and promotion of the minorities right to identity (p. 316). This leads
      her to conclude that there is an intrinsic connection between minority
      rights and an internal right to self-determination (p. 316), while she
      considers the right to self-determination a human right itself and a
      necessary condition for the exercise of all other individual human rights
      (pp. 316-317).

      Thus, Henrards book is an invaluable resource guide for anyone interested
      in the protection of minorities, be it from an academic or a practical
      perspective. At the same time, she also delivers a clear argument in
      support of the use of the whole range of legal instruments available for
      the protection of minorities, or, as Henrard herself would phrase it, for
      the accommodation of population diversity. This argument culminates in
      her assertion that it seems justified to conclude that individual human
      rights, minority rights, and a right to (internal) self-determination are
      all three needed and interrelate for the elaboration of an adequate system
      of minority protection (p. 321).

      The only slight disappointment with the book is the fact that, especially
      given its rather exorbitant price, more care could have been invested in
      the copy-editing process. Spelling and punctuation mistakes are quite
      frequent, and given that Henrard herself is not a native speaker of
      English, responsibility for these shortcomings lies with the publisher
      alone. In any revised edition, which in some years from now may be
      necessary as international and national law systems will evolve, these
      issues should be addressed. On the other hand, the book is presented in a
      solid and apparently durable hardback edition which will guarantee it a
      sufficiently long physical life in libraries where it is sure to be
      consulted frequently for its thematic comprehensiveness, intellectual
      rigour of analysis, and clarity of argument. What is more, especially for
      the non-lawyer, neither Henrards argument nor the book as a whole are
      overly technical in their vocabulary, and thus allow political scientists,
      sociologists, and others working in the field easy access to the legal
      discourse on minority protection. This, too, should ensure the wide and
      positive reception this book deserves.
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