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Degradation : a human rights law perspective

Webster, Elaine (2010) Degradation : a human rights law perspective. In: Humiliation, Degradation, Dehumanization. Library of ethics and applied philosophy . Springer, London, pp. 67-84. ISBN 9789048196609

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This chapter focuses on a number of common questions relating to the concept of degradation, against the backdrop of that concept as it has developed in the jurisprudence of the European Convention on Human Rights, specifically in relation to the prohibition of degrading treatment within Article 3. The prohibition of torture and, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is commonly understood, and is expressed in case-law, as having an intimate connection with the concept of human dignity, the language of which underpins the modern human rights regime. The basic structure of the Article 3 understanding of degradation is outlined, alongside examples of its practical application, in order to highlight significant conceptual relationships. Questions concerning the significance of the individual emotion of degradation, the relevance of autonomy in understanding degradation, and the relevance of the idea of social dignity can be illuminated by a contextualized discussion of the jurisprudence. It is suggested in this respect that the scope of what can be understood as degradation is not limited primarily by the victim’s emotional experience, that the jurisprudence draws our attention to one particular facet of autonomy, and that the essence of the concept of degradation is helpfully captured in the idea of abuse of equal rank.