Skip to main content

Transnational Security Law

Final Report Summary - TRANSSEC (Transnational Security Law)

In the course of globalization transnational security threats have diversified, gone global and in some instances reached macro-economic proportions, undermining governance and development in conflict-ridden areas and threatening global security. As a result, in recent years various transnational organized crime phenomena have become recognized as newly emerging security threats that require international responses. Apart from large-scale counter-terrorism operations across the globe, counter-drug operations in Afghanistan, EU Operation Atalanta and the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Aden as well as the confiscation of small arms in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are all exemplary of this trend. In addition, cyber space has opened up an entirely new domain where criminal and other disruptive activities are on the increase and where law enforcement is facing new challenges. In 2012, the United Nations Security Council, for the first time in its history, qualified traditional organized crime phenomena such as piracy, drug- and weapons-trafficking as "serious threat to international peace and stability", thereby paving the way for future transnational law enforcement operations on the basis of the UN-Charter. This has led to a growing number of transnational law enforcement operations and policing activities more general. Yet in spite of a rapidly growing corpus of international (state) practice, such forms of global policing remain poorly understood and insufficiently regulated; often to the detriment of affected communities and the long-term success of sustainable crime/threat reduction. Indeed, global policing and transnational law enforcement operations are in many ways still a novelty from the perspective of public international law.

Against this backdrop, the research project aimed to assess how the international legal framework is adapting to a changing reality and to develop and sketch out the contours of the newly emerging discipline of "Transnational Security Law", i.e. the principles and body of rules applicable to transnational threat management, cross-border policing and transnational law enforcement operations.

During the reporting period 2014-2015, the different legal bases from which enforcement powers and relevant legal constraints for transnational law enforcement operations are derived were explored. The research results acquired were published in two peer-reviewed book chapters and presented at various international conferences such as the annual meeting of the American Society of International Law in Washington (2014, 2015), the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at the Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri (2015) and the Institute for Human Rights, China University of Political Science and Law, Beijing (2015). Preliminary findings and assumptions underlying the project were further discussed and tested at an international experts workshop in 2014 the outcomes of which will be published in a co-edited volume to be published by Oxford University Press (forthcoming 2018/19, under contract with OUP).

As expected it became evident during the reporting period that the international legal security architecture is patchy and amorphous. In international law discourse basic concepts such as the notion of (global / transnational) security itself are incompletely understood and under-researched. In order to grasp the various aspects and facets of international law and how it pertains to global and transnational security in the reporting period 2016-2017 the project initiated the Oxford Handbook on the International Law of Global Security (forthcoming 2019/2020, under contract with OUP). This co-edited, multi-author volume (app. 1000 pages) involves high-level practitioners as well as leading scholars from different backgrounds and for the first time considers the relationship between international law and global/transnational security in all its various facets. The Handbook is well underway and will be published in 2019/2020. It is expected to make a major and indeed foundational contribution to contemporary debate about the role of international law in the regulation of global and transnational security issues.

Overarching principles and conceptual guidance for transnational law enforcement operations are currently lacking but urgently needed in practice as has been confirmed in various background talks with relevant stakeholders that have been held throughout the life span of the project. During the second period 2016-2017, on the basis of the research carried out in the first reporting period, the research project continued to deduce a set of general legal principles governing transnational security and thereby to make a significant and indeed foundational contribution to the newly emerging discipline of "Transnational Security Law".

To this end a second expert workshop devoted to cross-border surveillance, intelligence sharing and transnational data protection, organized in cooperation with the Strauss Centre for International Security and Law at the University of Austin, Texas and the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, took place on 10 June 2016. The workshop brought together data protection specialists, human rights experts and members of parliament with high-ranking officials from the intelligence sector (NSA).

A third expert workshop on "transnational organized crime", organized in cooperation with the Center for International Peace Operations and the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, took place on 7 December 2016. The workshop brought together leading experts in the field and took stock of recent trends in the fight against transnational organized crime and networked responses.

Further dissemination activities included a presentation at the bi-annual conference of the International Law Association (ILA) in Johannesburg, South Africa in August 2016; the moderation of a panel at a conference organized by NATO In Kiew, Ukraine in September 2016; an expert hearing at the Council of Europe in Paris, France on the issue of hybrid threats (November 2017); a presentation on transnational cyber security threats at an event jointly organized by the Max Planck Institute for Public International Law and the Federal Foreign Office (November 2017).

Various presentations as well as background talks with relevant stakeholders throughout the life span of the project have shown that the project's research outcomes are of interest not only to academics but also to practitioners working on a wide range of global and transnational security issues.

Information regarding the research project can be found at: