General Comment No. 23: The rights of minorities (Art. 27) : . 08/04/94.
CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.5, General Comment No. 23. (General Comments)
Convention Abbreviation: CCPR
GENERAL COMMENT 23
The rights of minorities
(Fiftieth session, 1994)
1. Article 27 of the Covenant provides that, in those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities
exist, persons belonging to these minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members
of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own
language. The Committee observes that this article establishes and recognizes a right which is conferred on
individuals belonging to minority groups and which is distinct from, and additional to, all the other rights
which, as individuals in common with everyone else, they are already entitled to enjoy under the Covenant.
2. In some communications submitted to the Committee under the Optional Protocol, the right protected under
article 27 has been confused with the right of peoples to self-determination proclaimed in article 1 of the
Covenant. Further, in reports submitted by States parties under article 40 of the Covenant, the obligations
placed upon States parties under article 27 have sometimes been confused with their duty under article 2.1 to
ensure the enjoyment of the rights guaranteed under the Covenant without discrimination and also with equality
before the law and equal protection of the law under article 26.
3.1. The Covenant draws a distinction between the right to self-determination and the rights protected under
article 27. The former is expressed to be a right belonging to peoples and is dealt with in a separate part (Part I)
of the Covenant. Self-determination is not a right cognizable under the Optional Protocol. Article 27, on the
other hand, relates to rights conferred on individuals as such and is included, like the articles relating to other
personal rights conferred on individuals, in Part III of the Covenant and is cognizable under the Optional
3.2. The enjoyment of the rights to which article 27 relates does not prejudice the sovereignty and territorial
integrity of a State party. At the same time, one or other aspect of the rights of individuals protected under that
article - for example, to enjoy a particular culture - may consist in a way of life which is closely associated with
territory and use of its resources. 2/ This may particularly be true of members of indigenous communities
constituting a minority.