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Royal Honour for Geert Knigge

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.

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:18 February 2020 08.49 a.m.
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