Interpreting the Right to a Dignified Minimum Existence: A New Era in German Socio-Economic Rights Jurisprudence?
Human Rights Law Review, Forthcoming
Posted: 18 Mar 2013
Date Written: March 18, 2013
German courts are not among the first to develop progressive case law on socio-economic rights, but the recent decisions of the Constitutional Court are noteworthy providing a progressive interpretation of the human right to social security. The judgment in the focus of this note concerns benefits for asylum seekers, but it cannot be properly analysed without referring to the earlier "Hartz IV" decision on unemployment benefits. The Court relied on the human right to a dignified minimum existence, which it derives from human dignity in conjunction with the Social State principle in the German Constitution. Its approach combines two factors: (1) assessing whether the benefits are evidently insufficient, and (2) setting procedural standards for determining the "minimum of existence." The Court found that the benefits for asylum seekers are unconstitutional. This note situates this judgment in the context of broader trends on socio-economic rights jurisprudence, demonstrating that socio-economic rights are justiciable.
Keywords: Socio-economic rights jurisprudence, justiciability, human right to a dignified minimum existence, human right to social security, asylum seekers benefits, unemployment benefits, German Constitutional Court
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