Department of Public Law

Department of Public Law



1. Fundamentals: Theoretical Foundations and Doctrinal Structures

Head of project: Ralf Poscher
This long-term project examines whether it is possible to develop a general doc­tri­nal scheme for public security measures comparable to the general doc­tri­nal schemes (Verbrechenssysteme) of substantive criminal law, how such a scheme would have to be conceptualized, and what functions it could serve in a national… more

Head of project: Ralf Poscher
This long-term project, begun about a decade ago, aims to provide a philosoph­i­cally updated account of legal her­me­neu­tics. Whereas legal hermeneutics has often been associated with continental philosophical approaches (e.g., Gadamer, Ricœur), the project addresses the questions discussed in this tradition with the… more

Philosophical and Public Security Law Implications of ‘Stochastic Terrorism’

Head of project: Ja­mes An­go­ve
This project centres on the concept of ‘stochastic terrorism’, an under-examined yet growing threat to public security. As described by leading scholars, stochas­tic terrorism involves ‘the use of mass media to provoke random acts of ideolog­i­cally motivated violence that are statistically predictable but… more

Algorithmic Security and Human Autonomy

Head of project: Elisa Orrù
The core of human autonomy (understood as making self-de­ter­mined decisions and acting ac­cordingly) is increas­ingly being complemented, supported, or replaced by automated de­ci­sion-making (ADM) processes. In civil secu­rity, this has led to the emergence of “algorithmic” and “preventive” security. Recent examples at… more

Head of project: Eran Fish
This project examines an undertheorized area of counter-terrorism law, namely, a state’s positive obligation to pre­vent terror attacks. Terrorism case law has routinely focused on excessive use of security measures. This reflects both the importance of constraining the use of force and the regrettable pervasiveness of… more

Derogation Powers and Continuing States of Emergency under the ECHR

Head of project: Johanna Bücker
Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) authorizes Mem­ber States to suspend human rights in time of war or other public emer­gen­cies. This derogation provision has been used several times, its invo­ca­tion and use differing widely over time. Since 2015, for example, derogations have been invoked… more

Legal Hermeneutics and Metaethics

Head of project: Rafa­el Gior­gio Dal­la Bar­ba
The interdisciplinary project in legal philosophy examines the relevance and impact of metaethics on the legal indeterminacy debate. The first chapter (A.) shows the widely accepted argument that, in the so-called hard cases in which the application of legal materials is even for experts highly… more

Head of project: Frie­de­mann Groth
This doctoral thesis aims to contextualize understandings of the ‘State’ ex­pressed within the gun laws of Germany and the United States. A cultural legal study, this project offers instructive observations on basic conceptions in legal science. more

Head of project: Max Poschmann
While civil disobedience has been widely discussed in political theory, it remains mostly neglected in German legal scholarship. Bridging this gap, this disserta­tion examines under what conditions, and in what ways, civil disobe­di­ence may be constitutionally protected under German law. more

2. Trends: In­ter­na­tio­na­li­za­ti­on, Di­gi­ta­li­za­ti­on, and Frag­men­ta­ti­on

Freiburg/Germany, place in front of the university library and the municipal theatre

Heads of project: Ralf Poscher, Elisa Orrù
FreiburgRESIST is a federally-funded, collaborative research pro­ject involving the City of Freiburg authorities and the University of Freiburg’s transdisciplinary Cen­tre for Security and Society. It integrates the fields of information technology, ju­rid­ical, sociological, ethical, and political security… more


Heads of project: R. Poscher, S. El­lebrecht, St. Ja­ro­li­mek, St. Kauf­mann
Considering Germany’s diversifying society, the question arises whether its police forces can contribute to an open and plural society and how they should be organized. This joint research project involves three leading public se­cu­rity institutions: the Centre for… more

Comparative European Study – Rights After Conviction

Head of project: Michael Kilchling
This comparative European study identifies and analyses the rules governing abrogation or temporary restrictions on civil and political rights imposed with criminal penalties. Historically, these restrictions originated with honour-related punishments common in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. more

Shifts in Interests in European Extradition Law

Head of project: Thomas Wahl
The surrender of criminal suspects who flee to foreign countries has sparked controversy for centuries. Relevant ex­tra­dition law shows not only criminal law’s territorial limits, but the dissolution of tension between security through effective cross-border enforcement and protecting individual rights. more

Citizenship in the Counter-Terrorist State: Learning from Security Practices in France and the UK

Head of project: Rachel Pougnet
This comparative socio-legal project examines increasing state uses and (re)con­figurations of citizenship in na­tional security contexts. Over the last few decades, the use of citizenship to curtail the rights of suspected terror­ists and enhance exclusionary politics of belonging has become a common mode of state… more

Public Law Implications of the Digital Attention Economy

Head of project: Daniel Buchmann
The business model of some of today’s largest, most valuable, and socially influential companies such as Google (Alphabet), Facebook (Meta), and Twitter can be described as capturing human attention and selling it to advertis­ers. more

The Deprivation of Nationality in the Fight Against Terrorism

Head of project: Samuel Hartwig
The last few years have seen a disquieting new trend emerge in global Islamist terrorism. The primary threat to Western societies used to be posed by terrorists entering Western countries from abroad. But nowadays citizens of Western countries also travel in the opposite direction to participate in terrorist… more

Head of project: Phil­ipp Joh­ner
Cyber attacks on government institutions and information technology systems occur regularly, representing a sub­stan­tial security threat to Germany and its economic and political interests. Besides passive defence measures, the so-called ‘hack back’ can be considered an active defence measure. Here, the attacked… more

Right to a Human Decision?

Head of project: Christian Thönnes
Rapid technological advances have incentivized an increasing shift of legal decision-making from humans to ma­chines. Many national and EU legal statutes have responded to this advance in legal automation (eg Article 22 GDPR and § 35a VwVfG-Bund, German Federal Administrative Procedures Act). more

Legitimation and Representation – German Civil Service Law

Head of project: Laura Wisser
People with migrant backgrounds are strongly underrepresented in German policing. This fact is legally problem­atic for multiple reasons. First, due to violations of equality principles guaranteed in Art. 3 and Art. 33 II of the German Constitution. On an individual level, structures that discourage migrant peoples from… more

3. Challenges: Fundamental Rights, Rule of Law, Democracy

Head of project: Ralf Poscher
The project aims at a continuous doctrinal development of fundamental rights—with particular focus on funda­men­tal rights especially impacted by public se­cu­rity measures—in a transnational perspective. Fundamental rights are central for the legal evaluation of public security measures. more

Heads of project: R. Poscher, M. Her­de­gen, J. Ma­sing, K. F. Gär­ditz
The Handbook of Constitutional Law is co-authored by 24 German professors, and supported by 15 international academics from Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia. Edited by Profes­sors Herdegen, Masing, Poscher, and Gär­ditz, the Handbook’s main purpose is to foster… more

Periodic Surveillance Barometer for Germany

Heads of project: Ralf Poscher, Michael Kilchling
State surveillance measures and their impact on constitutional freedoms have long been the subject of legal and political discourse. Building on prior, mainly theoretical, considerations about the need for realizing an “overall accounting” of surveillance, we began developing a broader conceptual… more

Democracy and State Secrets

Head of project: Randall Stephenson
This comparative law project examines the impact of the Internet and digital communications on networked accountability mechanisms in contemporary democracies (ie Germany, USA, UK, and Canada). Concentrating on modern-day intelligence gathering trends, my principal research question is whether mass ‘full-take’… more

Lampposts for Dimly Lit Roads – Bringing Legitimacy Back into the Proportionality Principle

Head of project: Mar­tha Ba­sa­zi­enw Kas­sa
The proportionality principle is the crown jewel of German legal scholarship, which has long served as a valued framework for human rights and fundamental freedoms adjudication around the world. more

Mass Surveillance of Financial Data

Head of project: Lukas Landerer
Data retention characteristically involves storing mass data of persons not suspected of criminal or otherwise dan­ger­ous behaviour, and making this data accessible to security authorities. In 2014, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) held that a telecommunications data directive violated European fundamental rights… more

Classified Information

Head of project: Laura Pick
This doctoral project addresses the conflict between executive secrecy and transparency, focusing on classified information retained by German administra­tive authorities as a key mechanism for limiting access to state opera­tions. The challenges of classified information are numerous. The legal basis to classifica­tion… more

Confronting Discrimination through Police Statistics

Head of project: Antonia Strecke
The German Black Lives Matter protests, recurring reports of right-wing extremist police chat groups, and racial profiling have led to increased discussion of structural racism within the German police authorities. Although ra­cial discrimination is prohibited under Article 3(3) of the Basic Law, legal recourse… more

The Legal Framework of Security Agencies Forecasting Based on the Use of Risk Assessment Instruments

Head of project: Maja Werner
Risk assessment instruments provide a promising but controversial forecasting approach for security agencies. This doctoral project aims to structure the legal framework of their use in counterterrorism and counterextremism. A com­pre­hen­sive analytical framework will be developed by examining which types of instruments… more

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