Human Dignity in International Law: Issues and Challenges

AuthorIzabela Bratiloveanu
PositionPhD in progress, Faculty of Law and Administrative Sciences, University of Craiova, Craiova
European Integration - Realities and Perspectives
Human Dignity in International Law: Issues and Challenges
Izabela Bratiloveanu
Abstract: We intend to present in this synthesis study the concept of human dignity, reviewing the main legal
instruments on the protection of human rights that defi nes it, concisely analysing the jurisprudence of the
European Court of Justice and of the European Court of Human Rights, focusing on the key moments of its
jurisprudential definition. Human dignity, through its continuously expending presence in international law
and through the controversies related to it, is an exciting and challenging topic of debate for Romanian and
foreign literature, being one of the issues and challenges of the new millennium.
Keywords: jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice; Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European
Union; jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights; international law
1. The Contribution of the Philosophical Currents to the Evolution of the Concept of
Human Dignity
The term, before appearing in international law, after the year 1945, as a reaction to the dramatic
events of the Second World War, was the object of philosophical and theological reflections. Thus, the
Greeks and the Romans didn`t know other dignities than those which resulted from the social class or
from the positions occupied.
(Pettiti, 1999, p. 53)
The notion of dignity, of laic origin in Antiquity, would acquire a religious connotation through the
Christian theologians. According to Ph. I. André-Vincent “The human dignity is, from an historical
point of view, a Christian concept. It is the result of reflections which were originated in the doctrine
of Calcedonia.” The first major reference to dignity is assigned either to Lactance, or to Gregory of
Nyssa (Ranson, 1995, p. 24) . In Christianity, the human dignity is founded on the creation of man in
the image of God and His redeeming work on man; therefore, according to the religious concept, the
individual that is protected is not man himself but the divine power which is expressed in man through
the dignity of the individual. Dignity becomes an attribute by excellence of the person, an expression
of his/her intrinsic humanity.
Throughout the centuries, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Giovanni Pico
della Mirandola, Leibniz, Locke, Schopenhauer, Schiller, Hegel, Stuart Mill, Feuerbach, Compte,
Kant, B. F. Skinner, Jürgen Habermas have reflected on this concept, this being only an attempt to
review them, without the claim of completeness of the numerous philosophers and theologians who
have tried to decipher the mystery of human dignity.
2. The Main International Documents wich Define the Concept of Human Dignity
As France Quéré rightfully states: “Before Auschwitz, man presented himself through the sculptural
beauty of the body, through his power to work, by his conflicts of honour and interests, by his natural
PhD in progress, Faculty of Law and Administrative Sciences, University of Craiova, Craiova, street Horia no 8, block E 2,
entrance.2, apartment 2, România, 0729948398,

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