Conference on Decolonization and Cold War Implications on War Crimes Trials in Asia, 1945-1954

Conference Report: “Rethinking Justice? Decolonization, Cold War, and Asian War Crimes Trials after 1945”, Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”, Heidelberg (organizer: Dr. Kerstin von ), October 26-29, 2014


The first day of the conference began on the evening of 26 October. Kerstin von Lingen, leader of JRG ‘Transcultural Justice’ and principal organizer of the conference, gave an introductory speech where she highlighted how war crimes trials in Asia offered a crucial legal, political, and moral-ideological watershed through which some of the initial contestations of decolonization and Cold War were played out. She argued that the trials should not be seen in isolation, but as part of this broader global politics, and also as an integral stage in the emergence of new universalistic norms of international humanitarian law. Fabian Klose (Leibniz Institute of European History Mainz) suggested that in spite of the emergence of these new norms, the traditional colonial powers (he took the specific examples of Britain and France) were reluctant to accept these standards, since their acceptance would have restricted the potential to use violent force to maintain domination in the colonies in Africa and Asia.

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Call for Papers: Conference “Contested Visions of Justice: Allied War Crimes Trials in a Global Context, 1943-1958”, Dublin, September 25-27, 2015

Venue: Boston College in Ireland, Dublin, 25-27 September 2015

Convenors: Kerstin von Lingen, Heidelberg University; Wolfgang Form, Marburg University; Franziska Seraphim, Boston College; Barak Kushner, Cambridge University

Co-sponsored by Boston College, Heidelberg University and the German Historical Institute, Washington DC

Call for Papers, deadline: February 07, 2015

Despite important differences in the war aims and conduct of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, war crimes trial policies emerged as globally connected domains of meting out justice that cut across the borders of nations, cultures, and continents. The aim of this conference, which is open to historians, political scientists and legal scholars alike, is to analyze and compare the transnational interconnections among the political, administrative, legal and social mechanisms of Allied transitional justice in the reshaping of the post-World War II world, with the prospect of an edited publication.

Far from a unidirectional imposition of “Western norms” on global conceptions of justice, experiences in Asia turn out to also have shaped legal perceptions in Europe, the United States, and the Soviet Union. The emerging geopolitics of the Cold War met with those of civil wars and decolonization in Asia, with huge implications not only for former colonies but for the European metropoles as well, including the former Axis powers themselves.

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Conference: The Laws of War and Military Justice from 1700 to the Present

Venue: German Historical Institute Paris

Date: 14-16 January 2015

Organisation: Steffen Prauser (IHA) and Hanna Sonkajärvi (Universidad del Pais Vasco)

Conference Programme:

Wednesday 14th January 2015

14h30                Welcome and Registration

Thomas Maissen (Director of the IHA), Hanna Sonkajärvi (Universidad del País Vasco), Steffen Prauser (IHA),

15h00                Military Justice in the Early Modern Period

Sandro Wiggerich (Universität Münster), Why Military Justice? – History of an Argument

PD Dr. Markus Meumann (Universität Erfurt), Searching for the Origins of the Conseils de Guerre in Seventeenth Century France

Discussion followed by a coffee break

16h30                Family, Gender, and Eighteenth Century Military Justice

Maria Sjöberg (Gothenburg University), Family Matters and Military Justice in Eighteenth Century Wars

Marianna Muravyeva (Oxford Brookes University), Creating a Model Citizen: Sex Crimes and the Military in Eighteenth-Century Russia

Discussion followed by a leg stretch

18h00                Laws of War in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

Renaud Morieux (Cambridge University), The Laws of War and the Laws of the Prison. French and British Prisoners of War in the Eighteenth Century

Jakob Zollmann (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung),  N.N.

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The Historical Origins of International Criminal Law

Crystallising a Sub-discipline of the History of International Criminal Law

International Criminal Law, as a relatively young discipline, occasionally still struggles with certain weaknesses in its own theoretical foundation. In an attempt to address this problem the Forum for International Criminal and Humanitarian Law (FICHL) organised an international conference entitled “The Historical Origins of International Criminal Law”. According to the organisers, the intention of the conference was “to pursue the vertical consolidation of international criminal law, by increasing knowledge about its historical and intellectual foundations and its social function, enhancing the quality, independence and viability of criminal justice for core international crimes in diverse and rapidly changing social contexts”.

The two day conference was held at the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) on March 1st and 2nd 2014. The co-organizers of this event included the Centre for International Law Research and Policy, Peking University International Law Institute, City University of Hong Kong, and the European University Institute (Department of Law). The persons mainly responsible for the coordination were Assistant Professor Yi Ping (Peking University Law School), Professor Morten Bergsmo (Peking University Law School), and Assistant Professor Cheah Wui Ling (National University of Singapore).

The conference opened with a round of introductory remarks. Professor Mark D. Kielsgard (CityU) and CityU’s acting dean Professor Lin Feng welcomed speakers and guests as representatives of the host university. One of the distinguished guests of the conference, Geoffrey Robertson QC (Doughty Street Chambers), spoke for the conference participants. Professor Bergsmo, as part of the organizing team, then gave a short introduction to the seminar theme and commented on its relevance for modern international criminal law.

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Essay on “Crimes against Humanity” by Kerstin von Lingen

Kerstin von Lingen, Lecturer at the University of Heidelberg, has recently published a very readable online essay on the term of “Crimes against Humanity” and its historical development in the course of the twentieth century. You will find Kerstin’s essay in Zeithistorische Forschungen/Studies in Contemporary History published by the Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam @:

Kerstin is the Coordinator of the Junior Research Group: Transcultural Justice: Legal Flows and the Emergence of International Justice within the East Asian War Crimes Trials, 1946-1954.

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Debate on the “Courts of Mixed Commission for the Abolition of the Slave Trade” and International Human Rights Law

Jenny S. Martinez, Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and former associate legal officer at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, has published in 2012 her compelling law study The Slave Trade and the Origins of International Human Rights Law, Oxford University Press 2012.



In her very readable book she argues that international human rights law derives its origins from the “Courts of Mixed Commission for the Abolition of the Slave Trade”, which were located around the Atlantic in West Africa, South Africa, South America as well as the Caribbean and were established to judge captured slave ships in the period from 1819 to 1871. Thus Martinez draws a direct line to the development of the International Criminal Justice system of the 20th and 21st centuries. Continue reading