Prof Jan L Neels is Distinguished Professor of International Commercial Law at the University of Johannesburg and the course coordinator of the LLM in International Commercial Law. He specialises in the field of (Commercial) Private International Law. He studied at the Rand Afrikaans University, where he obtained the BCom, LLB and LLM degrees cum laude. He was awarded the Faculty of Law medal for the best LLB student and the Chancellor’s medal for the best LLM student. In 1998, he obtained the degree Doctor Juris at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, with a dissertation on the doctrine of abuse of rights in private law. His inaugural lecture, delivered on 15 August 2001, was entitled Substantive Justice, Redistribution and the Principle of Preferential Treatment in International Family Law.
Professor Neels is an NRF-rated researcher, with more than 50 publications to his name, primarily in the field of Private International Law. He has published in the European Banking and Financial Law Journal (Belgium), the International and Comparative Law Quarterly (United Kingdom), the Journal of Private International Law (United Kingdom), the Yearbook of Private International Law (Germany/Switzerland) and in various South African law journals. In addition, Professor Neels has contributed to books published in Germany, the Netherlands, Paraguay, South Africa, Switzerland and Turkey. Eight of his articles have been cited by the South African High Courts, of which five citations were by the Supreme Court of Appeal. Another three High Court decisions refer to a co-authored text book.
Prof Neels has delivered papers at various national and international conferences in South Africa and at the University of Amsterdam (the Netherlands), the University of Antwerp (Belgium), the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada), the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), the University of Coimbra (Portugal), the Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley (Abbotsford, Canada), the University of Innsbruck (Austria), the University of Namibia, Paul Cézanne University (Aix-Marseille III) (Aix-en-Provence, France), Thompson Rivers University (Kamloops, Canada), Tilburg University (the Netherlands), Yeditepe University (Istanbul, Turkey) and the University of Zaragoza (Spain). He was a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia from September to November 2010. Prof Neels was invited to present a series of five lectures on cultural diversity, social justice and constitutional values in the conflict of laws at the Hague Academy of International Law in the Netherlands during August 2011.
Professor Neels has submitted various reports to the South African Law Reform Commission. His commentary on the Islamic Marriages Draft Bill (2002) led to the inclusion of a provision on the recognition of foreign Muslim marriages in the Muslim Marriages Draft Bill (2003). His commentary on the Muslim Marriages Draft Bill (2010) deals with both its private-international and constitutional aspects. Furthermore, he was invited to provide commentary to the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development on Discussion Paper 130 of the South African Law Reform Commission. Proposals were made during 2013 for the amendment of family law legislation as to increasingly make provision for the recognition of religious marriages on the basis of constitutional values, including freedom of religion, equality between the sexes, the dignity of women and the best interests of the child.
Prof Neels also submitted a report to the European Commission, which was taken into account in the revision of the Rome Convention on the Law Applicable to Contractual Obligations (1980), leading to the promulgation of the Rome I Regulation on the Law Applicable to Contractual Obligations (2008). He was co-author of the national report on transnational litigation for the International Association of Procedural Law (1995) and author of the national report on private international law and consumer protection for the International Academy of Comparative Law (2010).
Professor Neels is the Director of the Research Centre for Private International Law in Emerging Countries at the University of Johannesburg. The Research Centre has formal agreements in place with the Hague Conference on Private International Law and UNIDROIT in Rome. The Centre arranged numerous national and international seminars, workshops and conferences. Contact was made with the African Union in the context of drafting various model laws for use by member states, provisionally called the African Principles of Commercial Private International Law. The Centre also runs a project for the indexation of local and foreign e-reported decisions in the field of Private International Law.
Professor Neels was an editor for the Journal of South African Law from 1991 to 2008 and is now co-editor: South Africa for www.conflictoflaws.net (associated with the Journal of Private International Law, based at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom). He has been admitted as a member of the Interdisciplinary Association of Comparative and Private International Law, based at the University of Vienna in Austria.
Professor Neels was the HOD for Private Law from 2007–2014, with minor interruptions and, until the end of 2014, the Faculty Representative for External Affairs, in which capacity he concluded cooperation agreements with Strathmore University (Nairobi, Kenya), the Universidade Agostinho Neto (Luanda, Angola), the University of Malawi and Zanzibar University (Tanzania) (in Africa); Beijing Normal University (China), the National Law University, Delhi (India), the National Law University, Jodhpur (India) and Yeditepe University (Istanbul, Turkey) (in Asia); and Reykjavík University (Iceland). The agreements with the University of Antwerp (Belgium) and the University of Augsburg (Germany) were renewed during this period. Agreements were also concluded with the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) (the Netherlands) and UNIDROIT (the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law) (Rome, Italy).
Professor Neels was a member of the Working Group on Choice of Law in International Contracts drafting the Hague Principles on Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts under the auspices of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. He represented South Africa at the Special Commission on Choice of Law in International Contracts in November 2012 (he was a member of its drafting committee) and contributed to the official guide of the Hague Conference on the Hague Principles. The Principles entered into force on 19 March 2015 and were endorsed by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law on 8 July 2015.
Professor Neels was chosen as a member of the Governing Council of UNIDROIT (the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law) in Rome for the period of 2014–2018.
BCom LLB LLM (RAU) Dr Jur (Leyden)
Research Centre for Private International Law in Africa