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Royal Honour for two University of Groningen staff

27 April 2012

On Friday 27 April 2012, two people recommended by the University of Groningen were presented with a Royal Honour. Mr J.M.F. Borg was made a Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau, while Professor G. Knigge became a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion.

Dr J.P. Rehwinkel, Mayor of Groningen, presented Prof. G. Knigge with his decoration at 10.15 a.m. in the city hall on the Grote Markt in Groningen. Mr J.M.F. Borg is currently abroad, so his presentation ceremony has been postponed.

Mr J.M.F. Borg

Han Borg (Enschede, 1956) arrived at the University of Groningen in the late 1980s to organize the celebrations for the University’s 375th anniversary. This was the first time that the University had marked an anniversary on such a grand scale. Thanks to his tireless efforts and perseverance, Han Borg conjured up events that would otherwise have been impossible. For example, he organized the legendary History Day, an event held in the city centre for the citizens of Groningen on behalf of the University.

After the opening of the East European borders, Han Borg became coordinator for collaboration with universities in Eastern Europe. He spent the years between 1990 and 2001 doing his utmost to strengthen the ties between the University of Groningen and Eastern-Europe. After initial reservations on both sides, he focused his efforts and considerable communication skills on forging long-term, productive connections that are still intact today. And when disaster struck for the University of Wroclaw (floods), Han Borg swiftly organized large-scale fund-raising activities in Groningen to help the university pick up the pieces. To most people, activities like this go beyond the bounds of a regular working relationship; not to Han Borg. In 1998, his ceaseless efforts earned him the golden medal from the University of Wroclaw.

A broad interest in culture, history, literature and architecture brought Han Borg into contact with various cultural organizations, both in and outside his working life. He was co-founder of literary society Stichting Letter & Stad (since amalgamated with the Stichting Literaire Activiteiten Groningen), which organizes the annual Day of Poetry and Dichters in de Prinsentuin. As a member of the board for the Architecture Day in Groningen, Han Borg was jointly responsible for the National Architecture Day held in Groningen. He has also been secretary of the Groningen Bell-ringers’ Guild and a member of the Dutch Labour Party’s cultural working group, making an active contribution to debate within the Labour Party on the development and function of the Groninger Forum. In addition, he dedicated many years to the Volksuniversiteit Groningen, where alongside an advisory role in the programming, he also gave lectures and courses that confirmed his qualities as a classical historian. He headed excursions to Jewish cemeteries to draw wider attention to this particular piece of our cultural heritage and played an active part in realizing a monument in one particular former Jewish cemetery. Another aspect of his career involved guiding cultural trips to Italy, where he was able to put his wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm for the world of classics to good use.

From 2001 to 2007, Han Borg was head of the Central Student Administration. This was the period in which the student administration was transferred from the legal department to the student affairs department, a task that involved a large-scale move. Borg kept his team alert and motivated throughout this period.

In 2007, Han Borg was made policy advisor and project manager of internationalization. In this job, he was in charge of the strategic partnership between the University of Groningen and the Universities of Uppsala (Sweden), Göttingen (Germany) and Ghent (Belgium). 2011 saw him appointed network manager of HUMANE, the network of the European association of general directors/secretaries of universities, an organization that performs countless training and support activities for a network of more than 200 members throughout Europe. This position enables Han Borg to make full use of his considerable talents in managing relations and internationalization, his creativity in thinking up new avenues for cooperation, and his effortless written and verbal skills.

Han Borg will be made a Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau.

Professor G. Knigge

Geert Knigge (Loosdrecht, 1950), Professor of Criminal law and the law of criminal procedure at the University of Groningen since 1987, will be presented with a Royal Honour in recognition of the part he has played in developing and modernizing Dutch criminal law and the law of criminal procedure. He has always shown deep personal commitment and dedication to his work, and a strong sense of social responsibility. Knigge was not only involved through his role as a professor, but also as leader of the large-scale and prominent research project ‘Strafvordering 2001’ [Prosecution 2001] and as Advocate General of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands.

Geert Knigge made a name for himself as an original thinker with substantial powers of analytical thought early in his academic career. In 1980, before completing his dissertation, he published the original and influential book ‘Beslissen en motiveren’ [Decide and motivate]. In a thesis entitled ‘Verandering van wetgeving’ [Changing legislation], for which he was awarded a PhD with honours in Law in 1984, he again proved himself to be an original and searching lawyer. This unique dissertation soon turned out to be a standard work. Even now, almost thirty years later, it is still the most authoritative publication exploring the legal issue of which law should be applied after legislation has changed; the law as it stood before the amendment or the new, amended law. The dissertation earned Knigge the Modderman Prize, a biennial prize presented to the person defending the best dissertation in the field of criminal law studies at a Dutch university.

Knigge is also a leading light as a professor. His academic publications and annotations to legal rulings play a prominent role in academic debate on the development and modernization of material and formal criminal law. The focus of his work gradually shifted to rulings made in the European Court for Human Rights, and therefore implicitly to the impact of the European Convention  on Human Rights on Dutch criminal law and law of criminal procedure.

In addition to research and teaching duties, he has also fulfilled a number of managerial tasks within the University, including that of Dean in the Faculty of Law.

A particularly significant chapter in Geert Knigge’s career led to the updating of Dutch criminal law and law of criminal procedure. He was one of the two project leaders on the ‘Strafvordering 2001’ project, a project funded by the Ministry of Justice and carried out by the criminal law departments of the University of Groningen and Tilburg University. The aim of this project was to make a thorough review of the Wetboek van Strafvordering [Code of Criminal Procedure], which dates back to the 19th century, and to modify it in line with modern-day insight and requirements, so that it would still be of use in day-to-day legal practice well after the year 2000. A significant number of the findings, insights and proposals resulting from this project were accepted into legislation. Knigge’s broad and profound knowledge of prevailing legislation allowed him to play a unique and defining role, his resolve secured the success of the project, and his inspiring leadership skills combined with his creative and inventive approach helped the group to find new solutions.

On 1 June 2005, Knigge was appointed Advocate General of the highest court of justice in our country; the Supreme Court of the Netherlands. He had been offered the position on several occasions, but had declined in order to complete the ‘Strafvordering 2001’ project.
Knigge has also made his mark as Advocate General, again making an important contribution to the ongoing development of law. His conclusions are excellent, highly praised throughout the academic world and have led to several important changes in the dispensation of justice. His conclusion in the case against Lucia de B., in which he devised a new method for retrials that exposed the shortcomings in the original investigation, deserves a special mention in this respect. His approach ultimately prompted the Supreme Court to order a review of her conviction.

But in both his academic work and his work as Advocate General with the Supreme Court, it is not personal fame and fortune that drive him. It is the case itself that inspires him; he is genuinely interested in how things work, wants to perform to the best of his ability and bring his sense of responsibility for public matters into service.

Alongside his main function, Knigge also contributes to society via various social activities and positions. Not only in national committees in the field of law and as deputy judge in the Groningen District Court and deputy justice in Leeuwarden Court of Appeal, but also in his capacity as a volunteer for various local organizations, such as the scouts, Groningen Ecumenical Student Fellowship and the Groningen students’ association for criminal law and criminology, Simon van der Aa. His willingness to combine jobs at the highest level of society with volunteer and committee work for social initiatives closer to home makes Geert Knigge a very special and unique person.

Geert Knigge will be made a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion.

Note for the press

Information: via the Communication department of the University of Groningen, tel. +31 (0)50-363 4444, e-mail: communicatie

Last modified:13 March 2020 01.51 a.m.
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