Nov 27, 2015

UN Minority Forum Highlights Challenges Concerning Criminal Justice Systems at its 8th Session in Geneva

UNPO Members together to exchange experiences on minorities’ challenges to access justice.


This year’s UN Forum on Minority Issues brought together minority representatives with different backgrounds to exchange experiences and point of views on their main concerns under the topic “Minorities in the Criminal Justice System”. For two days [24-25 November 2015], they addressed issues such the exercise of police powers, the obstacles faced by minorities when accessing the criminal justice system and the different causes behind discriminatory policies throughout judicial processes. Many UNPO members (Acheh, Afrikaner, Brittany, East Turkestan, Ogaden, Trieste, Savoy and West Papua) were present this year, contributing to the discussions as they have done also in previous sessions.


The forum opened with a statement by the President of the Human Rights Council, Joachim Rücker, followed by the remarks of the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Ms. Rita Izsák, and the considerations of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. This 8th session of the forum had two main objectives: first, to provide an overview of existing principles relevant to the safeguarding of minority rights at different stages of the criminal justice process; second, to discuss measures aimed at preventing and addressing discriminatory biases that can jeopardize minorities’ fair and effective access to justice.

Stéphane Domagala, the president of the association “Nations of the French Hexagone” and representative of Brittany to UNPO, gave a general overview of French minorities and the critical lack of recognition of their political and cultural traits, illustrating his point with the example of Brittany. He emphasized the dramatic consequences of the supremacy of France’s alleged homogeneity, enshrined in the French political culture, over the recognition and respect for national minorities and their “fundamental right to live in a unified world preserving and respecting diversity” (click here to watch his speech and here for a press release).

Representing the Ahwazi Arabs, Mr Jaber Ahmad, delivered a speech about the oppressive policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran against its national minorities. He presented the root causes of these policies, and stressed the “false accusations and the restriction of the use of Iranian minorities’ mother tongue before the judiciary and the police”. In conclusion, Mr Ahmad called on the UN to support Iranian minorities’ struggle for achieving full equality and asked for the recognition of their fundamental rights (click here to watch his speech). Also highlighting the plight of the Ahwazi Arabs, Ms Mona Silawi provided the audience with a contextualized analysis of the discriminations faced by minority women while seeking redress and protection through the Iranian justice system. She stressed that 82% of Iranian minority women do not speak Farsi, the only language used by the national legal system, adding that “activists have long demanded the establishment of [an] organization which speak Arabic to help these women”.

On behalf of the Association for the Human Rights of the Azerbaijani People in Iran (AHRAZ), Shahin Helali Kyavi further delivered two speeches: one on the challenges surrounding the performance of the Iranian justice system in addressing the needs and demands of minorities; and another one on the exercise of police powers. He expressed his concerns regarding the dependence of the judicial system in Iran on the supreme leader and the politicization of a security-oriented minority policy.

A representative of the Free Territory of Trieste then spoke more in general of the diverse suffering of UNPO Members, ranging from violations of their linguistic rights, restrictions on or prohibitions of the use of their native language in education, or interference in their relations with their own territory's administration and, in some very worrying cases, even their private life.

On its turn, the representative of the Afrikaner minority criticized South Africa’s unwillingness to act against farm murders, as well as the country’s refusal to acknowledge and protect minority groups’ rights.

Mr Asnawi Ali, a representative of the Acheh­Sumatra National Liberation Front (ASNLF), drew the attention of the audience to the role of the Indonesian Police and its excessive use of force on minorities, particularly in his homeland, Acheh Sumatra (click here to watch his speech).

The UN Minority Forum offers an effective platform for UNPO Members and other minority groups to use the UN system as a means through which they can explore solutions to the most alarming obstacles currently impeding the fulfillment of their fundamental rights. UNPO welcomes the efforts of the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues in bringing awareness to the violations of minority rights occurring across the world, as expressed in her latest report. Following the successful forum, UNPO will continue to work alongside its members at national, European and international levels towards transforming human rights promises into reality.


UNPO Members' statements are available for download from the right column.

Click here to check the Program of the 8th Session of the UN Minority Forum.

The latest Report of the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues can be found here.

You can also check the “Draft recommendations on minorities in the criminal justice system” and find more information on the UN Minority Forum.