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Contribution to Book
Mapping Expansive Uses of Human Dignity in International Criminal Law
The Ethicalization of Law (2012)
  • J.Benton Heath, New York University School of Law
International criminal law (ICL) makes frequent reference to the concept of human dignity, which also plays a central role in human rights law. While many of these invocations occur in the context of torture and cruel treatment, a handful of cases have used human dignity more expansively to justify punishment for hate speech and other crimes. In this chapter, I argue that such expansive invocations of human dignity fill gaps in substantive criminal law, motivate tribunals toward broad interpretations of the law, may serve to 'trump' competing claims, and provide an argument for overcoming strict applications of the principle of legality (nullum crimen sine lege). These features create friction with the principle of legality, and, additionally, threaten to undermine the self-understanding of ICL as a jurisdictionally limited regime. In addition, this chapter analyzes varying ways of assessing dignity's contribution to legal reasoning in the ICL context, and it suggests a conceptual basis for further elaborating a substantive conception of human dignity.
  • Human Dignity,
  • Persecution,
  • Hate Speech,
  • Crimes Against Humanity,
  • Rwanda,
  • International Criminal Law
Publication Date
Silja Voneky
Springer Press
Citation Information
J.Benton Heath. "Mapping Expansive Uses of Human Dignity in International Criminal Law" The Ethicalization of Law (2012)
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