Patrick Thornberry has published widely in the field of public international law and human rights, specialising in the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples, and racial discrimination. Professor Thornberry is a member of the (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, a body dedicated to critical examination of the reports of states under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. He has also been chairman of Minority Rights Group, the international human rights NGO, and maintains links with a range of NGOs and organisations of indigenous peoples.
Patrick Thornberry has been honoured in the Queen's 2006 New Year list as a Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG), his name having been presented by the Foreign Secretary on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The citation in the list is specifically for services to international human rights.