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Durham Law School

Staff Profiles

Professor Michael Bohlander, A. jur. Dr. jur. Richter am Landgericht a.D. FRSA

Professor in Durham Law School
Chair in Comparative and International Criminal Law, Durham Law School
Member of the Human Rights Centre

(email at



Professor Bohlander will be on leave from Durham University from September 2015 and serve as the International Co-Investigating Judge in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

Upon the nomination by the UN Secretary-General and after approval by the Cambodian Supreme Council of the Magistracy, the King of Cambodia on 10 June 2015 first appointed him to the post of Reserve International Co-Investigating Judge and following the resignation of his predecessor, to the post of International Co-Investigating Judge on 31 July 2015. Judge Bohlander will be conducting the investigations in what are commonly known as Cases 003 and 004 and will be working alongside one of the most senior members of the Cambodian judiciary, Judge You Bunleng, who is also the President of the Court of Appeal of Cambodia.

From 1991 until joining the Law School in 2004, Michael had been a civil and criminal pre-trial, trial and appellate judge in the courts of the East German Free State of Thuringia, in the transitional stage after German unification. He sat on proceedings dealing with regime crime in the former GDR, includig cases involving the use of minefields at the former inner-German border, the cassation of politically motivated judgments of former GDR courts and the rehabilitation of persons who had been convicted for political reasons; his general criminal docket covered serious crime such as, for example, murder, rape, child sexual abuse and armed robbery, both in the juvenile and adult courts.

From October 1989 to April 1990, he served a pupillage with Geoffrey Mercer QC at what is now Walnut House Chambers in Exeter, mainly in criminal cases. In 1996, he was a judicial visitor at a Juzgado de Primera Instancia e Instrucción in Spain. From 1999 until 2001 he served as the Senior Legal Officer of a Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Hague, where he was among other proceedings involved in the Kupreškić et al. trial related to the Ahmići massacre in the Lašva Valley, in the Kunarac et al. case on the so-called "Rape Camps" in the town of Foča, and in the confirmation of the first indictment against Slobodan Milošević.

He helped train the judges of the Iraqi High Tribunal which tried Saddam Hussein and has been active in judicial training and advising governments on law reform in transitional contexts since 2001, at the request of the International Bar Association, the OSCE, the United Nations, for the EU and for the German Foundation for International Legal Cooperation.

His publications on civil and criminal law have been widely cited by and before courts of several domestic and international jurisdictions, including the Constitutional Courts of Germany and Colombia, the Federal Court of Justice and several State Supreme Courts in Germany, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, the International Criminal Court and the tribunals for Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone and Cambodia. His critical work on the recruitment to the international criminal judiciary was referred to extensively in the 2011 background paper to the International Bar Association's Resolution of 31 October 2011 on judicial appointments to international courts and tribunals.

He has been invited to speak at numerous conferences, seminars and training events at home and abroad, including in Armenia, Canada, Croatia, Egypt, Georgia, Germany, Iraq/Kurdistan, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United States (including the Military Academy at West Point), Tanzania (at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha) and Tunisia.

Professor Bohlander's main research interests lie in international and comparative criminal law, including their linguistic and cultural aspects, and Islamic law. The German Federal Ministry of Justice lists his English translations of the German Criminal Code and of the Act on International Cooperation in Criminal Matters on its official website. The translation of the German Criminal Code was translated into Farsi and published in Iran in 2010, followed by the translation of his monograph "Principles of German Criminal Law" in 2011. Other publications have been translated into Spanish and Turkish.

Professor Bohlander is the founding editor-in chief of the International Criminal Law Review, the general editor of Studies in International and Comparative Criminal Law with Hart Publishing and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Criminal Law. Together with Professor Alan Reed he edits the series Substantive Issues in Criminal Law with Ashgate.

From 2010 - 2014, Professor Bohlander was the Visiting Chair in Criminal Law at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in the Netherlands. In 2012, he was the first non-Muslim visiting scholar ever to teach at the Faculty of Law of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, when he was also received by the Grand Imam of al-Azhar in a private audience. In 2015 he was appointed an external assessor for professorial promotions by the University of Malaya.

Michael holds two State Examinations in Law from the Ministry of Justice of the Saarland (1986 and 1990); in 1992 he obtained the degree of Dr. iur. from the Faculty of Law of the University of the Saarland, where under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Dr.h.c. Heike Jung he studied how duty solicitor schemes in England/Wales and Scotland could inform the practice of access to counsel in the police investigation stage in German criminal procedure.


Research Interests

  • Conversation between secular legal systems and Islamic law
  • German criminal law and procedure
  • International criminal justice - Theory, practice, political and socio-legal implications
  • Comparative criminal law and procedure
  • Transitional justice and rule of law
  • The Judiciary and legal profession - Comparative, international and socio-legal aspects