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Research Projects

The ACIL is home to several distinct research projects by individual researchers or research groups. These projects are clustered along four themes: History and Theory, Order and Conflict, Rights and Values, Markets and Society.

History and Theory

Critical International Legal Histories
Research within this project revolves around two questions that are deceptive in their simplicity: How might international law have been otherwise? And why did it turn out the way it did? The overarching aim is to expose the contingencies and determining factors of international law’s development by inquiring into its past as a repository of possibilities.

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International Legal Thought and the Construction of (In)Justice
The project investigates how specific ways of thinking about international law impact its appearance as ‘more natural, necessary, and just’ (Duncan Kennedy). In particular, it probes how the practice of making sense of international law’s past—especially of past judicial decisions—may contribute to the perceived likelihood of those decisions as well as the degree to which they are thought to be right.

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Order and Conflict

Rethinking Secondary Liability for International Crimes
Rethinking SLIC* is a research project that aims to develop a legal framework, based on theory and practice, for determining the outer limits of secondary liability for international crimes and serious human rights violations. Questions of secondary liability arise when a person, company, or State is complicit in the commission of unlawful acts. The perpetration of international crimes and serious human rights violations often depends on a wide network of supporting actors, which may escape liability because of possible shortcomings in the law. As such, establishing an improved framework for secondary liability is a pressing issue, particularly in the current era of globalisation where assistance for such acts transcends national borders and when the ultimate harm is particularly grave, as is the case with mass atrocities.

Rethinking SLIC* focuses on secondary liability in three areas of law: tort law, criminal law, and State responsibility.

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Agency and Compliance by Design in Military AI Technologies
The four-year research project ‘Agency and Compliance by Design in Military AI Technologies’ is focussing on a human-centred approach to military AI technologies and seeks to explore ethical and lawful uses of AI in the military.

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International Judicial Governance
The International Judicial Governance project examines the legal, policy, and normative issues raised by the operation of entities entrusted by states and international organisations with governance tasks in respect of international courts and tribunals.

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Law and Practice of Extradition: A Comparative Regional Perspective
In view of the process of globalization that offers huge opportunities for organized crime, both in terms of expansion of operations and possibilities to evade justice, states are confronted with considerable challenges. They are bound to cooperate and to that purpose conclude treaties and establish institutional frameworks. This work focuses on extradition. It aims to comprehensively map and analyze extradition law and practice in four continents – Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania/ South East Asia – in search of commonalities and distinctions.

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Developing international immunity rules: actors and processes
The research in this project focuses on the actors and processes that play a role in the formation and identification of international immunity rules (state immunity; immunity of state officials; international organization immunity The project sets out to map and analyze the processes that underlie the application of immunity rules both empirically (how do the different actors approach these processes?) and theoretically (what are coherent approaches to these processes?).

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Rights and Values

The Protection of Refugees in Multi-Jurisdiction Europe
The protection of refugees in Europe is governed by a plurality of legal regimes and shaped, executed and adjudicated by a large variety of national, regional and international actors. This interaction raises challenges in terms of consistency, complementarity and competition.

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Refugee Resettlement
‘Resettlement’ is one of the so-called durable solutions UNHCR has been charged to pursue (cf. the mandate of UNHCR). It is a solution that has been developed in practice by UNHCR, yet it is not clear what its legal parameters are other than that states are not obliged to offer resettlement places.

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The Human Right to Science
Although the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress (REBSP) is included in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and several human rights treaties, it remains a right that is not well known nor yet well explored. The project aims to increase the knowledge and understanding of the REBSP and to raise awareness of the existence of this right and of its content.

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International Water Governance
Freshwater as a phenomenon in international law is notoriously multifaceted. Water appears as a public good, and also as an economic good; it appears as a human right and also as a state’s right; it is susceptible to the principle of sovereignty over natural resources and it appears also – against all odds– in the common heritage discourse. This project focuses on points of intersection between water usages, doctrinal categories and normative regimes.

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Markets and Society

Transnational Private-Public Arbitration as Global Regulatory Governance
The project analyzes the rising phenomenon of transnational arbitrations between private economic actors and public law bodies (private-public arbitrations) as a mechanism of global regulatory governance. Breaking with the prevailing view that arbitration is only a means to settle individual disputes, it hypothesizes that arbitrators themselves exercise public authority.

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Domestic Courts’ Engagement with Foreign Investment Law
Despite their proliferation, international courts and tribunals stand in the shadow of domestic courts when it comes to the number of cases rendered with a public international law dimension. This project examines the engagement of domestic courts with foreign investment law. In particular, it aims to systematize domestic jurisprudence and draw larger conclusions as concerns the respective roles of the domestic and international judiciary in the field of foreign investment law and the relationship between international, European Union and domestic law.

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International Adjudication in Inter-State Relations: Roles, Resistance, Reform
The project concerns the roles of adjudication in inter-state relations, state resistance to judicial oversight, and state attempts to reform adjudicators. While states often establish courts and other adjudicators with authority to make decisions against their will, they retain the concrete power not to comply with decisions, the right to withdraw from institutions, and the prerogative to modify their design in case they do not perform as expected.

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Completed Research Projects (Selection)

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The Architecture of Postnational Rulemaking
This project explored processes of rulemaking that take place below the radar of traditional legal doctrine from the point of view of three different legal disciplines, public international law, European public law and European private law.

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Smart Mixes in relation to Transboundary Environmental Harm
This project provided insights concerning the way in which international treaties are, and can be, supplemented with other instruments, in order to come to a more effective regulation of the causes of transboundary environmental harm

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Shared Responsibility in International Law
This project examined the allocation of responsibilities among multiple international actors and will offer concepts, principles and perspectives for understanding how the international legal order may deal with shared responsibilities.

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The Coming of Age of International Organizations
The project explores the view that the political and legal appraisal of international organizations has passed through different stages : A functional stage of IOs’ rise in the mid-nineteenth century; institutional in the mid-twentieth century predominantly; and constitutional especially since the turn of the Millennium. Arguably, it is with this newly acquired constitutional identity that IOs have come of age and can participate as mature legal actors in international affairs.

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Treaties in World Society: On Treaty-Making and Practices of Interpretation
The project identifies three, partly interrelated features of contemporary world society that challenge the proverbial contractual mechanism of the treaty: the institutional, the objective and the communal. The research aims to address, in the context of these challenges, the roles of the treaty in international life, the technè of treaty making, and the operation as well as interpretation of treaties. 

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