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Dr Paul Behrens' Homepage at Edinburgh Law School


Paul Behrens joined the faculty in 2012. His principal research interests lie in the fields of international law, constitutional law and EU law. In the latter field, he has focused on the legal framework governing Brexit, has given evidence to the EU-Committee of the German Parliament, written several papers and given TV interviews. In the area of international law, his particular interests concern international criminal law, diplomatic law and international humanitarian law. Paul is the author of Diplomatic Interference and the Law (Hart Publishing 2016), co-editor of Diplomatic Law in a New Millennium (Oxford University Press 2017), of Holocaust and Genocide Denial: A Contextual Perspective (Routledge 2017), Elements of Genocide (Routledge 2012) and of other works. He has been an invited speaker at numerous conferences and has given guest lectures and seminars at the universities of Stockholm, Gothenburg, Uppsala, the Christian-Albrechts-University at Kiel, the University of Copenhagen, the University of Leiden and the Pázmány Péter Catholic University at Budapest.

Paul is an Associate of the Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Leicester University and member of the Surrey International Law Centre. Together with the director of the Stanley Burton Centre, he is the founder of an interdisciplinary research initiative which hosted conferences on selected topics in the field of genocide studies, including an interdisciplinary expert meeting on genocidal intent (funded by the British Academy). At Edinburgh, Paul has organised several international conferences on diplomatic law which brought together Ambassadors, other members of the diplomatic corps as well as some of the world's leading scholars on diplomatic law.

Paul has worked in the past inter alia for the European Communities Committee of the House of Lords and for the University of Leicester, where he was a lecturer in law until 2012. He has written expert commentaries for leading newspapers, including the Süddeutsche Zeitung, The Guardian and The Scotsman and has given radio and television interviews on current affairs, including to PBS / Deutsche Welle's "The Day" programme on Brexit.


Dr Paul Behrens' Homepage at Edinburgh Law School

Courses Taught

Global Crime and Insecurity (MSc)

International Law A: The Individual and International Law (Honours) (Course Organiser)

Responding to Global Crime and Insecurity (Msc)

PhD Supervisees

Darin Clearwater  'Taming Technology: An examination of the scope of the crime of aggression, with a specific focus on inter-State cyber attacks'

Xinxiang Shi  'Diplomatic Immunities Ratione Materiae under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations: Towards a Coherent Interpretation'

Books and Reports

Paul Behrens, Das Brexit-Referendum und seine Folgen, (German Bundestag, European Union Committee, 2019)
Abstract: This report deals with two main aspects concerning Britain's intended departure from the European Union: the withdrawal agreement that was negotiated in 2018, and the main options for the future relations of the United Kingdom with the EU, including the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. It reflects in more detail on two substantive aspects that are affected by these developments: the rights of EU27 citizens in the UK and the situation of UK universities post-Brexit.

Paul Behrens, Olaf Jensen, Nicholas Terry, Holocaust and Genocide Denial: A Contextual Perspective, (Routledge, 2017)
Abstract: This book provides a detailed analysis of one of the most prominent and widespread international phenomena to which criminal justice systems has been applied: the expression of revisionist views relating to mass atrocities and the outright denial of their existence. Denial poses challenges to more than one academic discipline: to historians, the gradual disappearance of the generation of eyewitnesses raises the question of how to keep alive the memory of the events, and the fact that negationism is often offered in the guise of historical 'revisionist scholarship' also means that there is need for the identification of parameters which can be applied to the office of the 'genuine' historian. Legal academics and practitioners as well as political scientists are faced with the difficulty of evaluating methods to deal with denial and must in this regard identify the limits of freedom of speech, but also the need to preserve the rights of victims. Beyond that, the question arises whether the law can ever be an effective option for dealing with revisionist statements and the revisionist movement. In this regard, Holocaust and Genocide Denial: A Contextual Perspective breaks new ground: exploring the background of revisionism, the specific methods devised by individual States to counter this phenomenon, and the rationale for their strategies. Bringing together authors whose expertise relates to the history of the Holocaust, genocide studies, international criminal law and social anthropology, the book offers insights into the history of revisionism and its varying contexts, but also provides a thought-provoking engagement with the challenging questions attached to its treatment in law and politics.

Paul Behrens, Diplomatic Law in a New Millennium, (Oxford University Press, 2017)
Abstract: The granting of diplomatic asylum to Julian Assange, the dangers faced by diplomats in troublespots around the world, WikiLeaks and the publication of thousands of embassy cables – situations like these place diplomatic agents and diplomatic law at the very centre of contemporary debate on current affairs. Diplomatic Law in a New Millennium brings together 20 experts to provide insight into some of the most controversial and important matters which characterise modern diplomatic law. They include diplomatic asylum, the treatment (and rights) of domestic staff of diplomatic agents, the inviolability of correspondence and of the diplomatic bag, the immunity to be given to members of the diplomatic family, diplomatic duties (including the duty of non-interference), but also the rise of diplomatic actors which are not sent by States (including members of the EU diplomatic service). Diplomatic Law in a New Milllennium explores these matters in a critical, yet accessible manner, and is therefore an invaluable resource for practitioners, scholars and students with an interest in diplomatic relations. Its individual parts deal with the history of diplomatic law, personal and property immunities, diplomatic obligations and the position of representatives of international organisations, of the EU and of sub-State entities. The authors of the book include some of the leading authorities on diplomatic law (including a delegate to the 1961 conference which codified modern diplomatic law) as well as serving and former members of the diplomatic corps.

Paul Behrens, Diplomatic Interference and the Law, (Hart Publishing, 2016)
Abstract: Diplomatic interference carries considerable potential for disruption. In this context, diplomats have been accused of insulting behaviour, the funding of political parties, incitement to terrorism and even attempts to topple the host government. Reactions can be harsh: expulsions are common and, occasionally, diplomatic relations are severed altogether.But an evaluation under international law faces challenges. Often enough, charges of interference are made when legitimate interests are involved – for instance, when diplomats criticise the human rights record of their hosts. In such cases, diplomats may be able to invoke grounds which are recognised under international law.On the basis of more than 300 cases of alleged diplomatic interference and the practice of about 100 States and territories, Diplomatic Interference and the Law provides an examination of the main areas in which charges of meddling have arisen – such as lobbying activities, contacts with the opposition, propaganda, the use of threats and insults and the granting of asylum. It analyses situations in which the sovereignty of the receiving State meets competing interests and offers solutions which avoid a conflict of norms. It concludes with useful advice for foreign offices and diplomatic agents and underlines the most efficient ways of dealing with situations of alleged interference.

Paul Behrens, Ralph Henham, Elements of Genocide, (Routledge, 2012)
Abstract: Elements of Genocide provides an authoritative evaluation of the current perception of the crime, as it appears in the decisions of judicial authorities, the writings of the foremost academic experts in the field, and in the texts of Commission Reports. Genocide constitutes one of the most significant problems in contemporary international law. Within the last fifteen years, the world has witnessed genocidal conduct in Rwanda and Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the debate on the commission of genocide in Darfur and the DR Congo is ongoing. Within the same period, the prosecution of suspected génocidaires has taken place in international tribunals, internationalised tribunals and domestic courts; and the names of Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic and Saddam Hussein feature among those against whom charges of genocide were brought. Pursuing an interdisciplinary examination of the existing case law on genocide in international and domestic courts, Elements of Genocide comprehensive and accessible reflection on the crime of genocide, and its inherent complexities.

Paul Behrens, Ralph Henham, The Criminal Law of Genocide: International, Comparative and Contextual Aspects, (Ashgate Publishing, 2007)
Abstract: This collection of essays written by experts and authorities in the field presents a contextual view of genocide which allows a consideration of the social and political concepts of the crime and of its historical dimensions as well as its legal treatment. It also suggests alternative justice solutions to the phenomenon of genocide. The book is divided into five parts. The first deals with the historical perspective of genocide. The second consists of case studies examining recent atrocities. The third section examines differences between legal and social concepts of genocide. Part 4 discusses the treatment of genocide in courts and tribunals throughout the world. The final section covers alternatives to trial justice and questions of prevention and sentencing.


Paul Behrens, 'Between abstract event and individualised crime: Genocidal intent in the case of Croatia', (2015), Leiden Journal of International Law, Vol 28, pp 923-935
Abstract: The International Court of Justice's (ICJ) decision in the case of Croatia v. Serbia raises fundamental questions about the nature of genocidal intent. While the Court was careful not to make a clear departure from established case law on the matter, its emphasis on elements such as ‘pattern’ and ‘scale’ – at the expense of the role of individual intent – indicates that the majority on the bench adopted an interpretation which brings the legal concept of genocide closer to an abstract event of mass atrocity than to an act capable of commission even by select individuals. That, however, is an understanding which is not only alien to the traditional interpretation adopted by international criminal tribunals, but also unjustifiable under the established law of state responsibility. This article considers various aspects in the judgment which invite critique in that regard, but also analyses the way in which the ICJ has dealt with the coexistence of intent and certain motives – a crucial aspect of the case which has already been object of some controversy.

Paul Behrens, 'Genocide denial and the law: A critical appraisal', (2014), Buffalo Human Rights Law Review, Vol 21

Paul Behrens, '"None of their business?": Diplomatic involvement in human rights', (2014), Melbourne Journal of International Law, Vol 15, pp 190-227
Abstract: Diplomatic relations today are marked by an increasing (though hardly universal) willingness of diplomatic agents to leave their role as passive observers when faced with human rights violations in the receiving state. International law offers tools which allow their involvement in matters of this kind, including the right to make representations where erga omnes interests are concerned and the right to fulfil the functions of their office. At the same time, diplomats are also subject to legal duties which impose limitations on their conduct, and there is ample evidence that their hosts are keen to insist on their observance. That, however, causes a dilemma for diplomats who encounter human rights abuses, and international law has failed to provide a readily accessible solution to the problem. This article argues that the application of general principles of harmonisation offers a way out of the conflict: a method which recognises the inherent values of the relevant interests, and places them in a relationship in which each has room to survive. In so doing, it is possible to provide guidance for diplomats and foreign ministries in situations where human rights meet interests of the receiving state and to further an understanding of the interrelationship of the norms which permit and restrict diplomatic conduct in this field.

Paul Behrens, 'The Law of Diplomatic Asylum: A Contextual Approach', (2014), Michigan Journal of International Law, Vol 35, pp 101-49

Paul Behrens, 'Diplomatic Interference and Competing Interests in International Law ', (2012), British Yearbook of International Law, Vol 82, pp 178-247
Abstract: Diplomatic agents navigate between Scylla and Charybdis. They are sent abroad to fulfil particular tasks – to create goodwill among the local population, to negotatiate with the goverment of the receiving State; perhaps even to monitor the human rights situation in that State. At the same time, they are expected not to interfere in the receiving State's internal affairs. That is not only a moral obligation: the prohibition on interference is expressly codified in diplomatic law, and receiving States insist on its observance. This coinciding of diverging interests has therefore become a legal concern; and diplomats and States alike look to the law for guidance. But the law has struggled with this point – a clear assessment can be derived neither from the Convention nor from existing case law.This article approaches the problem by analysing and challenging the concept of diplomatic interference. Based on cases from the rich history of diplomatic relations, it explores the interests both of sending and receiving States which have an impact on diplomatic conduct, and examines several possible ways to assess their co-existence. The article identifies the principle of proportionality as a method which appreciates the values of the diverging interests; and it offers practical guidance to States and diplomats alike in situations in which allegations of interference are likely to arise.

Paul Behrens, 'William Schabas, Genocide in International Law: The Crime of Crimes: Cambridge University Press 2009, 2nd edition', (2012), Irish Yearbook of International Law, Vol 4-5, pp 373-81

Paul Behrens, 'Genocide and the Question of Motives ', (2012), Journal of International Criminal Justice, Vol 10, pp 501-23
Abstract: Specific intent is acknowledged as one of the defining characteristics of genocide. Motives on the other hand, are often considered irrelevant for the consideration of the crime. Yet, there is reason to be more discerning. To begin with, the question whether dolus specialis of genocide can itself be considered a motive, has been subject of debate since the drafting of the Genocide Convention. A further significance of motives arises when the view is followed that genocide requires specific underlying motives, such as hatred of the protected group. Then there is the question whether the presence of certain motives might exclude the co-existence of genocidal intent. The author argues that motives have a direct impact on the evaluation of the substantive law of genocide, and that specific motives can occupy so strong a place in the mind of the perpetrator that they may even replace genocidal intent.

Paul Behrens, 'Assessment of International Criminal Evidence: The Case of the Unpredictable Génocidaire', (2011), Zeitschrift für Ausländisches Öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht, Vol 71, pp 662-89

Paul Behrens, 'Gerhard von Glahn and James Larry Taulbee, 'Law Among Nations. An Introduction to Public International Law', Pearson 2007, 8th edition' ', (2007), Nottingham Law Journal, Vol 16, pp 93-97

Paul Behrens, 'The Law of Genocide in the Jurisprudence of ICTY and ICTR in 2004 ', (2005), International Criminal Law Review, Vol 5, pp 431-46


Paul Behrens, 'Holocaust Denial in Iran Ahmadinejad, the 2006 Holocaust conference and international law' in Paul Behrens, Nicholas Terry, Olaf Jensen (ed.) Holocaust and Genocide Denial (Routledge 2017) 158-169
Abstract: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been in office as president of Iran for barely four months, when he made headlines with statements not uncommon in denialist discourse. In December 2005, he was quoted as saying he did not believe that 6 million Jews had died at the hands of the Nazis, 1 and that the killing of the Jews had been a ‘myth’. 2 In the following year, a ‘Holocaust cartoon contest’ took place in Tehran. 3 Then, in December 2006, a conference was hosted in Tehran under the title ‘Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision’. 4 The event, based on an initiative by Ahmadinejad, 5 was attended by 67 participants from 30 countries, including David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, 6 Robert Faurisson, a former French academic who had previously spoken of the ‘myth of the gas chambers’ and had been found guilty in France of denial of crimes against humanity, 7 and Frederick Toben, sentenced by a German court after he had denied that gas chambers for human beings had been in operation in Auschwitz. 8

Paul Behrens, 'Why not the law? Options for dealing with Holocaust and Genocide Denial' in Paul Behrens, Nicholas Terry, Olaf Jensen (ed.) Holocaust and Genocide Denial (Routledge 2017) 230-250

Paul Behrens, 'The Need for a Genocide Law ' in Paul Behrens, Ralph Henham (ed.) Elements of Genocide (Routledge 2012) 237-53

Paul Behrens, 'The mens rea of Genocide ' in Paul Behrens, Ralph Henham (ed.) Elements of Genocide (Routledge 2012) 70-96

Paul Behrens, 'United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Arbitral Award on the Interpretation of the Constitution of ' in Rüdiger Wolfrum (ed.) Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (Oxford University Press 2012)

Paul Behrens, 'Marriages Performed by Diplomatic and Consular Agents ' in Rüdiger Wolfrum (ed.) Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (Oxford University Press 2010)

Paul Behrens, 'Forms of Diplomatic Communications ' in Rüdiger Wolfrum (ed.) Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (Oxford University Press 2009)

Paul Behrens, 'A Moment of Kindness? Consistency and Genocidal Intent' in Ralph Henham, Paul Behrens (ed.) The Criminal Law of Genocide (Ashgate Publishing 2007) 125-40