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Cultural Human Rights Protection of Ethnic Minorities
September 29,2016   By:chinahumanrights.org
Cultural Human Rights Protection of Ethnic Minorities
 
Sebastian Scheerer
Universität Hamburg
 
 
For half a millenium, gypsies - i.e. members of the Romani people - lived and suffered the fate of what Max Weber termed a pariah class. While powerholders could sometimes make use of them for military and other services, their history was mainly shaped by a combination of social rejection and legal repression. Against this background - including Nazi Germany’s genocidal campaign that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands members of the Romani people (Porajmos) - it is impressive to see the progress made in terms of human rights for this ethnic minority in all of Europe, and especially in Germany, since the end of World War II. 
 
A focus on the cultural rights of gypsies in Germany - with special attention to their linguistic rights - underlines the importance of political umbrella organizations such as the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma in achieving emancipation. But it also reveals the costs and the remaining difficulties and shortcoming associated with such a complex process. One example is the risk of deepening the rift between the 70,000 long-established German Sinti and Roma on the one hand (recently recognized as a national minority by the government) and the lesser status of the unknown number of more recent newcomers who entered Germany as refugees from war and/or acute waves of antiziganism in neighboring countries. 
 
Both the Council of Europe (with 47 member states) and the European Union (with 28 member states) have the legal instruments to protect the cultural rights of (members of) national minorities. The Council of Europe’s European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) explicitly aims to protect minorities from discrimination, and the European Court of Human Rights at Strasburg (ECtHR) has repeatedly stressed the necessity to give special protection to members of the Romani people. The European Union's Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxemburg fulfills a similar role and has published a number of anti-discrimination judgments. 
 
This paper aims to inform about and to open a critical discussion regarding the merits and shortcomings of some of the legal instruments (such as the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages) and recent decisions of the judicature.