Honorary Doctorate Awarded to Dirk van Zyl Smit

photo: Hans-Werner Hausmann
photo: Hans-Werner Hausmann
photo: Hans-Werner Hausmann
photo: Hans-Werner Hausmann

Dean’s Office of the Faculty of Law and Economics
Ernst-Lohmeyer-Platz 1, 17489 Greifswald
Tel.: +49 3834 420 2001


The University of Greifswald’s Faculty of Law and Economics awarded an honorary doctorate to Dirk van Zyl Smit, Professor at the University of Nottingham, on 21 November 2008. 

The University of Greifswald’s Faculty of Law and Economics nominated Prof. Dr. Dirk van Zyl Smit for an honorary doctorate because, as an outstanding academic in his field, he has made an exceptional contribution to the faculty. Since 1993, he has regularly given guest lectures and taught classes, in recent years mainly as part of the master's degree course or specialisation programme "Criminology and Criminal Justice". He has been involved in international comparative projects of the Chair of Criminology and has thus contributed to making Greifswald an internationally recognised centre of criminological and prison research. In the future, professor van Zyl Smit will continue to give lectures to students in Greifswald at least once a year. The academic is considered an exceptional expert on international and European penal law. His work on the important question of where and under which law the prison sentences imposed in war crimes tribunals are to be executed is particularly noteworthy.



Prof. Dr. jur. Dirk van Zyl Smit was born in South Africa in 1949. After his studies and graduation, he gained practical experience in the 1970s both as a lawyer and as a lecturer at the Faculty of Law, in the field of criminology. After gaining a postgraduate diploma in criminology from the University of Edinburgh/Scotland (1974/75), he was appointed Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 1977. In 1981, he obtained his doctorate in Edinburgh with a thesis on British patent law.

In early 1982, he was appointed Associate Professor at Witwatersrand, and in mid-1982 he was appointed Professor of Criminology and Director of the Department of Criminology in Cape Town. Under his leadership, the department became a nucleus of democratic resistance in the struggle against the repressive criminal policy of the apartheid government in the 1980s. He was appointed by the Mandela government after the change of power as chairman of the legislative commission for a new South African penal act. The law he drafted (Correctional Services Act) came into force in 1998. He lectured at the University of Nottingham/England as of 2001. He was a visiting professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin and has given numerous lectures and seminars in Greifswald.

Prof. Dr. jur. Dirk van Zyl Smit has been integral in the development of international human rights standards for the United Nations and for the Council of Europe and was, for example, one of three experts who drafted the European Prison Rules adopted in 2006 and the "European Rules for Juveniles Subject to Sanctions and Measures" adopted in June 2008.