International Research and Documentation Center for War Crimes Trials

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International research and documentation center for war crimes trials
International research and documentation center for war crimes trials
Front view of the Landgrafenhaus in Universitätsstrasse with ICWC on the top floor
Category: Research facility and university institute
Carrier: Philipps University of Marburg
Facility location: Marburg
Type of research: applied basic research, documentation
Subjects: History , law , international peace and conflict research , political science , media studies
Basic funding: State of Hesse
Management: Stefanie Bock , Eckart Conze , Wolfgang Form ( managing directors )
Employee: circa 15
Logo of the International Research and Documentation Center for War Crimes Trials

The International Research and Documentation Center for War Crimes Trials (ICWC) is a scientific institution at the Philipps University of Marburg, which, from an interdisciplinary point of view, is primarily dedicated to the research and documentation of national and international war crimes trials as well as international criminal law and transitional justice .


The later ICWC began its work in 2000 at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt am Main as a “pilot project of the Volkswagen Foundation : War Crimes Trials against Germans and Japanese ” . The initiators were the former director of the Frankfurt MPI, Dieter Simon , and David Cohen , director of the then War Crimes Studies Center of the University in Berkeley (USA). In 2003, the project was located at the Philipps University of Marburg and transformed into an interdisciplinary research and documentation center that was supposed to comprehensively record and research war crimes trials and similar, especially international criminal law, court proceedings . In 2005 the ICWC started working with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague as part of the " Legal Tools " project. The ICWC has had its own statute since 2008. Also since 2008, on the anniversary of its founding, the center has organized the public “ Marburg Lecture on International Criminal Law ” with a prominent guest speaker. The following "Marburg Lectures on International Criminal Law" have taken place so far:

Other events that the ICWC has carried out for many years include the monthly interdisciplinary center colloquia . Young scientists and foreign guests in particular present their current research and discuss it with the center members and the interested public. The ICWC also organizes large international conferences in Marburg at irregular intervals:

In 2011 an “Association for the Promotion of the Research and Documentation Center for War Crimes Trials at the Philipps University of Marburg eV” was founded. At the end of 2013, a new statute came into force for the center as an independent and subject-free academic institution at Philipps University.


The interdisciplinary nature of the center is also reflected in its staffing. It is traditionally headed by two directors who belong to different departments . Stefanie Bock, Professor of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure Law , has been Managing Director of the center since 2017 . Her deputy is the Marburg contemporary historian Professor Eckart Conze. He has been head of the center or deputy head of the center since 2010; until 2015, alternating with the lawyer Christoph Safferling, who held the professorship for criminal law, criminal procedure law, international criminal law and international law in Marburg . The political scientist Doctor Wolfgang Form has been the managing director of the ICWC since 2003.

The center management is supported by an international scientific advisory board , which is also composed of an interdisciplinary team . Members are Edgar Wolfrum ( Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg ), Tobias Hermann ( Federal Archives ), Rebecca Witmann ( University of Toronto ) and Claus Kreß ( University of Cologne ). The first German judge at the ICC, Hans-Peter Kaul, was a member of this committee until his death .

The research staff at the center who work primarily in doctoral projects and who shape the research work of the ICWC also represent various disciplines. In addition to law and history, various social and human sciences have been represented so far . The same applies to the international guests who use the center for research stays, in particular to research the documentary holdings. A particularly close collaboration connects the center with the center for conflict research, which is also located in Marburg.


One of the most important goals of the ICWC is to make international criminal law - including historical - court proceedings the subject of current research. Research is carried out in different areas at the ICWC. One of the most widely studied topics has long been World War II . In doing so, the European, but increasingly also the Asian-Oceanic war events are looked at. Examples of projects in this area include: B. Investigations on the US film project on the Nuremberg trial of major war criminals (media studies), on the role of the Soviet Union in this trial, on the Supreme Court for the British Zone (OGH-BZ), on war crimes trials in the French zone of occupation in Germany as well as on criminal prosecution and social perception of female defendants in post- war war crimes trials . Other research focuses are or were international criminal procedural law and general or specific questions of transitional justice, with particular attention being paid to questions of victim participation in court proceedings in Marburg . One of the examples that was explored in more detail is the innovative practice of victim participation in the Cambodian Khmer Rouge Tribunal (Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia). This hybrid dish has also been the subject of various projects at the ICWC.

More recently, projects on the history of international criminal law on the genesis of the genocide offense and the protagonists of its development have been added. In addition, researchers at the ICWC are increasingly working on questions of criminal defense in war crimes trials, for example on Adolf Eichmann's lawyer Robert Servatius . Overall, the ICWC wants to provide a versatile and interdisciplinary scientific access to historical and current phenomena of macrocrime , e.g. For example, through research on the criminology of state crimes, which has so far been neglected in Germany, or through comparative studies on how to deal with genocidal mass violence in Germany, Rwanda and Cambodia .


In addition to research, documentation is the main area of ​​work of the center. At the ICWC, in addition to legal sources and the files on the Nuremberg trial against the main war criminals, documents on further military court proceedings by the Allies both in Europe and in the Far East are collected, digitized and made accessible in a database .

International cooperation


In addition to the conferences held in Marburg, the ICWC is continuously involved in the organization of international scientific exchanges and frequently in the implementation of large international conferences elsewhere. Over the years, a large network of scientific cooperation partners has built up at home and abroad. These include the Federal Archives, the French Military Archives Le Blanc, the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History and the Fritz Bauer Institute in Frankfurt am Main, the Military History Museum of the Bundeswehr in Dresden , the “International Criminal Law Working Group”, the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe” in a global context ” at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, the Free University of Berlin , the Independent Commission of Historians to review the history of the Foreign Office during the National Socialist era (known from the study“ Das Amt ”), the German Historical Institute in Rome , the Central Austrian Research Center for Post - War Justice , the Willy Brandt Center in Breslau , the former War Crimes Studies Center at the University of Berkeley ( USA ), Bryant University ( Rhode Island (USA)) and Murdoch University ( Perth / Australia ) as well as the Australian National University ( Canberra ). Another example is the German-Chinese cooperation with the Academy for Social Sciences in Harbin, China, as well as with the research institute, museum and memorial site on the history of " Unit 731 ", which are also located there . In addition, the ICWC cooperates with various memorial sites in Germany, including a. the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial in Hamburg and the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp Memorial . The ICWC was directly involved in the conception and development of the International Nuremberg Principles Academy , and there is also cooperation with the Nuremberg Trials Memorium . With its experience in documentation work, the ICWC is making a significant contribution to the extensive project “A century of pioneering case-law. A digital database of Belgian precedents of international justice, 1914-2014 ". This project is primarily about recording and digitizing Belgian war crimes trials from the past and present. Various international research institutions are working on this, in addition to the ICWC, above all Belgian universities.

Cooperation with the International Criminal Court ("Legal Tools")

The ICWC and the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague (Netherlands) have worked together since 2005. Since then, the ICWC has participated in the “ Legal Tools ” program of the ICC. The aim is to create a virtual library of international criminal law with integrated data management software. This is intended to enable the Court of Justice to use comprehensive (including historical) material for its legal finding. For this purpose, the ICWC works in particular on historical court cases and makes their case files and metadata available to the ICC for practical work. In this way, the ICWC brings its legal-historical expertise to the project. The information compiled in Marburg is intended, among other things, to enable the Court of Justice to better compare the criminal offenses of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes internationally. The work took place or is taking place in a research network with the Norwegian Center for Human Rights in Oslo , the Universities of Nottingham and Durham (both in England) and Graz (Austria) and the Asser Institute (Netherlands).

Process observation before national and international courts ("trial monitoring")

Since 2010, the ICWC has been offering a training course that is unique in Germany and through which students can qualify as international process observers (“Trial Monitor”). The project is entitled "ICWC Trial Monitoring Program". The technical management lies with ICWC director Stefanie Bock, who succeeded the former Marburg criminal law teachers Christoph Safferling, Hauke ​​Brettel and Ken Eckstein . However, the program was brought into being through a student initiative and despite the professional academic supervision by university lecturers and integration into the curricular structures of various subjects (especially law and peace and conflict research), it is still largely student-led and self-organized. In 2017 the project was awarded the Hessian University Prize for Excellence in Teaching by the Hessian Ministry of Science and Art .

The trained trial monitors should observe court proceedings neutrally and document their course. With the collected material, they should then evaluate the processes under scientific criteria and make the observations and results available to the public . In addition to the practical observation technique, the main focus of the training is to provide the students with background knowledge, especially in international criminal law, criminal procedure law and criminology.

The program pursues several goals: Firstly, the rule of law in court proceedings is to be made verifiable for the general public as well as for academia . Particular attention is paid to safeguarding the rights of the accused . The point of the project is not limited to the purely objective verifiability of compliance with procedural standards. It should also contribute directly to compliance with the rule of law, in that the presence of the process observer during the negotiation alone creates a certain pressure of transparency and observation on those involved in the proceedings. In addition, the creation of comprehensive monitoring reports should generally serve to create sources for further later scientific study of the procedures.

The Marburg monitoring training is located in the context of international criminal law. Since international criminal law is a very young area of ​​law that is often negotiated in very heterogeneous and international contexts, such monitoring is considered particularly important here. With the support of the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection , the ICWC participates in the professional documentation and monitoring of the proceedings at the “Khmer Rouge Tribunal”, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Another focus of the Marburg trial monitoring is the observation and evaluation of proceedings before the State Security Senate of the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt am Main and, if necessary, related appeal proceedings before the Federal Court of Justice . The starting point and focus here was the genocide proceedings against the former Rwandan mayor Onesphore Rwabukombe, who lives in Germany . This procedure was novel and special as a major international criminal case for German courts. Above all, the question arose to what extent such a procedure can be managed with the means of traditional German criminal procedural law. The monitoring reports are also intended as an aid to answering this question.


An extensive range of courses offered by the scientists involved in the center has been expanding for years. The ICWC enables students to receive a multifaceted and interdisciplinary education in the field of international criminal law. Lecturers from the circle of the ICWC are mainly involved in courses in law, history, peace and conflict research, political science and media studies. Here, too, a focus is on training in international criminal law, its current dogmatics and history, as well as in the area of ​​transitional justice.

Special teaching formats, e.g. B. Summer schools , in cooperation with other universities, have so far been co-organized on victimology , the criminology of state crimes and human rights . In addition to interdisciplinarity, the ICWC particularly endeavors to provide practical teaching, for example in the form of public lecture series (for example 2015/16 on “70 Years of the Nuremberg Trials”), business games , moot courts , simulations or competitions. Examples include regular participation in the Model International Criminal Court of the Kreisau Initiative eV in Krzyżowa ( Poland ) or in the Nuremberg Moot Court in “ Hall 600 ” of the Nuremberg Palace of Justice . The most complex teaching format at the interface between science and practice is the monitoring training program with its own certified degree. After all, the ICWC enables students to go on excursions to institutions that are important under international criminal law, such as in The Hague or Nuremberg, as well as study trips, e.g. B. to Cambodia.

Web links


  1. Wolfgang Form: Justice after 30 years? The Cambodian special tribunal to punish crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, Zeitgeschichte online June 2009, pp. 29–32
  2. For example, the observation of procedure 001 before the ECCC by Marburger Monitors, cf. Christoph Safferling, Philipp Graebke, Florian Hansen, Sascha Hörmann: The monitoring project of the Research and Documentation Center for War Crimes Trials (ICWC), Marburg. ZIS-online 07/2011, pp. 566-569
  3. Documents website of the ICWC, last updated on November 19, 2014
  4. The Jusinbellgium Project ( English ) JUSINBELLGIUM. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  5. Cooperation with the International Criminal Court
  6. Christoph Safferling, Philipp Graebke, Florian Hansen, Sascha Hörmann: The Monitoring Project of the Research and Documentation Center for War Crimes Trials (ICWC), Marburg. ZIS-online 07/2011, pp. 569-571
  7. Awarding of the Hessian University Prize for Excellence in Teaching 2017
  8. See Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) (Ed.): Trial Monitoring. A Reference Manual for Practitioners . Warsaw 2011, p. 52 f.


  • Lars Büngener, Wolfgang Form, Christoph Safferling: Bringing Online World War II War Crimes Trials Documents . In: Morten Bergsmo (Ed.): Active Complementarity: Legal Information Transfer . Oslo 2011, pp. 297-309.
  • Wolfgang Form: Justice after 30 years? The Cambodian special tribunal to punish crimes of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, contemporary history online June 2009 ( online ; pdf)
  • Wolfgang Form: Sources and their development at the Research and Documentation Center for War Crimes Trials (ICWC) . In: Jürgen Finger / Sven Keller / Andreas Wirsching (eds.): From law to history. Files from Nazi trials as sources of contemporary history . Göttingen 2009, pp. 243–249.
  • Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) (Ed.): Trial Monitoring. A Reference Manual for Practitioners . Warsaw 2011.
  • Christoph Safferling, Philipp Graebke, Florian Hansen, Sascha Hörmann: The monitoring project of the Research and Documentation Center for War Crimes Trials (ICWC), Marburg. ZIS-online 07/2011, p. 564 ( online ; PDF; 126 kB)

Coordinates: 50 ° 48 ′ 27.3 "  N , 8 ° 46 ′ 15.2"  E