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Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment: The Words Themselves


Jeremy Waldron


New York University School of Law; University of Oxford

November 2008

NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 08-36

Abstract:     
Many human rights charters contain prohibitions on inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners and detainees. Terms like "inhuman" and "degrading" are difficult to interpret, but they are certainly not meaningless. It is important to attend to attend to the meanings of the words themselves, as well as to the decisions that courts have made about particular practices. Reflection on the meanings of these highly-charged terms reveals important complexity, which we can unpack in a way that enables us to better focus our debate about the proper treatment of prisoners and detainees.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 48

Keywords: cruelty, degrading, ECHR, dignity, human rights, ICCPR, inhuman, international huamnitarian law, original meaning, prisoners

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Date posted: October 5, 2008 ; Last revised: November 11, 2008

Suggested Citation

Waldron, Jeremy, Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment: The Words Themselves (November 2008). NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 08-36. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1278604 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1278604

Contact Information

Jeremy Waldron (Contact Author)
New York University School of Law ( email )
40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States
University of Oxford ( email )
Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom
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