Dr Nazila Ghanea is Associate Professor in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford. She serves as Associate Director of the Oxford Human Rights Hub and is a Fellow of Kellogg College (BA Keele, MA Leeds, PhD Keele, MA Oxon). She serves as a member of the OSCE Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief and on the Board of Trustees of the independent think tank, the Universal Rights Group. She has been a visiting academic at a number of institutions including Columbia and NYU, and previously taught at the University of London and Keele University, UK and in China. Nazila’s research spans freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, women’s rights, minority rights and human rights in the Middle East. Her publications include nine books, five UN publications as well as a number of journal articles and reports. Her research has been funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Board, the UK Economic and Social Research Council, Open Society and the QNRF. She has been invited to address UN expert seminars on seven occasions. From 2012-2014 she is co-leading a research team to look at the Domestic Impact of UN Treaty Ratification in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. From 2010-2013 she was part of a research term investigating ‘Religion and Belief, Discrimination and Equality in England and Wales: Theory, Policy and Practice’ (2010-2013). She has also received a number of university scholarships and academic awards. Nazila has acted as a human rights consultant/expert for a number of governments, the UN, UNESCO, OSCE, Commonwealth, Council of Europe and the EU. She has facilitated international human rights law training for a range of professional bodies around the world, lectured widely and carried out first hand human rights field research in a number of countries including Malaysia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. She is a regular contributor to the media on human rights matters. 


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  • Heiner Bielefeldt, N Ghanea and Michael Wiener, Commentary on Freedom of religion or belief (Oxford University Press, under contract 2015)
  • N Ghanea, 'Intersectionality and the Spectrum of Racist Hate Speech: Proposals to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination' (2013) Human Rights Quarterly (forthcoming)
    ISBN: 0275-0392
  • N Ghanea and Farrah Ahmed, 'Religion and Human Rights: Conflicts and Connections' in Paul Hedges (ed), Controversies in Contemporary Religions, Volume 2: Public and Ethical Controversies (Praeger Publishers 2013)
  • Paul Weller, Kingsley Purdam, N Ghanea and Sariya Contractor, Religion or Belief, Discrimination and Equality: Britain in Global Contexts (Continuum, London and New York 2013) (forthcoming)
    This book will present and analyse key results of the Religion and Society programme (Arts and Humanities Research Council/Economic and Social Research Council) research project “Religion and Belief, Discrimination and Equality: Theory, Policy and Practice, 2000-2010” research project. Reflecting on a decade of change, the book will compare these results with those of a 1999-2001 Home Office commissioned research on “Religious Discrimination in England and Wales”. These findings will include data from a national questionnaire survey; the reported experiences of individuals interviewed during the project’s fieldwork; and the perspectives of those who understand themselves not be to be of any religion and who took part in project focus groups. The book will set these findings within the context of a broader consideration of the impact of legal and policy developments on religion and human rights in which, over the last decade, the category of religious discrimination has become more widely accepted, while modified by reference to belief, and also in relation to a shifting policy focus around shared values and social cohesion. The proposed book will therefore be a groundbreaking, benchmark, seminal and interdisciplinary contribution to both public and academic debate about these issues.
  • N Ghanea, 'Are Religious Minorities Really Minorities?' (2012) Oxford Journal of Law and Religion 1
    DOI: 10.1093/ojlr/rwr029
    This article will argue that although, historically, religious minorities were the primary trigger for the institutionalization of the international framework of minority rights, they have long since been sidelined from its protections. This sidelining is evident in a variety of international human rights norms and mechanisms, the focus below being on the jurisprudence of the UN Human Rights Committee. The article offers a number of explanations for this diversion of religious minorities away from the international minority rights regime. It also argues for a cautious reintegration of religious minorities within the minority rights regime after having sought understanding with regard to some issues of concern.
    ISBN: 2047-0770
  • N Ghanea, Preaching and Practising: Freedom of Religion or Belief in the Commonwealth (Report Commissioned by the Commonwealth Advisory Bureau, which in turn was commissioned and funded by the Canadian High Commission, London 2012)
    An examination of freedom of religion or belief as upheld in the constitutions of Commonwealth Member States and why the Commonwealth should hitherto acknowledge freedom of religion or belief more fully as part of the spectrum of Commonwealth concerns.
  • N Ghanea, Expert workshops on the prohibition of incitement to national, racial or religious hatred (February 2011, Vienna) , paper presented at United Nations
    The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has organised, in 2011, a series of expert workshops on the prohibition of incitement to national, racial or religious hatred, as reflected in international human rights law. The objectives of the expert workshops are: •To gain a better understanding of legislative patterns, judicial practices and different types of policies, in countries of the various regions of the world, with regard to prohibiting incitement to national, racial, or religious hatred, while ensuring full respect for freedom of expression as outlined in articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; •to arrive at a comprehensive assessment of the state of implementation of this prohibition of incitement in conformity with international human rights law and; •to identify possible actions at all levels.
  • N Ghanea, 'Religion and Human Rights: An Introduction' in John Witte, Jr. and M. Christian Green (eds), Religion, Equality, and Non-Discrimination (Oxford University Press 2011)
    ISBN: 978-0-19-973345-3
  • N Ghanea and B Hass, Seeking justice and an end to neglect: Iran\'s minorities today (Minority Rights Group International 2011)
    Violations of minority rights in Iran take place within a wider, well-documented context of human rights violations, and intolerance of dissent and difference. Against this background, this briefing reflects on the historical and current situation of Iran’s ethnic, religious and linguistic minority groups, which are typified in Iran by their lack of political power and influence. It also considers the new popular and political consciousness that is emerging in Iran in regard to human rights in general, and minority rights in particular, following the political debates leading up to the disputed 2009 elections, and the popular protests that came afterwards. This shift may represent an opportunity for members of minority groups in Iran at long last to enjoy equal citizenship rights, educational and economic opportunities, and the right to maintain their cultural identity.
  • L Lazarus, C Costello, N Ghanea and Nazila Ghanea, The Evolution of Fundamental Rights Charters and Case Law: A Comparison of the United Nations, Council of Europe and the European Union systems of human rights Protection (European Parliament 2011)
    This report examines the human rights protection systems of the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Union. It explores the substantive rights, protection mechanisms, modes of engagement within, and the interactions between each system. The report also outlines the protection of minority rights, and the political processes through which human rights and institutions evolve and interact. A series of recommendations are made on how to advance the EU human rights system.
  • N Ghanea, 'Minorities and Hatred: Protections and Implications' (2010) 17.3 International Journal of Minority and Group Rights 423
    DOI: 10.1163/157181110X512151
    The international concern with minorities has benefitted from a range of rationales and gone through a number of permutations over recent decades. Within these are included a wide spectrum of objectives from concern with their very obliteration covered under genocide instruments to soft law instruments concerned with their positive flourishing. This article will address just one aspect of those concerns – those protecting minorities from hate speech.
    ISBN: 1385-4879
  • N Ghanea (ed), Religion and Human Rights, Vol. I, Vol. II, Vol. III, Vol. IV (Routledge 2010)
    Hardly a week goes by without some world event relating to the burgeoning field of religion and human rights. Whether attacks carried out in the name of religion by individuals or states, violations of the rights of individuals or communities due to their religious or other beliefs, or clashes between religious and other competing rights (most notably, freedom of speech), matters relating to religion and human rights are not only an area of expert and academic interest, but also of increasing interest to policy-makers, governments, international organizations, and NGOs. This new four-volume Major Work collection from Routledge examines the background, history, and nature of human rights—both individual and collective—as well as economic, social, and cultural rights; and also civil and political rights. Standards, mechanisms, and jurisprudence at international and national levels are included, and form part of the discussion of the conflict of rights and freedom of religion or belief. Religions featured include Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and African religions, and the persecution or discrimination of religious or belief communities are discussed. Relevant human rights documents are also included. The range of subject areas that contribute to discussions on religion and human rights are many, and include: political science; law; international relations; anthropology; philosophy; religious studies; sociology of religion; and theology. Students, scholars, teachers, and practitioners from these and other disciplines will welcome this collection as a vital one-stop compendium of the very best canonical and cutting-edge research.
    ISBN: ISBN 9708-0-415-5436
  • N Ghanea, 'Religious Minorities and human rights: Bridging international and domestic perspectives on the rights of persons belonging to religious minorities under English law' (2010) European Yearbook of Minority Issues
    This paper considers minorities in English law through the prism of international standards related to both freedom of religion or belief and minority rights. These two sets of international normative standards are brought together in order to emphasize the fact that persons belonging to religious minorities have access not only to general human rights standards including freedom of religion or belief, but also to minority rights. Combining the implications of these applicable rights, the paper will suggest that ‘religious minorities’ should be (i) taken to include persons belonging to minorities on grounds of both religion or belief; (ii) that their religious practice should not only be considered ‘manifestation’ of religion or belief but also the practice of a minority culture; and that (iii) States have a duty to protect the survival and continued development of the identity of religious minorities and allow such persons to enjoy their culture. The paper will then move to considering a few recent cases in English law, in order to examine the extent to which these three implications are realized within them.
    ISBN: 978-90-04-19521
  • N Ghanea, 'Phantom Minorities and Religions Denied: Muslims, Bahá’ís and International Human Rights' (2009) Shia Affairs Journal
    The protection of the human rights of all without discrimination on the basis inter alia of religion or belief, the protection of religious minorities, and manifestation of religion or belief in association with others - these are all well-established norms of international human rights law. Yet violations continue world-wide, and new manifestations of these age-old problems continue to multiply.[1] All Muslim states have ratified, and therefore voluntary adopted, legal commitments with regards to these obligations. Nevertheless, these protections remain very much wanting in many instances with respect to both Muslim and non-Muslim minorities in Muslim states. In fact, freedom of religion or belief and religious minority rights have long been recognised as being amongst the most pressing of human rights concerns in these states. Whilst the need to enhance the protection of freedom of religion or belief and religious minority rights (ForbRM rights) within Muslim states has been much written about, few publications have extended their focus to Muslim minorities in Muslim states. This article seeks to establish that enhanced respect for the legal rights of non-Muslim minorities would, by default, also benefit ‘Muslim minorities’ within Muslim states. The contention of this article is that if sufficient progress were made regarding the respect of ForbRM rights for non-Muslims, Muslim religious minorities would see their own situations improved and claims addressed. The article will take one of the most entrenched of such cases – snapshots of the case of the Bahá’ís of Iran over the past 30 years – as its main illustration of this point.
  • N Ghanea, Sisters in Islam (ESRC research paper RES-155-25-0042 on South-North non-governmental networks, policy processes and policy outcomes, NGPA Paper Series by the ESRC 2009)
  • N Ghanea, 'Religious or Minority? Examining the Realization of International Standards in Relation to Religious Minorities in the Middle East' (2008) Religion, State and Society 303
    DOI: 10.1080/09637490802260385
    The Middle East region has had a long, and periodically impressive, record of religious diversity, yet there is much concern regarding the contemporary standing of its religious minorities. Rather than assessing the chequered historical record of religious minorities in the Middle East, the purpose of this article is to provide an assessment of how international human rights standards may best be utilised to advance their rights. The contention of this article is that the human rights of religious minorities in the Middle East have primarily been considered under the lens of freedom of religion or belief. Relevant though this framework is to their concerns, it will be suggested that promoting the rights of the Middle East's religious minorities through the framework of minority rights may provide a more promising avenue for their protection. The purpose of the article is therefore to provide a reassessment of how best to negotiate the rights of religious minorities in the Middle East. The focus will be on formal legal and political obstacles to the enjoyment of their rights entitlements. Though a broader contextual analysis also assessing economic, cultural and sociological factors would be highly informative, it lies beyond the scope of this article. Despite the fact that minority rights provisions apply to members of minorities alongside all other human rights – among them freedom of religion or belief – the two lenses of minority rights and freedom of religion or belief highlight somewhat different provisions and protections. The two are certainly not mutually exclusive or in contradiction with one another, but a state that prioritises one set of legal and policy options over the other will arrive in different places.
    ISBN: ISSN 0963-7494
  • N Ghanea (ed), Does God Believe in Human Rights?, (Martinus Nijhoff 2007)
    Where can religions find sources of legitimacy for human rights? How do, and how should, religious leaders and communities respond to human rights as defined in modern International Law? When religious precepts contradict human rights standards - for example in relation to freedom of expression or in relation to punishments - which should trump the other, and why? Can human rights and religious teachings be interpreted in a manner which brings reconciliation closer? Do the modern concept and system of human rights undermine the very vision of society that religions aim to impart? Is a … read morereference to God in the discussion of human rights misplaced? Do human fallibilities with respect to interpretation, judicial reasoning and the understanding of human oneness and dignity provide the key to the undeniable and sometimes devastating conflicts that have arisen between, and within, religions and the human rights movement? In this volume, academics and lawyers tackle these most difficult questions head-on, with candour and creativity, and the collection is rendered unique by the further contributions of a remarkable range of other professionals, including senior religious leaders and representatives, journalists, diplomats and civil servants, both national and international. Most notably, the contributors do not shy away from the boldest question of all - summed up in the book's title. The thoroughly edited and revised papers which make up this collection were originally prepared for a ground-breaking conference organised by the Clemens Nathan Research Centre, the University of London Institute of Commonwealth Studies and Martinus Nijhoff/Brill.
    ISBN: ISBN13:9789004152540
  • N Ghanea and A Melchiorre, 'A Review of the 61st Session of the Commission on Human Rights' (2005) International Journal of Human Rights 507
    DOI: 10.1080/13642980500350004
    This report seeks to analyse the main highlights of this year's session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The Commission was set up in 1947 and is the UN's principal human rights body. It is currently the subject of major reform proposals stemming primarily from the UN Secretary-General and agreed upon, in general terms by member states at the 14–16 September 2005 World Summit. The review below, focusing on the main country and thematic issues discussed at the March–April 2005 session, will be indicative of how badly and in what ways reform of the Commission on Human Rights is required.
    ISBN: ISSN 1364-2987
  • N Ghanea (ed), Minorities, Peoples and Self-Determination: Essays in Honour of Patrick Thornberry (Martinus Nijhoff 2004)
    The present volume, in honour of Professor Patrick Thornberry, presents new thinking on minority and indigenous rights in international law. Contributors to this 17 chapter volume include an impressive range of academics, thinkers, practitioners and international civil servants with a number of different approaches to this complex area. Not all of them take a legal approach, and this exploration benefits from the variety of frameworks utilised in contributing to the controversial area of minority and indigenous rights. Debates that receive attention in this volume include self-determination, … read moredefinitional issues, collective rights and rights to natural resources. Other chapters unravel challenges that have not attracted sufficient attention to date, such as multiculturalism, integration, colour as a ground for discrimination and the economic and social rights of minorities. The volume also looks critically at the work of the World Bank, the African Union, the Council of Europe and the OSCE in this arena. Finally, case studies highlight the regrettable similarities in the suffering of groups in different parts of the world as well as the stark contrast between state claims and their actual practice. The contributors are: Gudmundur Alfredsson, Michael Banton, Joshua Castellino, Erica‑lrene A. Daes, María-Amor Estébanez, Nazila Ghanea, Geoff Gilbert, Bülent Gökay, Tom Hadden, Dominic McGoldrick, Timothy Murithi, John Packer, Chandra K. Roy, Malcolm N. Shaw, Martin Scheinin, Sia Spiliopoulou Åkermark, and Alexandra Xanthaki.
    ISBN: ISBN13: 978900414301
  • N Ghanea (ed), The Challenge of Religious Discrimination at the Dawn of the New Millennium (Martinus Nijhoff 2004)
    The themes and issues explored in this book - religion, human rights, politics and society could not be more relevant to the post 11 September 2001 world. They lie at the heart of global political debate today. The collection explores these issues after the passing of just over two decades from the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination based on Religion or Belief. That declaration set out minimum international standards for the elimination of such discrimination. Sadly the challenge of intolerance on the basis of religion … read moreor belief continues to plague us, and tackling it seems to have become increasingly entrenched. The complexity of this phenomenon requires expertise from different quarters. This collection draws from diplomatic, activist and theological quarters and benefits from the analysis of scholars of law, history, religious studies and sociology. The ten chapters of this collection examine the relationship between human rights, law and religion; offer a typology for the study of religious persecution; problematise the consequences flowing from religious establishment in religiously plural society; analyse the implications of the directions being taken by the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and the protections offered by the European Commission council Directive 2000/43/EC outlawing workplace discrimination; study the 1981 Declaration and its promotion through the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief; and explore the intricacies of this freedom in detail from within the context of the United Kingdom and The Netherlands.
    ISBN: ISBN13: 978900413641
  • N Ghanea, Human Rights, the UN and the Bahá'ís in Iran (Kluwer Law International 2003)
    ISBN: 9789041119537
  • N Ghanea, 'The 54th Session of the Commission on Human Rights' (1998) Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights
    ISBN: ISSN 0169-3441
  • N Ghanea, 'The 53rd Session of the Commission on Human Rights' (1997) Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights


Research programmes

Research Interests

Human Rights Law, identities and human rights law, freedom of religion or belief, minority rights, human rights in the Middle East

Options taught

Human Rights Law, Public International Law

Research projects