The Hague rarely comes up in the news, but stories like former Liberian President Charles Taylor’s war crimes trials remind us about The Hague.
The story is complicated and raised more questions about The Hague for the average reader.
How did Taylor come to be tried in The Hague? What exactly is The Hague? Why is The Hague the center of so many international law organizations?
The Hague: Political Center of the Netherlands
The Hague is the third largest city in the Netherlands and a major political center. After the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815, the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, comprised of modern-day Belgium and the Netherlands, alternated capital cities between The Hague and Brussels.
After Belgium separated from the Netherlands in 1830, the government remained in The Hague while Amsterdam was declared the official capital city according to the Dutch constitution.
Today, The Hague is still the Netherlands’ main center of government. It is the home to the States-General of the Netherlands (the parliament) as well as the Supreme Court and all foreign embassies. Even Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands lives and works in The Hague.
The International City of Peace & Justice
The Hague isn’t just the home to local political organizations. More than 150 international law organizations are located in the city, including the International Criminal Court, where Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial was held.
The International Criminal Court was founded July 1, 2002, for the explicit purpose of prosecuting any international war crimes that were committed during or after that date. However, while Charles Taylor’s trial was mainly held in an ICC court room, he was tried by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
The Hague’s city council aims to make The Hague known worldwide as “the legal capital of the world” as well as “the international city of peace and justice.” This foundation was started over a century ago, when the world’s first Peace Conference was held in The Hague in 1899.
The Peace Conference led to the development of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is the oldest institution for international law dispute resolution.
Since then, international efforts to regulate the conduct of conflict and other international law disputes have resulted in the establishment of several Hague Conventions. Hundreds of countries around the world are party to some — in many cases not all — of the Hague Conventions.
Other notable international law organizations located in The Hague developed in the more than 100 years since the first Peace Conference include:
- The International Court of Justice
- The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
- The European Police Office (Europol)
- The European Library
- The Hague Academy of International Law
- The Hague Conference on Private International Law
- The Hague Service Convention
- The NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency
- The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
- The Iran-United States Claims Tribunal
- The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
With all of these international law organizations calling The Hague home, it is safe to say The Hague really is the international city of peace and justice.