Non-Discrimination in International Law: A Handbook for Practitioners

2011 Edition

Non-Discrimination in International Law: A Handbook for Practitioners provides an overview of the key principles of non-discrimination and equality from each of the most important systems of international human rights protection. It aims to provide a guide to the most important international decisions on equality with a view to facilitating cross-fertilisation of jurisprudence across grounds and ‘themes’ of non-discrimination and between systems of protection. The focus of the Handbook is international human rights law. In the absence of relevant international case law, the Handbook discusses international cases on relevant substantive rights, for example, freedom of religion cases relevant to discrimination on grounds of religion. Where appropriate, the Handbook also refers to cases before courts of final instance (i.e., supreme courts or constitutional courts) in key national legal systems to illustrate how international bodies might treat certain issues or how they might evolve.

The Handbook is primarily directed at lawyers, judges and NGO activists. The provision of ready-access to essential concepts and case law should assist in the process of drafting advice and preparing legal cases, and in devising strategic litigation on equality issues. It may also contribute to bringing a greater depth of analysis to the work of practitioners.

The Handbook is composed of six main chapters:

  • Chapter I introduces the key concepts underlying the idea of equality and the basic principles of international discrimination law. It also discusses the nature of State obligations under international law to prohibit discrimination and promote equality.
  • Chapter II provides an overview of the chief universal and regional international human rights instruments and briefly discusses their equality and nondiscrimination provisions.
  • Chapter III discusses in detail the key legal standards in international equality protection, such as the prohibitions of direct discrimination, indirect discrimination and provisions regarding positive action.
  • Chapter IV looks at procedural and evidential issues involved in claiming discrimination, including the burden and standard of proof, and also examines the possible remedies available to discrimination claimants.
  • Chapter V presents the approach of each international system to each of the most significant ‘grounds’ of discrimination. Those international instruments that deal directly with particular grounds are discussed in detail. Where an international instrument does not address a particular ‘ground’ of discrimination, this is noted in the text.
  • Chapter VI looks at some of the most important ‘intersections’ in international discrimination law and, in particular, at the impact certain other substantive rights and other themes in international human rights law may have on international discrimination law or discrimination claims.

Download the Handbook 

Download the Handbook (Romanian Language Edition)
- Translated courtesy of The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Moldova