The new law faculty accommodation at the Oude Boteringestraat will be called the Röling Building, named after jurist Bert Röling, who died in 1985.
Bernard (Bert) Röling already occupies a place of honour at the university: his son, Matthijs Röling painted him into the mural in the Academy building’s auditorium. ‘He’s somewhere in the bottom right corner’, says law dean Wilbert Kolkman. Matthijs also painted the portrait that hangs in the senate room.
But the fact that Röling had so many artistic family members (his brother Gé and his niece Marte Röling are also artists) barely played a role in the decision to name the building after him, says Kolkman. ‘He was mainly influential in the field of international law.’
After the Second World War, Röling (b. 1906) served as a judge for the Tokyo Tribunal, which tried Japanese war criminals. Interestingly, he didn’t always agree with his fellow judges, says Kolkman.
‘Nevertheless, he was just as strict as them. He just had different reasons.’ He wasn’t impressed by the argument that Japan wanted to subjugate other countries. According to him, that wasn’t necessarily criminal.
Röling’s part in the tribunal was beautifully portrayed in the Netflix miniseries The Tokyo Trial, with Marcel Hensema playing the jurist.
After Tokyo, Röling became a professor in Groningen, fighting for peace and against the arms race. He founded the Polemological Institute to study the causes of war and how peace is achieved.
He often made media appearances, in part because he was involved in national politics for the Dutch Labour Party. Röling retired from the UG in 1979. He died in 1985.
The new law building isn’t finished yet; if all goes according to plan, it will open in the summer of 2023.