Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment: The Words Themselves
48 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2008 Last revised: 11 Nov 2008
Date Written: November 2008
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.
Keywords: cruelty, degrading, ECHR, dignity, human rights, ICCPR, inhuman, international huamnitarian law, original meaning, prisoners
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By John Gardner