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Abstract. Although the Charter of the United Nations embodied an unresolved tension between state sovereignty and the inviolability of human rights, the fall of the Berlin Wall seemed to herald universal acceptance of the legitimacy of international concern for the protection of human rights. Since that time, however, the sovereignty of states has been pushed with renewed vigour under the guise of cultural sovereignty. Three examples of the role of cultural sovereignty in the international human rights sphere are proposed to demonstrate that the real interest of states is not the protection of cultural identity, but non-interference, supremacy and control. The paper identifies cultural sovereignty with cultural relativism and argues that the ideology of relativism, combined with the inadequacies of legal positivism, have significantly harmed the efficacy and character of the international human rights regime.