Public International Law

The newly established Research Group will address international law instruments enhancing international peace and security (including arms control law and collective security) as well as the law of armed conflict. In methodological terms, the group has an interest in the sociology of public international law and pursues empirical approaches to public international law. 

Project: The Collectivisation of International Security through Processes of Institutionalisation in Public International Law

The Chair held by the leader of the Research Group at Justus Liebig University Giessen (JLU) is part of the interdisciplinary research initiative “Dynamics of Security”, established together with the Philipps University Marburg in order to explore different forms of securitisations, mainly from historical perspectives. In brief, the research initiative, funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation) from April 1st, 2014 until the end of 2017 at least, covers nineteen different projects from both universities—thus involving more than 70 researchers, ranging from Ph.D. students to professors—each offering a unique approach to securitisation (i.e. law, history, sociology, politics and art history). Together these projects will reveal a coherent and all-embracing view of how securitisation entered different political processes throughout a range of epochs. The chair of Prof. Dr. Thilo Marauhn will be contributing to this overall agenda with a project that focuses on the history of public international law.

The purpose is to analyse the collectivisation of international security through processes of institutionalisation in public international law. Each research member explores if and under what circumstances the perception and characterisation of international relations as a security issue not only prompt juridification and processes of institutionalisation in international law, but also inspire the collectivisation of international security. To what extent did (selected) actors perceive the advancing institutionalisation of public international law, that began with the foundation of the first international organisations (e.g. the International Commission for Navigation on the Rhine, or the International Telecommunication Union) in the 19th century on the one hand, and the instalment of the first public international law chairs at universities on the other hand, and continued to evolve via the foundation of the League of Nations into the founding of the United Nations, as a security gain? In light of the apparent modern trend towards de-collectivisation by way of favouring bilateral and regional cooperation, why was the path of ever-growing collectivisation of security chosen during the rise of international law?



Project: UN Policing – Legal Basis, Status and Directives on the Use of Force

On 20 November 2014 the United Nations (UN) Security Council (SC) held its first-ever Council meeting dedicated to policing issues. The meeting, convened upon Australian initiative, discussed „Peacekeeping operations: the role of policing in peacekeeping and post-conflict peacebuilding”. The meeting included a briefing of the Council by Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and three United Nations Police Commissioners. In conclusion, the Council adopted Resolution 2185 (2014).

This resolution is the first and still only resolution exclusively addressing policing in UN peacekeeping operations and UN special political missions. Given that the UN has deployed police in peacekeeping operations since the 1960s, this may be surprising; however, since then the significance of UN policing has changed considerably, both in quantitative as well as qualitative terms. Whereas there were only 44 civilian police officers serving in pertinent UN missions in 1990, the UN counted 13,122 individuals in twelve missions in 2015. The number of police officers involved extended from 6 to 3,165. All this has stimulated growing interest in and awareness of UN policing by the international community.

Currently the UN endeavours to improve UN policing through a variety of strategies and instruments. Crucial is the evolution of a “Strategic Guidance Framework for International Police Peacekeeping (SGF)”. Work on the SGF began in 2010, the UN thereby responding to the growing complexity of policing as part of peace operations and special political missions. Such developments call for a parallel academic debate.


The research project “UN Policing. Legal Basis, Status and Directives on the Use of Force” is funded by the German Foundation for Peace Research and is implemented by the Justus Liebig University Giessen in cooperation with the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF). Its threefold objectives are (1) to identify and critically review the current legal basis of UN policing under public international law, (2) to clarify the status of police officers in pertinent missions, and (3) to critically review rules of engagement/directives on the use of force, in particular in respect of the power to detain and to use force.

The research project aims at enhancing clarity by providing a systematic overview of the legal framework applicable to UN policing, critically reflecting about the adequacy of applicable legal rules, and developing perspectives for future policing. Among others, the following questions will be addressed:

  • What is the background of UN SC Resolution 2185 (2014) and pertinent UN policies?
  • What are the specific features of police components in UN peacekeeping operations and special political missions?
  • What are the factual and legal differences between police, the military and the civilian component?
  • Has policing become an autonomous part of peacekeeping?
  • If so, how does this affect the legal framework of UN policing?
  • What are the differences in rules of engagement respectively directives on the use of force applicable to police, the military and the civilian component?

Project: Fact-Finding in the Law of Armed Conflict

In view of serious violations of the law of armed conflict the international community has established a growing number of ad-hoc commissions of inquiry with a view to investigate potential breaches of the law in specified armed conflicts. It is noteworthy that most of these commissions have not been established by security-related organs of the United Nations (such as the Security Council) but rather by human rights bodies, especially the UN Human Rights Council. In practice, this has more often than not meant that security considerations were not included, and there has sometimes been a remarkable absence of expertise in the law of armed conflict among the members of such commission of inquiry. Besides, many of theses ad-hoc commissions have primarily focused on “accountability” and aimed at avoiding “impunity” but failed to address the confidence-building character of fact-finding as between the parties to an armed conflict.

The project is part of a broader research agenda on fact-finding in international relations. It aims at identifying the overall characteristics of fact-finding in international law, while paying tribute to the specifics of armed conflict situations. It will take into account recent developments within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and it hopes to benefit from an analysis of the work of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, which the head of the Research Group is a member of.