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Professor Michael Bohlander

Chair in Global Law and SETI Policy

Chair in Global Law and SETI Policy in the Durham Law School


Professor Bohlander is the International Co-Investigating Judge in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). After the nomination by the UN Secretary-General and his appointment by the King of Cambodia, he was on leave from Durham University and served as a full-time judge at the court in Phnom Penh from 2015 until 2019. In April 2020 he was re-instated in the post by the UN Secretary-General to deal with unexpected residual litigation. From 2017 until 2022, he was also on the roster of international judges at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague.

He joined Durham University in 2004. He had been a judge on civil and criminal pre-trial, trial and appellate dockets in the courts of the newly established Free State of Thuringia since 1991, after German unification. Apart from his regular civil and serious crime docket, he tried cases involving regime crime, the cassation of convictions by the courts of the former German Democratic Republic, the judicial rehabilitation of persons convicted for political reasons, and the restitution of property confiscated by the regime to the rightful owners. 

He helped train the judges of the Iraqi High Tribunal which tried Saddam Hussein and was active in judicial training and advising a number of governments (Cambodia, Egypt, Georgia, Kosovo, Kurdistan/Iraq, Tunisia).

Professor Bohlander has published over 20 books, more than 160 chapters and articles, and over 60 book reviews. His work has been cited over 85 times by and before courts and authorities across the world. His prior research spanned German law, English and Welsh criminal law, comparative and international criminal law, the judiciary and the legal profession, and Islamic law.

His current main focus is on the relationship between the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and human law in the wider sense, including issues such as the implications of the possibility of hostile first contact for the human laws of armed conflict, or the question of which global values humanity would be willing to trade for access to advanced technology from an extraterrestrial civilisation or an interstellar civilisation network. His 2023 monograph "Contact with Extraterrestrial Intelligence and Human Law - The applicability of rules of war and human rights" has already received  a broad positive response in popular science and academic environments (see here, here, here, here, and here).  He was invited to speak about SETI and International Law at the National University of Singapore in March 2024, and his book was discussed by Professor Steve Fuller and Dr Michael Uhall at the April 2024 Colloquium of the Society of UAP Studies. He also has an interest in the evaluation of evidence about encounters with Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP) in a forensic context. He is a member of the Board of Advisors of the Society for UAP Studies, and the convenor of the new three-year working group "SETI and Law" under the auspices of the International Institute of Space Law.

He has spoken at numerous conferences, seminars and training events in the UK and abroad. From 2010 until 2014, he held the Visiting Chair in Criminal Law at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in the Netherlands. In 2012, he was the first non-Muslim visiting scholar ever to teach at the Faculty of Law of Al-Azhar University in Cairo. 

Supervision requests: PGR students/visiting PhD students/visiting scholars

Professor Bohlander welcomes enquiries about supervision in the areas of his research interest (see below). 

Applicants should familiarise themselves with those and with the relevant programme requirements before contacting him for potential supervision:

PGR and visiting PhD student applications

Visiting scholar applications

A detailed exposé addressing all criteria described on the relevant webpage above and the match with his research areas must be submitted with the initial enquiry. 

For administrative support on navigating the proper application pathway please contact

Judicial ethics notice

Due to his ongoing judicial status at the ECCC, Professor Bohlander is not available for media comments about developments related to international criminal justice.

Research interests

  • Legal aspects of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)
  • International and comparative criminal law - Theory, practice, political and socio-legal implications


Authored book

Book review

Chapter in book

Conference Paper

Edited book

Journal Article


Other (Print)


Scholarly Edition

Supervision students