- Cultural pluralism in international human rights law: the role of reservations
- Book title
- The cultural dimension of human rights
- Pages (from-to)
- Oxford: Oxford University Press
- Collected courses of the Academy of European Law
- Volume | Edition (Serie)
- Document type
- Faculty of Law (FdR)
- Amsterdam Center for International Law (ACIL)
This chapter addresses cultural pluralism in international human rights law by analysing one specific aspect of international law, namely reservations to human rights treaties. It has been argued that reservations "…are a legitimate, perhaps even desirable, means of accounting for cultural, religious, or political value diversity across nations". Others have expressed concern about reservations, in particular those referring to cultural diversity, as they would undermine the universality of human rights and would not be allowed as being against the object and purpose of the treaty.
This chapter elaborates on the question whether and to what extent the instrument of reservations is used by states to express cultural pluralism, including religious pluralism, between and among them. Another question is how other states and international supervisory bodies have reacted to such reservations, including to what extent such reservations are accepted as a reflection of cultural pluralism between states.
The first part of the chapter, dealing mainly with the first question, contains an empirical evaluation of how often and in what way reservations to human rights treaties are made that refer to cultural pluralism. Cultural pluralism is taken broadly, to include reservations that refer to the specific culture, religion, customs or history of or within a state. The second part of the chapter deals with the second question by looking at how these "cultural reservations" have been received. Sometimes other states explicitly objected to these reservations and the monitoring bodies of these treaties have also expressed their concern on them. Such criticism on cultural reservations gives an idea about the extent to which states are limited in the use of such reservations. In some instances, states have withdrawn or adjusted their reservations. On the basis of this, conclusions can be drawn reflecting on the role of reservations as a tool for states to reaffirm cultural pluralism.
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