Ultima Ratio as a Constitutional Principle

Authors

  • Kaarlo Tuori University of Helsinki

Keywords:

Ultima ratio, proportionality, horizontal effect, protective duty of the state, precautionary principle, principle of effectiveness, Criminology, proporcionalidad, efecto horizontal, deber de protección del Estado, principio de precaución

Abstract

The paper argues the criminal law notion of ultima ratio is an instance of a broader constitutional law principle of proportionality. However, ultima ratio is not the only principle relevant in a constitutional assessment of criminalization. The role of ultima ratio is to impose limitations on criminalization. But constitutional doctrines also exist which call for criminalization and might even be seen as establishing a criminalization obligation. The paper examines three constitutional counter weights to ultima ratio. The first of these is discussed in the context of state constitutions. This is the cluster of the interrelated constitutional doctrines of the horizontal effect of fundamental rights and the protective duty of the state, as well as the understanding of collective security as a basic right. These doctrines are analysed in the light of the praxis of the German Constitutional Court and the Finnish Constitutional Law Committee. The two other constitutional counterweights are discussed at the level of the transnational, European constitution. These are the principles of precaution and effectiveness.

Este artículo defiende que el concepto de ultima ratio es una instancia más amplia del principio de proporcionalidad dentro del derecho constitucional. Sin embargo, el ultima ratio no es el único principio relevante en la valoración constitucional de la criminalización. El papel del ultima ratio es imponer límites a la criminalización. Pero también existen doctrinas constitucionales que exigen la criminalización e incluso dan pie a entender que obligan a establecer una pena. El documento examina tres contrapesos constitucionales al ultima ratio. En primer lugar, se analiza en el contexto de las constituciones estatales. Este es el conjunto de las doctrinas constitucionales interrelacionadas entre el efecto horizontal de los derechos fundamentales y el deber de protección del Estado, así como la asunción de la seguridad colectiva como un derecho fundamental. Estas doctrinas se analizan a la luz de la praxis de la Corte Constitucional de Alemania y del Comité de Derecho Constitucional Finlandés. Los otros dos contrapesos constitucionales, los principios de precaución y eficiencia, se discuten en el ámbito de la constitución transnacional europea.

DOWNLOAD THIS PAPER FROM SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2200869

Author Biography

Kaarlo Tuori, University of Helsinki

Professor of Jurisprudence at the Law Faculty of Helsinki University, Director of the Centre of Excellence in European Law and Polity, Vice-President of the Venice Commission

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Published

02-05-2012

How to Cite

Tuori, K. (2012) “Ultima Ratio as a Constitutional Principle”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 3(1), pp. 6–20. Available at: https://opo.iisj.net/index.php/osls/article/view/191 (Accessed: 28 June 2022).

Issue

Section

Part one: Theoretical approaches on ultima ratio