Comparing Comparisons Conference – How different legal systems solve similar cases

Executive Committee of the International Academy of Comparative Law meets at Bucerius Law School for a conference with our international students on how and when to teach comparative law

Forschung & Fakultät / Internationales |

On November 11, students of the Bucerius International Exchange Program hosted the first ever Comparing Comparisons Conference. In six separate groups, the participants examined questions concerning international comparative law. They presented different approaches for varying legal systems and discussed similarities and differences in solving those cases. The topics discussed ranged from the issue of a ban on full body veiling to the death penalty and role of the "deal" in different legal systems. The event was moderated by the members of the Executive Committee of the International Academy of International Law.

It began with a comparison of European legislation to prohibit full body veiling. The students compared regulations in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. In 2010, France was the first European country to ban full-veiling in public places. This was followed by the Netherlands and later Belgium. All countries shared a common motivation: fear of a threat to public order and women's rights. However, criticism of the laws also became similar. They were ineffective, unenforceable and led to further marginalization of the persons concerned.

This was followed by a comparison between the implementation of the death penalty in China and Muslim countries. While in China a death penalty can be commuted to a prison sentence after two years of good conduct, in many Islamic countries it is customary to create a direct compensation between the victim’s family and the perpetrator. A perpetrator can be brought before the relatives of the victim, who may then directly decide to pardon them against payment of a compensation. In only a few legal systems can a judge intervene afterwards and impose further penalties.

After a short break, a comparison of court agreements - so called deals – followed, as well as their handling of different legal systems. For instance, the deal in New Zealand is heavily regulated, and in Canada a judge is more involved than in other countries. In the USA, on the other hand, in some states up to 95% of all cases end up in deals. This is due to the nature of the legal system, which is overburdened and depends largely on efficient litigation. The "deal culture" puts US defendants under immense pressure, added Professor Vivian Curran of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in the United States. A deal is often no longer voluntarily reached, but rather the result of threats by the public prosecutor's office to prosecute family members or to prosecute more serious crimes. This often results in innocent people pleading guilty for the purpose of protecting themselves or their families.

Portrayed from left to right:
Alexandre Senegacnik (Sciences Po Law School, France); Prof. Diego Fernández Arroyo (Sciences Po Law School, France); Prof. Joost Blom (The univ of British Columbia Peter A. Allard School of Law, Canada); Prof. Vivian Curran (Univ of Pittsburgh School of Law, USA); Prof. Marilda Rosado de Sá Ribeiro (Univ of Dundee, UK); Katharina Boele-Woelki (Bucerius Law School); Prof. Giuseppe Franco Ferrari (Bocconi University, Italy); Prof. Makane Mbengue /Université de Genéve, Switzerland)