Unsettled times at The Hague

Genocide Criminal law International law

Three controversial judgements have highlighted the challenges facing the International Criminal Court as it prepares to move to its permanent home

EACH YEAR in springtime, crocuses, daffodils and quintessentially Dutch tulips light up the parks that dot The Hague. For a few weeks, the streets are full of the aroma of in-season strawberries, and in summer the long days stretch into the North Sea as people ride their bikes to the beach and eat hot chips with mayonnaise.

It’s easy to forget that this quiet city on Holland’s west coast is home to the International Criminal Court, or ICC, the world’s first permanent court dealing with cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. It is here that people accused of committing “the most serious crimes of international concern” are held, awaiting judgement.

The ICC is among a recent proliferation of courts and tribunals set up to deal with the results of war and other conflicts. I worked at another of them, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which is also based in The Hague. When it was created in 1993, the tribunal was the first international criminal court that had come into being since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials were held after the Second World War. The standoff between the superpowers had made progress in international criminal justice almost impossible during the Cold War years, so it wasn’t until the early 1990s, and the violence in the former Yugoslavia and then Rwanda, that the United Nations began creating new tribunals…

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Photo: schmidt hammer lassen architects

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