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The Trial-Monitoring Programme of the International Research and Documentation Centre for War Crimes Trials

Academic - Independent - Competent

While monitoring has been common in international and mixed national-international courts for many years, such observation of criminal trials is up to now widely unknown in Germany. The concept can be best translated into German as ‘Verfahrensbeobachtung‘ (trial observation).


Such monitoring is open to any result, observing objective and transparent academic standards and pursuing different purposes. Above all, there may be considered protecting legality of the trial and in particular the rights of the defendant, the rights of witnesses or victims and the position and effect of a co-plaintiff in the trial. Monitoring itself can already serve the observance of Fair Trial Standards or promote legitimacy of the trial by documentation. These primary purposes can be complemented by other aspects, such as answering questions related to the specific case with regard to applying adjective law or introducing students of jurisprudence to judicial practise.

The immediate result of monitoring is the generation of reports on account of extensive and detailed notes, illustrating the trial completely. These reports cover information about the procedure of the trial, the legal problems discussed during the trial, the treatment of participants by the court as well as organisation, realisation and term of the trial. These reports can be published at the end of a trial, also anonymously, if necessary, and serve as a basis of detailed analysis - whether by members of the monitoring project or by third parties. The objectives of such analysis are of varied nature, for example, the material and formal right as well as its practical application may be checked against suitability, efficiency or compatibility with national or internationally standards of human rights. Besides, they may serve as sources of historic or sociological research.


The independence of the trial monitors is of prime importance. The work of the project group is objective and impartial, without supporting any of the trial participants. On no account the monitors may interfere with the ongoing trial, neither inside nor outside the court. That is why everything published during the time of the trial is always exactly checked against whether and how it could affect the trial. The same applies to contacts with participants of the trial, here as well, maintaining an objective and impartial position is always mandatory. ICWC monitors may also be asked by third parties to monitor a trial, but here as well, independence is a prime directive. Hence, monitoring which already intends a certain result is not applicable.


Competent monitors are vital for the success of a monitoring programme. Though there are different modes and possibilities to realise monitoring, evaluation of the first application of a monitor sent by the ICWC to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia has shown that to observe successfully a penal trial, a monitor requires certain abilities which are mandatory for every monitoring. Thus the monitor has to know and apply on one side the scientific basic principles of monitoring. On the other side, profound understanding of the historical circumstances is essential which led, in the end, to the conflict which is now the object of the trial. Ultimately, a monitor must be expert in the relevant material and adjective law to be able to understand the events in court. Therefore, readers specific to the trial were provided for the preparation of student monitors for the trial against O.R., together with specific workshops concerning Principles of monitoring, Background of the conflict, Implementation of Fair Trial Standards in the StPO [German Code of Criminal Procedure].

In addition, the students interested in the project have carried out a training monitoring at the regional court of Marburg before the trial against O.R. began, each of those more than 90 interested persons writing their own monitoring report which was assessed in the aftermath. Beside these preparatory measures, monthly meetings of the project group take place, so that the monitors may update each other about the trial and examine current questions raised in the trial, both for the monitors and for other interested persons. The fact that each team consists of students of jurisprudence as well as of peace and conflict studies also leads to more comprehensive, holistic understanding during the meetings after the trial days.

Nevertheless, the education of the present monitors is not limited to the trial against O.R. Rather a permanent educational structure shall be created, enabling the training of specially prepared, internationally applicable trial monitors. This is made possible by long-term integration of this education into the existing teaching curriculae. The lectures on criminal law, adjective law and international criminal law that were offered till now are the base of qualified and lasting education.

Last modified: 04.03.2014 · Hoermann Sascha, Fb. 01

Philipps-Universität Marburg

ICWC, Universitätsstraße 7, 35032 Marburg
Tel. +49 6421 28-26895, Fax +49 6421 28-26894, eMail:

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