Human Dignity as a Protected Interest in the Criminal Law
Israel Law Review Vol 44 (2012), 143-167
25 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2012
Date Written: April 5, 2009
Human dignity can be a protected interest in criminal law. This paper starts with some reflections about the meaning of human dignity and then examines offense descriptions in the German Penal Code and the Israeli Penal Code. These codes are used as sources for identifying possibly relevant prohibitions. One can indeed find numerous examples of offense descriptions that can be justified by pointing to human dignity, either as a main protected interest or as a protected interest in addition to other interests. The protected interest can be either the individual victim’s right to human dignity or human dignity as an objective value. Offense descriptions that can be connected to “protection of human dignity” should, for analytical purposes, be divided into three groups: violations of the dignity of individual human beings through acts other than speech; violations of the human dignity of individuals through speech; and media content that does not contain statements about individuals but shows scenes of severe humiliation (e.g., fictional child pornography). Questions that need further discussion primarily concern the second group (what role should free speech play in cases of human dignity violations?) and the third group (does the acknowledgement of human dignity as an objective value mean to endorse a re-moralization of the criminal law?).
Keywords: human dignity, criminalisation, criminal law, Israel, Germany
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