Address

Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law

Dr. Julia Kasselt

Günterstalstr. 73

79100 Freiburg i.Br. / Germany

Links

Dr. Julia Kasselt

Dr. Julia Kasselt

Dr. Julia Kasselt

Main Focus

Lethal violence, sentencing, theories of crime

Doctoral Dissertation Project (concluded in February 2014)

The Judicial Interpretation of Honour Killings in Germany

Supervisors: H.-J. Albrecht / D. Oberwittler / W. Perron

Conferring University: University of Freiburg

In recent years, so-called ‘honour killings’ have received increased attention and sparked controversial public debates in Germany and numerous other countries, including Great Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, and Sweden. One of the points at issue concerns how criminal courts should react to the phenomenon of honour killings. Especially in the U.S., Great Britain, Canada and other common law countries, there has been a debate on the use of a ‘cultural defence’ to diminish or exclude criminal liability in cases of honour killings, as well as in other cases which potentially result from the cultural background of the offender (e.g., female genital mutilation). A similar discussion occurred in Germany during the 1980s and has once again been rekindled in recent years.


Despite the rise in public attention, only a few academic publications have thus far focused on the issue of criminal punishment of honour killings in Germany. These studies have approached the topic from a theoretical perspective, mostly including a discussion of the case-law of the Federal Supreme Court of Germany (Bundesgerichtshof or BGH) on honour killings. Pursuant to the current judiciary of the BGH, the cultural setting of the perpetrator can only lead to a more lenient sentence under exceptional circumstances, especially if the perpetrator was unable to disengage from his cultural ties. Generally, the offender is to be convicted of murder for base motives, which implies imprisonment for life. As the judges of the BGH did not however elaborate on the specific premises of the exceptional circumstances, their reasoning leaves a notable margin for interpretation in the German regional courts, which have jurisdiction in the first instance over indictable offences, including murder and manslaughter.

Due to this fact, and because the decisions of the BGH are not binding on lower courts, the question arises as to how the judges of the regional courts should handle these cases, whether they decide to convict the offenders of murder or manslaughter, and whether they consider the cultural background of the offender a mitigating or rather an aggravating circumstance. To date, no empirical research on the rulings of the German regional courts regarding the punishment of honour killings has been done. The PhD project intends to close this research gap and, therefore, aims to determine how the German regional courts deal with the differing moral concepts and values of the offenders and, furthermore, ascertain which factors are relevant for the process of decision-making and sentencing in honour killing cases. To this end, an extensive quantitative and qualitative analysis of the regional courts' judgments on honour-related cases of intentional homicide (including attempts) in the period between 1996 and 2005 has been conducted.

A second research aim of the project is to examine whether the sentencing of German regional courts in honour-related homicides differs from the sentencing in other cases of intentional homicide. A sample of intimate partner killings occurring in the same timeframe is currently being analysed; subsequently, comparisons between both samples will be drawn.

Publications

(selection)

Kasselt, Julia/Oberwittler, Dietrich: Die richterliche Bewertung von Ehrenmorden in Deutschland. Eine empirische Analyse der Sanktionspraxis im Zeitraum 1996 bis 2005. In: Monatsschrift für Kriminologie und Strafrechtsreform, 2014, 97/3, S. 203-223.

Oberwittler, Dietrich / Kasselt, Julia: 'Honor' Killings. In: Gartner, Rosemary / McCarthy, Bill (ed(s).): The Oxford Handbook on Gender, Sex, and Crime. Oxford, Oxford University Press 2014
, p. 652-670.

Oberwittler, Dietrich / Kasselt, Julia: Ehrenmorde in Deutschland. Verbrechen gegen das Selbstbestimmungsrecht junger Migrantinnen. In: Unsere Jugend, 2012, Volume 4, p. 166 - 175.


Oberwittler, Dietrich / Kasselt, Julia: Ehrenmorde in Deutschland. 1996-2005. Eine Untersuchung auf der Basis von Prozessakten. Köln, Wolters Kluwer, Deutschland, 2011.

Lectures

11.06.2012
Honour killings in Germany. Findings from a  Systematic Empirical Study Poster presentation at the Stockholm Criminology Symposium Location: Stockholm, Sweden

06.06.2012
Ehrenmorde in Deutschland: Ergebnisse einer empirischen Studie auf der Basis von Prozessakten Presentation at the Fourth Criminological Summer Course Pécs Location: University of Pécs, Hungary

01.05.2012
Ehrenmorde im Spiegel der deutschen Justiz Presentation at the Meeting of the Advisory Board of the Max-Planck-Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law Location: Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law, Freiburg

01.02.2012
The Criminal Punishment of Honour Killings in Germany Presentation at the IMPRS REMEP Evaluation Location: Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law

15.03.2011
Ehrenmorde in Deutschland. Eine systematische Untersuchung ehrbezogener Tötungsdelikte in Familien und Partnerschaften zwischen 1996 und 2005 Brown bag seminar at the Max-Planck-Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law (with PD Dr. Dietrich Oberwittler) Location: MPI Freiburg

04.03.2011
Ehre im Spiegel der Justiz Presentation at the doctoral students' seminar of the Berner Graduiertenschule für Strafrechtswissenschaft Location: Lenk (Switzerland)

20.02.2011
‘Cultural discount’ or ‘zero tolerance’? The judicial response to the phenomenon of ‘honour’ in Germany Presentation at the IMPRS REMEP Winter University 2011 Location: MPI for Social Anthropology, Halle

15.12.2010
Ehrenmorde: Eine Frage der Ehre (?) Presentation at the REMEP lecture series "Gewalt und Ordung - On Violence and Order" Location: University of Freiburg

18.11.2010
Honor Killings: distinct type or just another facet of domestic violence? An empirical analysis based on a nation-wide sample from Germany, 1996-2005 Presentation at the Annual Conference of the American Society of Criminology (with PD Dr. Dietrich Oberwittler) Location: San Francisco

02.06.2010
"Ehrenmorde" - Auch ein deutsches Problem (?) Presentation at a police meeting on profiling Location: Police Academy Freiburg

15.02.2010
The judicial interpretation of ‘honour killings' in Germany Presentation at the IMPRS REMEP Winter University 2010 Location: Husseren-les-Chateaux, Alsace (France)

10.09.2009
Honour Killings in Germany, 1996-2005:A national study based on prosecution files Presentation at the 9th Annual Conference of the European Society of Criminology Location: Ljubljana, Slovenia

09.12.2008
Ehrenmorde in Deutschland. Theoretische Grundlagen und empirische Einblicke Brown bag seminar at the Max-Planck-Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law Location: MPI Freiburg



Curriculum Vitae

August 2013 - December 2013
Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Freiburg i.Br., Germany, Department of Criminology

May 2009 – July 2013
PhD Candidate of the International Max Planck Research School on Retaliation, Mediation and Punishment (IMPRS REMEP) at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Freiburg i.Br., Germany

May 2008 – March 2011
Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Freiburg i.Br., Germany, Department of Criminology, Research Project: Honour Killings in Germany, 1996-2005

October 2006 – March 2009
Master's Degree Programme in International Criminology (M.A.), University of Hamburg, Germany
Thesis: Honour Killings in Germany. Theoretical Foundations and Empirical Insights.

June 2006 – September 2006
Internship at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Freiburg i.Br., Germany, Department of Criminology, Research Project: The European Homicide-Suicide Study

October 2000 – March 2006
Law Studies, Humboldt-University, Berlin, Germany
First State Examination (1. jur. Staatsexamen)

 
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