ʻLieux de mémoire’ in international law: The rights of national and ethnic minorities related to their memorial sites

Antal Berkes

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Abstract

All national and ethnic minorities have memorial sites of cultural and historic importance which embody the memorial consciousness and strengthen the identity of the given community. However, the same memorial site may give rise to rivalling or even opposing historical narratives of the concerned minority and the majority population of the territorial State. The lieux de mémoire of national and ethnic minorities have led to various international disputes that give rise to an emerging international law of memorial sites. The analysis of international humanitarian law, international criminal law, international cultural heritage law, and international human rights law illustrates that the various special branches of international law converge in the protection of the cultural practices of national and ethnic minorities at memorial sites. Universal norms leave a broad leeway for States as to the scope of the protected cultural objects and the cultural rights exercised by members of national and ethnic minorities, and have no or very weak enforcement mechanism. Regional instruments, particularly in Europe, converge as to the substantial obligations of States vis-á-vis members of national and ethnic minorities, but further develop universal norms in the sense that they set minimum standards, an emerging “European consensus” and establish enforcement mechanisms. The paper argues that the legal protection of memorial sites of national and ethnic minorities has acquired the most far-reaching legal recognition in the treaty practice of European States and should inspire States outside the continent, all the more that they reflect the progressive development of universal standards too.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)47-129
Number of pages79
JournalIntercultural Human Rights Law Review
Volume13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

Keywords

  • international law
  • minority rights
  • cultural heritage law
  • international human rights law

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