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2017 Annual Celebration | 10th Marburg Lecture on International Criminal Law by Bishop Wolfgang Huber

The International Research and Documentation Centre for War Crimes Trials (ICWC) held its annual celebration on 5 December 2017. In this context, the Marburg Lecture on International Criminal Law took place for the tenth time.

This year we had the honour to welcome Bishop Professor Dr. Dr. h. c. Wolfgang Huber, former president of the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany, who gave the ceremonial lecture on “The Cultural Dimension of Genocide” which enriched the annual celebration. In addition, the Centre's scientific findings and activities were presented and this year's graduates of the Trial-Monitoring Programme were honoured. 

From the left to the right: Bishop Wolfgang Huber, Professor Dr. Eckart Conze, Professor Dr. Stefanie Bock.
Photo: Milena Hardt

As in previous years, the event attracted a large audience from both the university and urban public spheres, led by Professor Dr. Stefanie Bock, executive director of the ICWC. Professor Dr. Joachim Schachtner, vice-president of Philipps University, as well as Professor Dr. Benedikt Stuchtey, dean of the Department of History and Cultural Studies, welcomed the guests. Professor Dr. Schachtner praised the ICWC's great collection of WWII war crimes, including documents from the National Archives Washington and the State Archives of Belgium, which, according to the vice-president, provides an excellent basis for future research projects. He also highlighted the interdisciplinary character of the Centre, which is reflected in research and teaching as well as in the intensive cooperation with the Centre for Conflict Research, the Department of History and Cultural Studies and the Department of Law. In this context, the ICWC Trial-Monitoring Programme, which this year was awarded the Hessian University Award for excellence in teaching in the category Student Initiative, is of great importance to the university. In addition, Professor Dr. Stuchtey emphasized the role of the ICWC in the national and international context. According to the professor, the Centre makes an important contribution to the scientific discussion on humanitarian issues in problem areas such as international criminal law and the penal system.

The ICWC Executive Director Professor Dr. Stefanie Bock welcomes the guests of the annual celebration.
Photo: Leif Henke

During her report on the activities of the Centre, Professor Dr. Bock indicated that the ICWC’s database to date comprises around 11,000 trials and 23,800 persons. Amongst them are war crimes trials on the Philippines held by the US as well as trials in Belgium or within the French zone, recently supplemented by trials in Luxembourg after World War II. According to the executive director, various focusses are identified during the process of data injection. This year, particular emphasis was laid on the collaboration with the Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr in Dresden, where the ICWC was involved in the creation of an interactive map referring to the so called Flyer Cases. Furthermore, the cooperation with the Legal Tools Project of the ICC continued. Last but not least, the research projects of scientific staff members received special mention, amongst them the PhD project of Dirk Stolper who analyses the work and perception of “Eichmann’s legal counsel” Robert Servatius. As in the past, this year’s courses of the ICWC were designed in accordance with the guiding principles of the Centre, namely internationality and interdisciplinarity. Taxiarchis Fiskatoris contributed courses on the “Leading Cases of International Criminal Law” and on “Transitional Crimes: Interdisciplinary Perspectives”, among others.

This year’s graduates of the Trial-Monitoring Programme: Nele Kirsten Hansen, Jonas Sahm, Lisa Kramer and Lena Marcella Harris-Pomeroy together with Professor Dr. Stefanie Bock (from the left to the right).
Photo: Milena Hardt

In addition, the interdisciplinary seminar on “Transitional Justice in Cambodia” took place during the last summer semester, including content-related preparation sessions for 12 students who later got the chance to go on a 12-day trip to Cambodia, organized by the ICWC Trial-Monitoring Programme. Moreover, a team of four students from Marburg participated in this year’s Nuremberg Moot Court, where they received an award for the Best Prosecution of Written Memoranda. In April, another four students had the opportunity to participate in the Model International Criminal Court in Krzyżowa (Poland).

Keynote speaker Bishop Wolfgang Huber on the issue of
Photo: Leif Henke

The highlight of this year’s celebration was the 10th Marburg Lecture on International Criminal Law with the guest being Bishop Professor Dr. Dr. Wolfgang Huber. The former president of the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany was offered his first chair as professor of Social Ethics at Philipps University Marburg and subsequently taught, among others, in Heidelberg, Atlanta and Berlin. In his lecture he shared his thoughts on the topic of “The Cultural Dimension of Genocide”. He particularly criticized the neglection of the cultural dimension within the definition of the term “genocide” which he outlined using Heinrich Heine’s famous words: “Where they burn books, they will also burn people.” Within the historical context, one could think of the destruction of Jewish property in the pogrom night of 1939, nowadays, the indissoluble entanglement of the destruction of culture and the destruction of human beings reveals itself in the identity-related violence of the “Islamic State” or the destruction of cultural property in Aleppo or Mossul. According to Bishop Huber, the protection of cultural diversity could be compared to the protection of biodiversity. The human race should not be considered as a species which, as such, is in need of protection but one should rather contemplate the ability of the individual in relation to itself. Consequently, according to the professor, the sustainable preservation of human culture is indispensable.

Numerous guests took advantage of the standing reception in the cloister of the Old University following the lecture to engage in lively discussions on what had been said. The 2017 annual celebration of the ICWC can be considered a great success and we are already looking forward to welcoming you next year.