The Constitution of Bangladesh can be identified as a supreme pro-nationalist law which declared “Islam” as the state religion and “Bangla” as the state language. The question of state religion was inserted through the 8e Constitutional amendment, while Bengali has been the language of the state since the adoption of the Constitution in 1972. The protection of minorities was neglected in the 1972 Constitution, and it was only very recently, in 2011, that a special provision to protect and develop the “unique local culture and tradition of tribes, minor races, ethnic sects and communities” was enshrined in the Constitution through the 15e Constitutional amendment (article 23A). The provision for the preservation and improvement of “national language, literature and arts” has existed since 1972. The Constitution has not clearly defined “minorities”, although Bangladesh, as a member of the international community, has the duty to protect them in all forms. discrimination and violence.
Who are minorities in international law?
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As of yet, there is no global consensus on the definition of minorities. According to the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities (1950), “only non-dominant groups in a population who possess and wish to maintain stable ethnic, religious or linguistic traditions or characteristics and markedly different from those of the rest of the population ”, are identified as minorities. As this definition requires, these minorities must be a sufficient number of population on their own to preserve their culture or traditions, and they must be loyal to the state of which they are a national.
Adopted in 1992, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (commonly known as the United Nations Declaration on Minorities) defines “minorities” on the basis of national identity or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic, and requires states to protect their existence.
Protection of minority rights under international law
According to the United Nations Declaration on Minorities of 1992, persons belonging to minorities have the right to:
* Protection by States of their existence and of their national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity (Article 1);
* The right to enjoy one’s own culture, to profess and practice one’s own religion and to use one’s own language in the private and public sphere (article 2 (1));
* The right to participate effectively in cultural, religious, social, economic and public life (article 2 (2));
* The right to participate effectively in decisions that affect them at national and regional levels (Article 2 (3));
* The right to create and maintain their own associations (article 2 (4));
* The right to establish and maintain peaceful contacts with other members of their group and with persons belonging to other minorities, both within their own country and beyond the borders of ‘State (Article 2 (5)); and
* The freedom to exercise their rights, individually as well as in community with the other members of their group, without discrimination (article 3).
States’ obligations to protect and promote the rights of minorities include:
* Ensure that they can fully and effectively exercise all their human rights and fundamental freedoms without any discrimination and in full equality before the law (Article 4 (1));
* Create favorable conditions for them to express their characteristics and develop their culture, language, religion, traditions and customs (Article 4 (2));
* give them adequate opportunities to learn their mother tongue or to receive education in their mother tongue (Article 4 (3));
* Encourage knowledge of the history, traditions, language and culture of minorities present in their territory and ensure that members of these minorities have adequate opportunities to acquire knowledge of society as a whole (section 4 (4));
* Enable their participation in economic progress and development (Article 4, paragraph 5);
* Considering the legitimate interests of minorities in the formulation and implementation of national policies and programs and of international cooperation and assistance programs (Article 5);
* Cooperate with other States on minority issues, including the exchange of information and experiences, in order to promote mutual understanding and trust (Article 6);
* Promote respect for the rights set out in the Declaration (article 7);
* Fulfill the obligations and commitments that States have assumed under international treaties and agreements to which they are parties.
Finally, the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system must also contribute to the realization of the rights set out in the Declaration (article 9).
In addition to this Declaration, the rights of minorities are protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 (article 27), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (article 2 (2)), the International Convention on Elimination of all forms of racial discrimination (article 1), Convention on the Rights of the Child (article 30).
Created in the year of 20e anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Minorities, the United Nations Secretary General approved a Network on Racial Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities in Policy Committee Decision No. 2012/4 of 6 March 2012. The Network of United Nations was created to develop a communication strategy aimed at people aware of the implementation of the Declaration, in particular women belonging to minorities and other potential victims of multiple discrimination.
This article is prepared on the basis of documents obtained from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR.ORG).