Linguicism and its manifestations in Latin American states: an overview of the case-law of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

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Author: Mikhail Peterburgsky

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2020-3-67-79

Keywords: indigenous peoples; Inter-American Commission of Human Rights; Inter-American Court of Human Rights; language; linguicism; public sector


The article is devoted to the problems of language inequality in the countries of the Americas, a view of which is carried out through the prism of the decisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The author analyzes the phenomenon of linguistic discrimination (linguicism) in the diversity of its manifestations. Attention is paid to the functions and principles of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as the central bodies for the protection of human rights in the Americas. A selection of court decisions was made based on the novelty and severity of the language conflict. Although the key subject matter of most of the cases of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights analyzed in the article was not linguistic discrimination per se, it became a separate issue for consideration by the Court, and the Court paid close attention to it. The legal positions developed by the Court are of great interest: during the trial, the Court demonstrates full involvement in the problem, refers to expert opinions of specialists — sociologists and ethnographers, who, together with valuable witness testimonies, as well as an analysis of the national and international regulatory framework, allow us to develop an understanding of the peculiarities of the linguistic rights of small ethnic communities of Latin American states, as well as an understanding of the legal regulation of the status of various languages by respondent states. The conclusion is made about the unsatisfactory legal status of the indigenous peoples of a number of countries in the Americas in terms of observing their linguistic rights. The implementation of these rights is particularly difficult in the field of education and legal proceedings. The lack of attention to the issue of preservation and development of small languages is explained by both the crisis component — civil and political conflicts, unstable economic conditions, and the intentional discriminatory policies of states in relation to ethnic communities. In addition, in most countries there is no system for training bilingual personnel for work in the public sector; this makes the task of integrating a particular minority into the public sector on equal terms with other, larger ethnic units, very difficult. The author concludes that in some cases, linguicism makes impossible not only the ability to use the rights that are available to most people, but also causes negative psychosocial effects within the language group itself, associated with the formation of a critical attitude to native language, refusal to use and formation of a negative image of the native language.

About the author: Mikhail Peterburgsky – Ph.D. Student, Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Peterburgsky M. (2020) Yazykovaya diskriminatsiya i eyo proyavleniya v stranakh Latinskoy Ameriki: obzor praktiki Mezhamerikanskogo Suda po pravam cheloveka [Linguicism and its manifestations in Latin American states: an overview of the case-law of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol.10, no.3, pp.67–79 (In Russian).


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