December 19, 2011

In Memorium Günter Heine

Filed under: INECE Secretariat — inece @ 2:25 pm

We sadly report that a great academic who did some pioneering work in the domain of environmental compliance and enforcement passed away on 25 June 2011 at the age of 59.  Prof. Dr. Günter Heine was one of the icons of environmental compliance and enforcement; he managed in the 1980s and 90s a major comparative project on the question whether the environment should be protected through the criminal law within the framework of the Max-Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Freiburg-im-Breisgau (Germany).

Günter Heine had an impressive academic career. He studied both law and political and social sciences at the University of Tübingen and graduated in both disciplines. He was assistant to prof. Dr. Albin Eser when he taught at the University of Tübingen and later followed prof. Eser when the latter became director of the Max Planck Institute for Criminal Law in Freiburg. From 1982 until 1994, he worked at this Max Planck Institute where he was coordinator of the prestigious project on environmental criminal law. This was a pioneering study since at that moment the question whether the criminal law should be used to protect the environment was hardly studied at all. Many scholars worked with him at the Max Planck Institute, were inspired by his thoughts and later also became leading experts in their own country, pursuing the idea that the criminal law has a task in protecting the environment.

Günter Heine wrote a doctoral dissertation which he defended in 1987 on “Tötung aus niedrigen Beweggründen” and was awarded the degree summa cum laude. In 1994, he defended his habilitation at the University of Basel on the Strafrechtliche Verantwortlichkeit von Unternehmen (criminal liability of enterprises).

He has an impressive list of publications both in German and in many other languages as well in which he defended his idea that different types of criminal provisions are needed to protect the environment depending on the protected interests and the way in which they are endangered or infringed. He participated inter alia in a conference of the Association Internationale de Droit Pénal in 1992 where he reported on environmental criminal law in Germany and was expert to the council of Europe in the preparation of the convention on the protection of the environment through criminal law.

In his own country, he became the leading expert in environmental criminal law when he drafted an expert report in 1988 for the Deutschen Juristentag (German law association) on the question whether environmental criminal law needed to be changed, especially taking into account its relationship to administrative law. He published inter alia a volume on environmental criminal law in the European Union which contained a documentation of the main provisions and introductions to environmental criminal law in many Member States. In addition, he executed a project for the IMPEL network which provided an inventory of criminal enforcement of environmental law in the European Union. Many of his publications address the way in which the criminal law was used to protect the environment in various legal systems and he published in prestigious journals like the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum (1992, 106-121).

Through his leading work at the Max Planck Institute, he had a large network since he had been a source of inspiration to many scholars interested in environmental criminal law. He published jointly with many of his colleagues and friends and participated in conferences in the US, China and Latin America.

After his time at the Max Planck Institute in Freiburg, he was a professor of criminal law in Giesen, Dresden and finally in Bern, where he also became the dean of the law school. He was still professor of criminal law when he passed away.

It would take too long to discuss the many publications of Günter Heine; he had in his whole career more than 200 publications! An overview is available here.  It suffices to state that for the German speaking world, he was the primus inter paris in environmental criminal law. Significant is e.g. the fact that he was the author of the comments on the articles in the leading commentary on criminal law in Germany of Schönke/Schröder, but his reputation reached far beyond the German-Swiss borders. To many scholars, he was a true example of scientific integrity and scholarship: being always very precise and accurate in the formulations and never only looking at theory or dogmatics for the sake of improving theory, but always interested in how the criminal law could contribute to solving social problems and more particularly environmental protection. In addition to being such an outstanding scholar, Günter Heine was one of those exceptional persons whom one rarely meets in a lifetime: combining high intelligence with a great sense of humour, always joking and making fun about many situations, himself included.

To many working in the field of environmental criminal law, Günter Heine therefore not only became a great inspirer due to his academic work, but a true and loyal friend as well. The environmental compliance and enforcement community lost a great man whose work will still live on for the years to come. We wish his wife Iris and the three daughters he leaves behind lots of strength in this difficult period.

Antonio Benjamin and Michael Faure


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