The Triple Dilemma of Human Dignity: A Case Study

19 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2013

See all articles by Christoph Möllers

Christoph Möllers

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin; Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin

Date Written: April 4, 2013


In a case decided in 2008 (K.U. v. Finland - 2872/02), the European Court of Human Rights was confronted with the case of a boy whose photo had been posted on the internet and used for a sexual advertisement by a third person without knowledge or consent. The service provider denied the police access feeling itself bound to national rules of data protection. The ECHR, finally, held that under Art. 8 of the Convention, the right to privacy and family life, Finland was obliged to identify and sanction the wrongdoer.

The decision refers to different problems that are regularly addressed under the heading of human dignity: sexual autonomy and communicative privacy. The case will serve as an example for three conceptual conflicts in the notion of human dignity: The conflict between a sphere of protected privacy and the development of a social personality, the conflict between individual autonomy and the protection by public authorities, and the conflict between general normative demands and case specific criteria. While human dignity might be a useful theoretical concept to depict these conflicts it cannot provide criteria to solve them.

Keywords: Human Dignity, Constitutional Law, Dilemmas

Suggested Citation

Möllers, Christoph, The Triple Dilemma of Human Dignity: A Case Study (April 4, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Christoph Möllers (Contact Author)

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin ( email )

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Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin ( email )

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