Human Dignity, Justification, and the Structure of Public Institutions

The presentation will explore the link between human dignity as a status that all human beings share and basic institutional features of constitutional democracy, including electoral competition based on an equal right to vote and rights based judicial review of all acts of public authorities that impose burdens on individual persons.

Beyond the “Usual Suspects”: Human Dignity beyond the Global North

It is a recurring (legitimate) complaint that the understanding of human dignity in current “Western” constitutional and human rights discourse is dominated by the discourse of a limited number of jurisdictions. What difference would it make to this discourse if understandings of human dignity beyond this “core” were taken more seriously than them seem to be at the moment? This paper will consider the epistemological difficulties of doing so, and attempts to identify the benefits of overcoming these difficulties.

The Dignitarian Structure of the Culture of Justification

In recent years, the view has emerged that the point of human and constitutional rights is to bring about a ‘culture of justification’ or give effect to every person’s fundamental ‘right to justification’. The right to justification demands that every act by the state that places a burden on a person must be reasonably justifiable; accordingly, a commitment to reasonableness or reasonable justification is now widely regarded to constitute the core of rights. My paper challenges this picture as incomplete and argues that the true core of rights consists of the three dignitarian principles of intrinsic value, moral autonomy, and fundamental equality.

The Right to Hope in European Human Rights Law

What does it mean to experience hope? And how is this experience made the object of a right as a matter of European human rights law? These are the two questions that motivate this paper, which takes as its starting point an idea that has appeared in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights in recent years: that there exists, in European human rights law, a ‘right to hope’. The paper offers an account of how this ‘right to hope’ has been constructed. It traces the development of the right, particularly in the jurisprudence on sentencing (which is where it has been most notably articulated) and then goes on to examine the meaning that ‘hope’ carries in European human rights law. It argues that the notions of hope and dignity are intertwined in this context and that, furthermore, the right to hope can be understood as an expression of a broader right to recognition in European human right law.