Journal Article

Bert Röling as a Criminal Law Scholar

Constantijn Kelk

in Journal of International Criminal Justice

Volume 8, issue 4, pages 1093-1108
Published in print September 2010 | ISSN: 1478-1387
Published online August 2010 | e-ISSN: 1478-1395 | DOI:
Bert Röling as a Criminal Law Scholar

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The author surveys the contribution of Bert Röling to Dutch criminal law and to criminal theory. After illustrating the status of Dutch criminal jurisprudence at the time Röling initiated his academic career, he dwells on Röling’s PhD dissertation on ‘Long Term Detention of Habitual Offenders’ as well as his subsequent lecture on ‘the Role of Education in Criminal Law’ and emphasizes their originality. Röling took a functionalist approach to criminal law and criminology. He referred to incarceration as ‘one of the fallacies of the past’ and felt it was time to realize that it was only in very rare cases that any good could be done to people by incarcerating them. The author then highlights Röling’s contribution of 1954–1957 to the notion of ‘functional perpetratorship’, which enables the attribution of criminal responsibility to chief executives on the grounds of their function in the performing of real acts by those who were in charge. Röling developed this concept from the famous Wire case, where the Dutch Court of cassation had convicted in 1954 the owner of an export company because his manager had deliberately filled in erroneous information on forms concerning the export of wire. Röling’s concept was clearly akin to the notion of ‘Tatherrschaft’ subsequently developed in 1963 by C. Roxin and referring to the responsibility of a person who, unlike other participants in the crime such as accessories, wants to be in charge of the criminal act (dominus causae). The author then surveys Röling’s contribution to the Tokyo Tribunal and to the case law of the Dutch Special Court of cassation dealing with war crimes.

Journal Article.  7325 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law ; International Law

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