PhD Call and Topics 2017-2018 – University of Copenhagen

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PhD Call and Topics 2017-2018

For 2018 applications, iCourts welcomes applications in response to the general call for applicants to the PhD at the Faculty of Law. Candidates can find information on the application process at the following link:

iCourts is interested in PhD projects within the following areas:

The Impact of International Courts

We welcome projects that explore where, when, whether and how international courts (ICs) impact law, politics and society at the global, regional and national levels. We are particularly interested in projects that explore one or more of the following dimensions, that is, the assess the impact of ICs on:

  • Law: that is, how ICs impact, alter or transform legal practices, substantively and procedurally. For example, you can examine how ICs create new cognitive frames, principles and values, and whether or how these innovations change legal practices at the global, regional and national levels;
  • Politics: that is, how ICs impact, alter or transform political processes and outcomes. For example, you can investigate how a range of actors make use of ICs – directly and indirectly – and whether and how such actions generate new interests and preferences at the global, regional and national levels; and
  • Society: that is, how ICs impact, alter or transform society and social practices. For example, you can analyse how ICs influence state, group and citizen relationships, and whether and how they help to generate new rights, duties and processes at the global, regional and national levels.

We are in interested in the effects of one or more ICs, both in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

Contact person: Mikael Rask Madsen, email:

The European Court of Human Rights in Scandinavia

We welcome projects that tracks how the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) have become a central institution in the development of law in Scandinavia over the past 2-3 decades. We are interested in projects that explore the general evolution in law triggered by the ECtHR and notably how this has been received at the domestic level, both in legal and political circles. We also welcome ideas as to explore the litigation practices of human rights and how this has changed in recent years.

Contact person: Mikael Rask Madsen, email:

Truth in International Criminal Justice – A Philosophical Investigation of the Epistemology of International Criminal Courts and Tribunals

The right to the truth is often invoked in the context of gross violations of human rights and grave breaches of humanitarian law. The prospects of nominally securing this alleged right through institutions such as International Criminal Courts and Tribunals, or Truth Commissions are fairly well studied. However, we know very little when it comes to determining the actual epistemic effect; the strengths and weaknesses of various, competing institutional designs as truth-finding institutions. This is all the more striking when compared with the domestic criminal justice context where legal epistemology; the combination of evidence law with philosophy is a flourishing field. So far, it seems no systematic attempt has been made to explore the analogies and possible synergies between the two fields. This is all the more striking, considering the fact that international criminal tribunals are generally regarded with quite severe epistemic skepticism whereas truth commissions are generally embraced for their epistemic capacity.

Under this theme we welcome projects focusing on the epistemic competence of international criminal tribunals, including such issues as mapping the epistemic critique; assessing its epistemic soundness and its role in debates about the legitimacy of international criminal tribunals.

Contact person: Jakob v. H. Holtermann, email:

Judicial Strategies and Normative Justifications for the Intervention of International Courts

I welcome suggestions for dissertations that will focus on the behavior of international courts and the ways they maintain their political position. Such suggestions can focus on actors that interact with international courts as well, such as national courts, governments, Non-Governmental Organizations, and professional lawyers. These suggestions should focus descriptively on the strategic behavior at international courts and at strategic moves such as backlash, political resistance, and collaboration used by other actors vis-à-vis international courts.

I also welcome suggestions to assess normatively the legitimacy and the potential outcomes of intervention by international courts. These suggestions can assess in which issues or under what conditions international courts are justified in intervening in domestic affairs and in which issues this intervention is illegitimate or would lead to bad results. The analysis can assist in determining the borders of the margin of appreciation, subsidiarity, complementarity, or other doctrines of deference.

Both types of suggestions can employ a broad set of both theoretical and empirical tools such as law and economics, political science, or sociology, as well as legal doctrinal analysis. 

Contact person: Shai Dothan, email:

The EU Investment Court System and Transformations of Investor-State Dispute Resolution

Proposals of reforming the current, arbitration-based system of investor-state dispute resolution have been formulated for decades. Many of them have focused on establishing a permanent, court-type body, instead of decentralized, ad hoc arbitral panels.

Introduction of such a consolidated mechanism is currently actively promoted by the European Union, which makes it a first project of this kind close to a political success. Investment Court System (ICS) is a two-tier permanent investment dispute resolution mechanism, forwarded in the EU ‘new wave’ trade agreements. It has been publicized by the European Commission as a replacement of investment treaty arbitration and as a remedy to its deficiencies. This hybrid regime, drawing from both: arbitral and judicial models, has already been incorporated into the EU-Vietnam FTA and CETA. It has also been indicated that the EU-Singapore FTA shall be renegotiated in order to include ICS provisions. The EU policy papers explicitly indicate the intention to forward this model in negotiations of further agreements, as well as subsequent consolidation of so-created systems into a multilateral body. In the absence of the EU model BIT, ICS seems clearly intended by the European Commission to serve as the ‘European standard’ for investment dispute resolution.

We welcome projects exploring the theme of judicialization of investor-state dispute resolution and prospects for establishment of investment courts, particularly in the context of the EU ICS.

Contact person: Joanna Jemielniak, email:

China in International Economic Dispute Resolution

The rapid growth of Chinese economy in the 1990s and early 2000s has resulted in the country consolidating a position of a regional and global power, soon to become the largest economy in the world. The booming trade exchange and investment ventures (both inward and outward), have resulted in increased participation of China in mechanisms of international dispute resolution (DR) in trade, investment and commercial cases. Whereas recent years have brought a slowdown to the economic growth, they have also led to China adopting highly deliberate, complete policies and strategies for the economic DR, reflecting its solidified role as a key global actor. 

In particular, China’s “going out” strategy (forming a part of the New Normal policy) is heading to a new phase, by creating more strategic schemes involving international or regional partners. By virtue of China’s Belt and Road policy and the initiative of establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, China is nowadays more actively engaged in the global economy.  These economic developments also directly affect commercial activity and transactions concluded between private actors. The accompanying private disputes are frequently resolved by the means of arbitration, and the development of arbitration in mainland China and in Hong Kong in recent decades has been characterized as unprecedented. 

Under this theme we welcome projects focusing on China’s involvement in trade, investment and commercial dispute resolution, including such areas as: the Belt and Road dispute resolution, new developments in commercial arbitration and EU-China trade relations.

Contact person: Joanna Jemielniak, email:

From ‘internationalism’ to ‘isolationism’: The role of domestic constitutional law before international judicial bodies

While we have yet to see whether Brexit, Trump, and threats to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) are just symptoms of an ephemeral trend or the beginning of an isolationist ‘counter-revolution’, the ‘age of internationalism’ as we know it seems to be drawing to a close. It is no longer an all-pervading view that conferring international legal rights and obligations on individuals will help to prevent the recurrence of the atrocities of the 20th century. This leaves the relationship between international law and domestic law at a critical juncture. From the recent prospect of a ‘constitutionalized’ international legal order, the international legal system now faces the isolationist creed that international law should be limited to its ‘original purpose’, namely governing relations between states, whereas the individual should once again be returned to its natural sphere of legal regulation: domestic law. Hence, the timing is apt for legal historical assessment of whether the development of positive norms of international law in the ‘age of internationalism’ in fact lived up to the dominant post-Cold War legal ideals inspired by domestic constitutional law. We welcome projects examining the extent to which international judicial bodies have incorporated fundamental domestic legal norms into their application of international law, and assessing the prospects for their ongoing inclusion.

Contact: Astrid Kjeldgaard Pedersen, email:

The Creation and Impact of International Criminal Law as a Market (CrimPact)

The CrimPact project investigates the creation and impact of the market for international criminal law ideas and services that slowly emerged from the mid1990s. This market was built in and around the international criminal courts where a number of institutions and stakeholders reoriented their activities toward the fight against the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ideas crafted and services offered in this market were tied not only to its courts, but also to other stakeholders in international diplomacy, international war crimes units, transnational NGOs, private law firms, think tanks, media outlets and academic research centers. The CrimPact project is interested in applicants that can perform targeted studies of specific types of stakeholders in this wider market and the relations between them.

The CrimPact project will begin in September 2017.

Contact person: Mikkel Jarle Christensen, email: 

Judicial legitimacy – normative approaches

We welcome proposals on doctoral dissertations that seek to examine judicial legitimacy from the normative perspective. The project can be theoretically oriented (embedded in constitutional and/or political theory), or seek to understand the issues concerning judicial legitimacy in a particular context: supranational, transnational or international adjudication, as well as more traditional fields (judicial review, constitutional adjudication or judicial law-making in the national context). Proposals that intend to look at the mutual interaction among the different contexts are particularly welcome.

Proposed projects can also focus on a particular aspect of judicial legitimacy – e.g. the problem of judicial accountability versus judicial independence, the values of judicial process, selection of judges or judicial law-making and its relationship to other forms of law-production or the relationship between judicial reasoning and judicial legitimacy.

Candidates seeking to pursue this research theme can come from various backgrounds (law, political science and theory, legal sociology), but must have strong interest in normative questions concerning courts and adjudication.

Contact person: Jan Komárek, email:

Ideas and ideologies of European constitutionalism

European constitutionalism, once the dominant narrative of European integration, seems to be in retreat. Projects falling within this research theme will seek to investigate why this is the case, based on a series of related questions: why was the narrative so influential in a certain period of European integration? Who were the principal actors who promoted the narrative and with which ideas? How did the European narrative relate to the constitutional (and political) developments at the national level? Should the constitutional narrative be reinvigorated with new ideas and values to reflect the changed nature of the EU – and also the world which surrounds it?

The proposed projects should take a critical approach to the existing theories of European constitutionalism and examine their potential to serve as ideologies – schemes of thought that can hide potentially negative effects European integration can have on the central values of constitutionalism.

Candidates seeking to pursue this research theme should have sufficient knowledge of EU law and be interested in comparative constitutional law and theory and intellectual history.

Contact person: Jan Komárek, email: