23 February 2017

Professor Mikael Rask Madsen receives Elite Research Prize for ground-breaking research into international law


Law professor Mikael Rask Madsen receives the Elite Research Prize for his ground-breaking research into international courts and the globalisation of law. His research has notably demonstrated how international courts' impact and authority is continuously affected by courts’ context and behaviour.

New view on legal authority

Mikael Rask MadsenOn 23 February, Professor Mikael Rask Madsen from the Faculty of Law will be presented with the Elite Research Prize by HRH Crown Princess Mary and Minister for Higher Education and Science Søren Pind. The prize is awarded, among other things, for his highly original and systematic exploration of international courts, where he has challenged the dominant theories on the courts' legitimacy. His research shows that international courts' authority and legitimacy is not static, but that the courts can legitimise themselves with the aid of various legal and diplomatic means.

"Courts - like the law in general - are social constructions whose authority is created through the interaction between complex legal judgments and the acceptance of these in the different layers of society - from the legal system via the political level to civil society," says Mikael Rask Madsen. "While this acceptance is taken for granted in well-functioning democracies, it is anything but a given when we move away from Europe and, for example, study international courts in Africa, Latin America or the Caribbean. Here, international courts not only contribute to developing common international legal regimes - they very often also contribute to the recreation of national legal institutions in a modern rule of law framework. This gives international law a key role in these societies".

A good research environment is crucial

Mikael Rask Madsen has throughout his career worked with international and European law, but always by using interdisciplinary and particularly legal sociological methods and theory. In 2010, he was appointed professor of European law and integration at the Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen. In 2012, he spearheaded the establishment of Denmark's first legal basic research centre: iCourts - the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre of Excellence for International Courts.

Mikael Rask Madsen has since the establishment of iCourts directed the centre, which today is a global leader within its area of research. iCourts houses 30 researchers from five continents, all studying different international courts  and using very different methodological approaches, from traditional legal methodology to the use of big data in the analysis of legal evolution.

"iCourts’ success is a product of an extremely dynamic and creative working environment, combined with high research ambitions. And a basic idea that academic breakthroughs are achieved in the intersection between disciplines and in the interplay between junior and senior researchers," says Mikael Rask Madsen.

With the Elite Research Prize comes DKK 1.2 million. DKK 200,000 are a personal merit prize and 1,000,000 are for research activities.