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13 - Poverty and Starvation

from Part II - Major Themes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2021

Stuart Casey-Maslen
Affiliation:
University of Pretoria
Christof Heyns
Affiliation:
University of Pretoria
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Summary

There is a duty upon every State to exercise due diligence to seek to prevent and address both extreme poverty and starvation. Intentionally inflicting starvation upon a person or group of individuals, for example by provoking a famine, will violate the right to freedom from cruel or inhuman treatment as well as the right to food; it may also violate the right to life, in particular – but not only – if a person dies as a result. 13.19 The related issues of poverty and starvation have been addressed to varying extents in the interpretation and application of regional instruments. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have been especially prominent in this regard, with the Court’s judgments in the Yakye Axa, Sawhoyamaxa, and Xákmok Kásek indigenous communities cases being especially influential. International humanitarian law does not address poverty as such but it does prohibit deliberate starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in any armed conflict and further requires that all detainees be treated humanely, including through the provision of adequate food and water.

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Chapter
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The Right to Life under International Law
An Interpretative Manual
, pp. 291 - 307
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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