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2013 Annual Celebration | 6th Marburg Lecture on International Criminal Law by Professor Udo di Fabio

The International Research and Documentation Centre for War Crimes Trials (ICWC) commemorated its 10th anniversary within the framework of the annual celebration on 21 November 2013. The festivities were again accompanied by the 6th Marburg Lecture on International Criminal Law which by now has become a tradition. We had the honour to welcome Professor Udo di Fabio as this year's guest speaker.

It was a project of the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History and the University of California, Berkley, which led to the creation of the ICWC ten years ago. During this period of time, a team from the disciplines of law, history, political science as well as peace and conflict studies managed to bring international recognition to the Centre. For five years it has been established as a permanent institution at Philipps University Marburg. This remarkable development was commemorated on 21 November 2013.

ICWC Director Professor Safferling welcoming the audience and the first panel – comprised of the host Professor Conze (ICWC, Marburg) and the guests Professor Weckel (Gießen), Judge Dr. Kaul (ICC, Den Haag) and Professor Kreß (Köln).
Photo: Sascha Hörmann

In the early afternoon, the festive programme started with a three-hours interdisciplinary workshop. During the well-attended meeting in the historical council chamber of the town of Marburg, representatives of the ICWC together with practitioners and further scholars from different German universities discussed fundamental questions of international criminal law. The ICWC had the honour to welcome Dr. Hans-Peter Kaul, judge at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The panel in front of a broad audience comprised of professionals, students and interested citizens discussed the topics “crimes against humanity” and “international criminal responsibility of commanders and other superiors”. The talks were opened by two impulse presentations by Christian Pöpken, M.A., and Dr. Alena Hartwig-Asteroth, junior scientists at the ICWC who provided insights into their current research projects. The actual celebration took place in the evening.

6th Marburg Lecture on International Criminal Law: Professor Udo di Fabio (Bonn) giving his presentation on “The Punitive Power of World Society” in the auditorium of the Old University .
Photo: Sascha Hörmann

Several hundreds of spectators filled the Old Auditorium of Philipps University and thereby created a festive atmosphere. The highlight of the event was the 6th Marburg Lecture on International Criminal Law which was given as a ceremonial address by Professor Dr. Dr. Udo di Fabio, former judge of the Federal Constitutional Court. Under the heading “The Punitive Power of World Society” Professor di Fabio outlined the linkage between the ethical fundament of national communities and the basic principle legitimizing punishment by the state as well as today’s aspiration of “world society” to sanction severe crimes within an international context. Professor di Fabio concluded that, after all, it is human dignity which legitimizes societies to punish perpetrators. Like within the framework of single-state action, this basic principle has to be transferred to world society and human dignity has to become the binding standard for international courts.

Professor Katharina Krause, president of Philipps University, giving her keynote in the crowded auditorium.
Photo: Sascha Hörmann

Professor Dr. Katharina Krause, president of Philipps University, and Dean of the Department of History and Cultural Studies Professor Dr. Christian Kleinschmidt, speaking on behalf of all departments supporting the ICWC, gave the welcoming addresses. Both stressed the successful development of the Centre’s interdisciplinary approach and its importance for the research location Marburg despite its scarcity of funding. Thereafter, the ICWC Executive Director Professor Dr. Christoph Safferling, LL.M. opened the ceremony. He gave a captivating report on the Centre’s development since 2003 and on the current state of affairs with respect to the various activities of the ICWC. The director pointed out the latest acquisitions of files under the umbrella of the ICWC’ documentation mission as well as the current research projects and publications. Since its foundation the Centre has been actively engaging in international cooperation and this aspect of its work has continuously been strengthened, as shows the newly implemented partnership with the Chinese research institute “Unit 731”. Professor Safferling thanked everyone who had taken over responsibility for the Centre and emphasized the extraordinary commitment of the interdisciplinary staff which has laid the foundation for the successful development. The professor not only welcomed the keynote speaker but also several representatives from the Federal Constitutional Court, the Federal Supreme Court, different judicial institutions and universities as well as a huge number of students from a wide range of disciplines.

Professor Safferling conferring the monitoring certificates upon this year’s graduates.
Photo: Sascha Hörmann

Furthermore, the ICWC Trial-Monitoring Programme received a fair share of attention. Under the umbrella of the programme, students from Marburg are trained to become trial observers and can be employed in international trial observer missions. As Professor Safferling underlined, the Marburg Trial-Monitoring Programme provides a training opportunity which is singular in the German academic landscape. To confirm and celebrate the successful graduation from the training programme, the students Sabrina Manteuffel, Nicolai Bülte, Maik Fielitz, Laura Mennonna, Zohra Hadjizada, Katrin Wagener, Anne Lang and Ruth Theile were awarded certificates. Dean of the Department of Law Professor Dr. Hans-Detlef Horn as well as the ICWC Directors Professor Safferling and Professor Dr. Eckart Conze warmly congratulated the freshly-baked trial observers. With their qualifications they contribute to the goal formulated by Professor Conze with regard to the ICWC’s activities in the fields of historical research and documentation: “We interpret the past of international criminal law in order to be able to shape the developments of the present.” The evening was concluded at a standing reception in the historical cloister of the university’s auditorium where the interdisciplinary discussions, partly revolving around the issue of shaping the present, continued.