The Hague can be seen as one of the most underrated cities to visit in Europe, particularly for Politics and International Relations students (as you may probably know by now, this is where I am living and studying- so I may be somewhat biased). When visiting the Netherlands, the majority of people tend to prioritise visiting Amsterdam for its culture and tourist attractions. However, only 30 minutes away on the train is The Hague- a hub for global governance. When visiting the city, it becomes apparent as to how it got its nickname ‘the international city of peace and justice’ as everywhere you go there will be an international organisation or institution ranging from EU buildings, to international courts. For those interested in how the post-Second World War liberal institutionalist world came about, today’s post is going to outline the roles of the political institutions which are situated in The Hague, and how you can visit them!
International court of justice– the ICJ was established by the UN in 1945 following the Second World War. Today it is still seen as the central pillar of the UN and continues to be located in the peace palace. Its principal roles are to settle disputes submitted to it by states, and advise on legal questions referred to it by United Nations organs and specialised agencies. It is comprised of 15 independent judges from different nationalities who are elected by the UN General Assembly and Security Council.
International criminal court– The ICC’s role is to act as a court higher than the Supreme Court and tries individuals accused of the most serious crimes. These crimes can be crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. The ICC is in place as a last resort for cases so severe that the national courts of various countries fail to adequately take them on. Its role is to complement national courts and not replace them. Various countries which the court is currently investigating are Sudan, Libya, Kenya, and Cote d’Ivoire. It is also carrying out preliminary examinations as to whether an investigation should be opened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Nigeria and Palestine amongst others.
International criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia– the ICTY is a court which was established by the UN in 1993 as a result of the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990’s. The tribunal has been focused on bringing to justice those accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflict. Various heads of state, prime ministers, police and military officials have been convicted as a result of the tribunal (161 convictions to be exact) suggesting the ICTY has been a success. The former president of Serbia- Slobodan Milosevic responsible for many massacres during the conflict and aptly nicknamed ‘the butcher of the Balkans’ by the international community, was convicted by the ICTY and was in prison in The Hague until he died in 2006. The former President of Republika Srpska- Radovan Karadzic was also convicted by the ICTY in March 2016. He is facing charges of genocide in relation to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the worst single atrocity on European soil since the Second World War, as well as in relation to the siege of Sarajevo. He was sentenced to 40 years for his crimes and continues to be imprisoned in The Hague today.
Organisation for the prohibition of nuclear weapons– This is an entity responsible for the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The CWC is a chemical weapon disarmament treaty established in 1997. Its ultimate aim is to result in complete disarmament of chemical weapons in order for global peace and stability. It plans on achieving this through a transparent regime of destroying current chemical weapons and preventing the re-emergence of them in the future.
The institutions have significantly influenced the post-Second World War and post-Cold War world we see today as the notion of a power higher than the state emphasises that criminals will be brought to justice despite their position of power. The next open day in which the public can visit the institutions is in celebration of World Peace Day on September 25th. During this open day there are tours, talks and Q&A sessions which I will be attending so look forward to hearing about it in a later blog post! So if you happen to be going on holiday to Amsterdam in the future, in between the nights out, the museums and the shopping, why not take a day out of your schedule to visit The Hague and see some of the many political institutions on offer!
For anyone who happens to be in the Netherlands for World Peace day, I have left the link below if you would like to register to visit any of the institutions. If you have any questions please feel free to comment below!