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Independent Expert on Minority Issues report welcome, says MRG

16 March 2009

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) welcomes the annual report of the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues (IEMI), Ms Gay McDougall, presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 13 March.

MRG congratulates the Independent Expert on the work she has undertaken in the past year, including two productive country missions – to Greece and Guyana – and her involvement in the success of the first Forum on Minority Issues in December 2008. MRG welcomes the high level of minority, expert and state participation in the Forum and its quality discussions, which have resulted in the valuable set of recommendations on the right to education for minorities.

In the report on her mission to Guyana, the IEMI recognises historical injustices suffered by all groups and expresses concern at the ethnic polarisation between Afro-Guyanese and Indian-Guyanese communities. MRG welcomes the recommendations to eliminate discrimination, address root causes of tensions and to reduce the ‘widening fault lines’ between the communities before it results in ethnic conflict.

MRG also welcomes the recommendations of the IEMI report on her mission to Greece. The report highlights that according to international principles, ‘The absence of formal recognition by the state of a particular societal group as constituting “a minority” is not conclusive. Rather, the existence of a group to which a state owes minority protections is a matter of objective facts and exercise of the right of self-identification by persons belonging to the group.’

Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director, says, ‘Instead of focusing on the dispute about the existence or not of a Macedonian minority or a Turkish minority in Greece, the government should focus on protecting the rights of those communities, including the rights to self-identification, freedom of expression and freedom of association.’

MRG notes that this also reflects the conclusions of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe after his own visit to Greece in December, calling on the Greek authorities to adopt urgently all necessary measures to make possible the effective enjoyment by minority members of their right to freedom of association.