Human Dignity (Greek: ανθρώπινη αξιοπρέπεια, Latin: dignitas hominis, Spanish: dignidad humana) [See also: human rights, natural rights, biomedicine]: despite the fact that it is considered to be the foundation of all human rights, it is not a nebulous or unduly malleable concept.

After World War II the notion of human dignity was included in a great number of international and regional human rights documents. ECHR contains no express reference to dignity. However, the Court has held in a series of cases that “respect for human dignity forms part of the very essence of the Convention” and “recognized fundamental value at the core of positive human rights law”.

The core of the ECHR’s case law reflects that human dignity as an absolute legal value has two interwoven aspects. The first recognizes the fundamental principle according to which there is an obligation to treat persons with a special kind of respect which distinguishes them from objects or animals, while the other relates to providing or not denying the bare essentials required for human flourishing and personality development.

Useful links

Legislation - Universal Declaration of Human Rights [English] - European Convention on Human Rights [English] - EU Charter of Fundamental Rights [English] - International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [English] - International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [English] - Charter of the United Nations and Statute of the International Court of Justice [English] - American Convention on Human Rights [English] - Arab Charter on Human Rights [English] - Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam [English] - American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man [English] - Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine [English] - Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [English] - Constitution of the Hellenic Republic, Article 2 (1) [English] - Constitution of the Kingdom of Spain, Part 1, Fundamental Rights and Duties, Section 10 [English] - Constitution of the Republic of Hungary, Art II [English] - Constitution of the Czech Republic, Charter 1. General Provisions, Art 1 [English] - Constitution of Portugal, Art 13 [English] - Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, Art 21 [English] - Constitution of the Slovak Republic, Art 12 [English] - Constitution of the Republic of Poland, Art 30 [English] - Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, Art 1 [English] - Constitution of South Africa [English]  - Directive 98/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 July 1998 on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions [English]

Case Law - International Court of Justice , South West Africa (Ethiopia v. South Africa, Liberia v. South Africa), Judgment of 18 July 1966, Dissenting Opinion of Judge Tanaka [English] - S.W. v. the United Kingdom, No. 20166/92, [1995] 21 EHRR 363 [English] -–European Court of Human Rights, Case of Christine Goodwin v. the United Kingdom (Application no.28957/95),Judgment of the Grand Chamber of  11 July 2002[English] - European Court of Human Rights, Case of Jalloh v. Germany( Application no. 54810/00),Judgment of the Grand Chamber of 11 July 2006 [English] -  Ghadaidan v. Godin-Mendoza [2002] EWCA Civ 1533; [2004] UKHL 30 [English] -– European Court of Human Rights, Case of Svinarenko and Slyadnev v. Russia (Application no. 32541/08 and 43441/08), Judgment of the Grand Chamber of 17 July 2014 [English] European Court of Human Rights , Case of Bouyid v. Belgium( Application no. 23380/09), Judgment of the Grand Chamber of 28 September 2015 [English];jsessionid=9ea7d0f130d6f46ff28747314d27b6cfafbb135ac543.e34KaxiLc3eQc40LaxqMbN4PahqNe0?text=&docid=111402&pageIndex=0&doclang=en&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=66692 - C-34/10, Oliver Brustle v. Greenpeace e. V. [2011] ECR I-09821 [English]

Online Publications - European Commission for Democracy through law (Venice Commission), 1998, The principle of respect for human dignity [English] -– Immanuel Kant , 2002, Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, Yale University Press, New Haven and London [English] - Christopher McCrudden, 2008, Human Dignity and Judicial Interpretation of Human Rights, European Journal of International Law, Oxford Academic [English]


Gillian Brock, 2016, How should we discharge our responsibilities to eradicate poverty?, Res Publica, 22(3), 301-315 [English]

Mary Donnelly, 2016, Best interests in the Mental Capacity Act: time to say goodbye, Med. L. Rev., 24(3), 318-332 [English]

J. Griffin, 2008, On Human Rights, Oxford University Press [English]

J. Habermas, 2012, The Crisis of the European Union: A Response, Polity Press [English]

Mathias Hong, 2016, Human dignity, identity review of the European arrest warrant and the Court of Justice as a listener in the dialogue of courts: Solange-III and Aranyosi, E.C.L. Review, 12(3), 549-563 [English]

C. Murray, 2016, The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013: suicide, dignity and the Irish discourse on abortion, S. & L.S., 25(6), 667-69 [English]

Vera Lucia Raposo, 2016, The Convention of Human Rights and Biomedicine revisited: critical assessment, I.J.H.R., 20(8), 1277-1294 [English]

By Heraclea Giannakou