Brooklyn Journal of International Law

First Page



This article argues that legal persons derive rights under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and can enforce those rights by individual or inter-state complaint. It uses the case study of media corporations, following from the recent judgment by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the litigation between Qatar and the UAE over the application of CERD to the treatment of the Al Jazeera media corporation. However, the implications of this study apply to all private corporations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The CERD protects against certain forms of racial, ethnic and national origin discrimination, yet its text is ambiguous whether those rights are vested in legal persons or only natural persons. The admissibility rules of standing and exhaustion of domestic remedies under the CERD appear to argue in favor of an assumption that the CERD would cover legal persons. Not only individuals, but also groups of individuals, may lodge individual complaints, and states may bring inter-state disputes. Some of the rules on admissibility suggest that government-owned or controlled entities are excluded. However, while the rules on admissibility of claims can suggest a broad scope of application, those rules remain distinct from the rules on which entities derive rights under the CERD. The text of the CERD covers persons, groups and institutions. Here it adds the category of institutions, which incongruously is not listed as being competent to bring claims. While there is some room to argue that corporations might qualify as persons, they might also qualify as groups or institutions. The difficulty is that qualifying them as institutions would deprive them of their ability to bring claims on their own behalf. Also, while the rules on admissibility permit inter-state complaints, the rules on the scope of CERD overage exclude the state. Thus, state-owned or controlled entities would likely not be covered by CERD unless they enjoyed sufficient functional independence. Therefore, this article concludes that legal persons, such as corporations and NGOs, derive rights under the CERD and can protect those rights.