International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International judicial Academy of the International Law Institute, Washington, D.C.
with circulation assistance from the American Society of International Law

Summer 2017 Issue

Judicial Tourism


The Hague: Growing to Become the International Law Center of the World

Dr. James G. Apple

By: James G. Apple, Editor-in-Chief, International Judicial Monitor

The Hague is not a prominent destination for tourists and travelers outside of the European Union. It has a robust tourist industry, but statistics show that most of the visitors come from Belgium, Germany and France. The city is almost unknown among most Americans. When the International Judicial Academy was conducting a seminar in The Hague on international law and courts several years ago, one of the attending judges, from Louisiana, told me that when she first learned of the seminar, she thought The Hague was a small village in The Netherlands. When surrounding suburbs are included, The Hague has a population of over one million persons.

The judicial traveler would have a particular interest in visiting The Hague. Beginning with the first peace conference in 1899, the city has grown to become what citizens there now call “the international law center of the world,” with some justification – there are 150 international organizations located there.

There are actually three parts to the city – one old, one new and one seaside tourist haven. The old city contains the Houses of Parliament, one particularly famous and historic hotel, and a charming shopping area with intermittent small hotels, and delightful restaurants. One author described The Hague before World War II thusly: “Known for its leafy parks and wide boulevards, The Hague was a quiet, elegant, cultured city a few miles for the Dutch coast and the North Sea.” The Hague suffered significant damage from bombing during World War II, but there is enough left of the old city for the visitor to get an idea of life in early 20th century times and before.

One of the first stops for the judicial visitor should be the Peace Palace, which is a short distance from the center of the old city. In addition to be an elegant building in it own right, with a very large significance for international law, it has some relevance for an American judge -  it was built with money supplied by Andrew Carnegie, 19th century industrialist (founder of Carnegie Steel Corporation).

The Peace Palace houses the first international tribunal for the peaceful settlement of disputes among nations, the Permanent Court of Arbitration. More importantly for international law, it is the home of the International Court of Justice, created by the United Nations Charter after World War II. The Peace Palace can be toured by visitors, but arrangements should be made before the visit. It should definitely be included on the itinerary of judicial and court officers visiting The Netherlands.


The judicial visitor will also want to visit the new building housing the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, which moved from its old quarters in the old part of the city to one of its newer sections. Designed by Kaan Architecten, this ultra modern building mixes marble, glass and wood to create a visual wonder. It opened April 23, 2016.

Other international institutions that may be toured by visitors are the new quarters of the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, each of which is located in a different part of The Hague. In two of these institutions, the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, visitors can observe proceedings and hear the testimony of witnesses through modern real time interpreting of testimony in different languages.

There are other sites to visit in the old town. The residence of the Dutch monarch can be viewed from one of the main thoroughfares. There are several museums, the most significant of which is the Mauritshuis, housing works of Vermeer and Rembrandt and other Dutch masters It is located adjacent to the Bennenhof, which is the cultural center of The Hague and contains the beautiful brick buildings housing the Parliament and other government institutions. Other museums and cultural attractions can be found in a tourist directory of the city.

One nearby hotel worth visiting and having lunch or dinner there is the Des Indes Hotel, which used to be the center of diplomatic interplay and intrigue. It is located near the former location of the United States Embassy in a tree lined park across a major thoroughfare from the Bennenhof.

Two other nearby places to visit, which have many cultural offerings, are Delft, a nearby small city founded in the 13th century. Delft is associated with two famous figures of history, the jurist Hugo Grotius, known as the “father of international law,” and Johannes Vermeer, the internationally known 17th century Dutch painter. It is easily reached by tram or train from The Hague. In addition the two largest cities of the Netherlands, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, are also close by and available by train from The Hague.

The Netherlands offers the judicial tourist many sites that are worth visiting because of their connection with law, courts and judges, as well as many other significant cultural venues that will make his or her visit especially appealing and educational.

ASIl & International Judicial AcademyInternational Judicial Monitor
© 2017 – The International Judicial Academy
with assistance from the American Society of International Law.

Editor: James G. Apple.
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