The essay pinpoints three sources of the topicality of Beccaria's thought. First, it stresses his contribution to the establishment of several pivotal principles of criminal law. All these principles ultimately depend on Beccaria's fundamental justification of the punishing power of the state: the minimization of violence through individual rights guarantees. Secondly, Beccaria must be regarded as one of the founding fathers of modern constitutionalism. He developed a normative theory of limited government by adopting the perspective of the subjects of state's coercion instead of the perspective of public authorities. Finally, Beccaria is the paradigm of a critical, practical and reform-oriented attitude to legal institutions and practices. Nowadays such an engaged attitude is legally prescribed by the constitutions that entrench Beccaria's moral doctrines. Moreover, that normative and critical viewpoint is morally imperative and pressing in the light of the dangers for human rights associated with the war on terror.