Monday, January 30, 2012

This blog and our new website

Since the beginning of this year the library of the Peace Palace has a new website, Almost all the blogs published at have been copied to this new website.

From now on our new blogs will only be published on this new website, Therefore we stopped publishing our blogs at One of the main reasons doing so, is that we are now capable of integrating our blogs in our so-called 'Research Guides'. Besides that we are also able to present our blogs in accordance to the layout of our website.

For this moment, we will leave this 'blogspot' blog as it is right now.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pirates, Buccaneers and Privateers : Concepts of International Law

Nowadays, it seems impossible to believe that in our world of ultramodern computer and satellite guided supertankers and container ships, steered only by a handful of crewman, a historic anachronism as piracy has all but vanished from the world’s seas. Modern-day pirates in bare, wooden boats, often primitively armed, from the Puntland region of Somalia or from the shores of the Strait of Malacca have come to hunt their prize, making high-profile seizures and wresting multimillion dollar ransoms from global corporations. This resurgence of modern piracy captured the world’s headlines and attracted the attention of the international community. Foreign powers initiated anti-piracy efforts by deploying warships into the international waters of the Gulf of Aden. Regional coordinating hubs, such as MARLO, MSC-HOA and other international monitoring agencies were set up. With the expansion of many national jurisdictions into adjacent territorial waters and a continuing irresolution over piracy trials internationally, the matter still hasn’t been resolved. Any study of piracy inevitably raises the issue of (legal) definition. In international law, the definition of piracy is relevant because any confusion in terminology invariably leads to debates between State sovereignty and universal jurisdiction over crimes committed at sea. In the following, we will discuss some of the current definitions of piracy in international law, but first a short historical perspective on piracy in general.

Historical Perspective on Piracy

Piracy is of ancient origin. What is today remembered as the Golden Age of Piracy of the late 17th and 18th centuries had grown out of a period of maritime expansion. The Spanish Empire’s desire to monopolize its discovery of the Americas soon had been contested by other West European nations and seafaring adventurers of mainly English, Dutch or French origin. Daring fighters and seamen as the Englishmen Sir Francis Drake, Sir Richard Hawkins, and the Dutchman Piet Hein received official government commissions or authorizations (so called letters of marque) to commence naval warfare on Spanish ships, in the Caribbean and off the coasts of North America. Inspired by the successes and obtained wealth of these privateers, groups of wandering pirates, often called freebooters or buccaneers, began to harass the Spanish colonies in the New World, particularly during the second half of the 17th century. Buccaneers are usually distinguished from privateers, because they rarely had valid commissions. They are also distinguished from pirates who attacked ships of all nations. This lawless form of piracy was outlawed and at last checked during the early 18th century, when general peace was restored. Pirates were hunted down by the English Royal Navy or by licensed bounty-hunters. Piracy waned in the latter part of the 18th and early 19th centuries, but never really disappeared completely.

Piracy in International Law

As mentioned above, piracy should be distinguished from privateering. “Privateer” in international law, is the term applied to a privately owned armed vessel whose owners are commissioned by a hostile nation to carry naval warfare. The practice of privateering preceded the creation of national navies. European States having few or no warships hired merchant vessels for hostile purposes. By issuing naval commissions or authorizations to shipowners or procurers, these States created therefore a legitimate form of war-like activity by non-State actors. By way of compensation, privateers were allowed to share any booty captured. Privateering came into general use, but was first renounced and outlawed by the Peace of Westphalia (1648) for signatories to those treaties. Two centuries later, privateering was abolished on the international level by the Declaration Respecting Maritime Law (Paris, 16 April 1856), but the Declaration was not supported by the United States, Spain, Mexico and Venezuela. During the American Civil War, Congress authorized the President to commission privateering in 1863, but this power was not exercised. The Confederacy, however, engaged several times in privateering. Finally, privateering was officially renounced by the United States during the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Establishing an authoritative definition of ”piracy” in international law has always been rather problematic. The definition is relevant, as said above earlier, because any confusion in terminology invariably leads to debates between State sovereignty and universal jurisdiction over crimes at sea. There are numerous meanings of the word piracy with no direct legal implications. Just look it up in any dictionary! The various international law meanings of piracy are derived from, among others, international treaties, and various municipal law meanings are defined by statutes and State practice. The first more precise and detailed definition of piracy has been formulated in Article 15 of the Convention on the High Seas (Geneva, 29 April 1958), and Article 101 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Montego Bay, 10 December 1982) :

Article 15 / Article 101
Definition of piracy

Piracy consists of any of the following acts:

(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed—
(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;
(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;
(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;
(c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b).

These articles are generally recognised as providing the definition of piracy in international law, but proved insufficient. Piracy was still a relatively minor issue during the first United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS I) in 1956. More concerned with economic interests such as ownership of offshore resources and fishing grounds, even Western nations had not been unduly concerned by the sparse instances of piracy occuring that time. Historically, piracy had been dismissed as a crime which fell under what was then known as “universal jurisdiction”. Any such outlaws could be summarily tried by any government that captured them. And those were scarce as only a handful of Western sea powers had been in a position to do so. But how was the issue of universal jurisdiction to be understood? It is clear that the definition of piracy was not updated to take into account the development of the modern regime of maritime zones and remained trapped in a period where the high seas were only three miles from shore. Could piracy only be committed on the high seas, or could piratical acts also be perpetrated in territorial waters or in ports? Given the fact that the majority of piracy acts reported today take place in waters within the jurisdiction of newly emerged States, claiming their own expanding territorial waters, this problem is growing more complicated. Another problem is the limitation of piracy to private motivations, such as personal gain, thus exempting politically driven actions. Even such an abbreviated definition of piracy as “any armed violence at sea which is not a lawful act of war” could easily be questioned by insurgents or revolutionary fighters pointing out that personal gain was not their objective, rather a national (liberation) cause. Finally, the conventions require member States to cooperate in prosecuting piracy, but there is no mechanism to enforce this. Rather, member States must incorporate provisions into domestic law before they can prosecute acts of piracy. Yet, few States have taken this essential step.

Another international instrument, that governs piracy and provides a jurisdictional basis for nations to prosecute such acts domestically, is the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (Rome, 10 March 1988). Drafted in response to the Achille Lauro incident, the SUA Convention was enacted, at least in part, to ensure that politically motivated attacks on ships could be prosecuted as acts of piracy. Although the SUA Convention does appear to broadly prohibit offenses that are more consistent with modern-day piracy, the Convention is flawed for several reasons, see Dutton, pp. 208-209.

In municipal law, various definitions of the term piracy are in use. It has been extended to cover crimes other than those defined above, such as slave trading. A sovereign State has the power to declare offenses to be piracy that are not so regarded by international law. These municipal laws can have binding force only in the jurisdiction creating them. As new types of piracy resurge nowadays, the international community has to decide to act and bring pirates to justice. Piracy is a serious crime of international concern that is only increasing in frequency and severity. Although the international community may be thwarting some pirate attacks, what it is not doing now is sending pirates a message that piracy will not be tolerated. Recent developments show that first steps have been taken. In its Resolution 1918 (2010), the UN Security Council is calling on member states to criminalize piracy under their domestic laws and urging the Secretary-General to consider an International Tribunal for prosecuting piracy. Others suggest that pirates can be brought to justice using the already extant International Criminal Court by way of an optional protocol to include piracy within the Court’s jurisdiction.

Peace Palace Library collection on Piracy


Boon, K.E. (ed.), Terrorism : Documents of International and Local Control : Piracy and International Maritime Security, New York, NY etc. : Oxford University Press, 2011

Heller-Roazen, D., The Enemy of All : Piracy and the Law of Nations, New York, NY : Zone Books, 2009

Kempe, M., Fluch der Weltmeere : Piraterie, Völkerrecht und internationale Beziehungen 1500-1900, Frankfurt am Main etc. : Campus Verlag, 2010

Kraska, J., Contemporary Maritime Piracy : International Law, Strategy, and Diplomacy at Sea, Santa Barbara, CA : Praeger, 2011

Lehr, P. (ed.), Violence at Sea : Piracy in the Age of Global Terrorism, New York, NY etc. : Routledge, 2007

Marley, D., Modern Piracy : a Reference Handbook, Santa Barbara, CA etc. : ABC-CLIO, 2011

Murphy, M.N., Small Boats, Weak States, Dirty Money : Piracy and Maritime Terrorism in the Modern World, London : Hurst, 2009

Payne, J.C., Piracy Today : Fighting Villainy on the High Seas, Dobbs Ferry, NY : Sheridan House, 2010

Petrig, A.. (ed.), Sea Piracy Law : Selected National Legal Frameworks and Regional Legislative Approaches, Berlin : Duncker & Humblot, 2010

Young, A.J., Contemporary Maritime Piracy in Southeast Asia : History, Causes and Remedies, Singapore etc. : Institute of Southeast Asian studies etc., 2007


Arnauld, von A., "Die moderne Piraterie und das Völkerrecht", 47 Archiv des Völkerrechts (2009) 4, pp. 454-480

Bento, L., "Towards an International Law of Piracy Sui Generis : How the Dual Nature of Maritime Piracy Enables Piracy to Flourish", 29 Berkeley Journal of International Law (2011) 2, pp. 399-455

Campbell, P., "A Modern History of the International Legal Definition of Piracy", in: Piracy and Maritime Crime : Historical and Modern Case Studies, Newport, RI : Naval War College Press, 2010, pp. 19-32

Dutton, Y.M., "Bringing Pirates to Justice : a Case for Including Piracy within the Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court", 11 Chicago Journal of International Law (2010) 1, pp. 197-241

Mejia, M.Q., P. Cariou and F.-Ch. Wolff, "Ship Piracy : Ship Type and Flag", in: Maritime Safety, Security and Piracy, London : Informa, 2008, pp. 103-120

Talley, W.K. and E.M. Rule, "Piracy in Shipping", in: Maritime Safety, Security and Piracy, London : Informa, 2008, pp. 89-101

Treves, T., "Piracy, Law of the Sea, and Use of Force : Developments off the Coast of Somalia", 20 European Journal of International Law (2009) 2, pp. 399-414


Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Piracy, by Ivan Shearer

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Inspiration and innovation in international law and politics, 100 years Nobel peace prize Tobias Asser

Guest-blog by Henri van Hasselt, MSc Leiden University, at the moment working for the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation

Commemorative Conference, December 9, 2011, Peace Palace, The Hague
Inspiration and innovation in international law and politics, 100 years Nobel peace prize Tobias Asser
The conference in honor of the late Tobias Asser, a hundred years after receiving the Nobel peace prize, featured a day long program with various speakers, presentations and panel discussions. The following is a selection of the opinions delivered by some of the most prominent speakers on the subjects of public international law and private international law. For a more detailed account of the life and legacy of Tobias Asser, please see ‘The learned guide of our nation. Tobias Asser’s pivotal role in international law and diplomacy’ by Arthur Eyffinger, presented during the conference.

After an interesting keynote address by Judge Peter Tomka, Vice-President of the International Court of Justice, stressing the renaissance and importance of International Arbitration in the present world, the first session of the day dove straight into the heritage of Tobias Asser and its continued importance. Among many excellent contributions, Hans van Loon, Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, pointed towards the difficulties presently facing the Conference. While being founded on the principles endorsed by Asser, the challenges are wholly different as cross border contacts nowadays involve more states, more members of society and more complex structures. Although referring to private international law, Mr. van Loon highlighted the central issue that would occupy most of the debate during the day, namely the modern challenges facing the international legal order and possible resolutions in the spirit of Asser.

The second session of the day was instrumental in this perspective. It concerned itself with the possibilities of a third Hague Peace Conference, following the tradition of 1899 and 1907. Joris Voorhoeve, Professor of International Organizations and Security at Leiden University, stressed principally that a narrow topic base would be crucial for its success. To start of debate, he suggested the conference should either focus on small arms, corruption or on ‘clandestine precision killing’, i.e. targeting individuals using unmanned aircrafts or drones. Expanding on the evils of small arms, Mr. Voorhoeve further applauded the example of the Ottawa Landmine Ban Conference, suggesting a similar, NGO driven model could be applied to a The Hague conference. Following these suggestions, Nico Schrijver, Professor of International Law at Leiden University, questioned the necessity for a new Hague Peace Conference given the fact that the world presently knows a permanent forum to discuss these topics, but agreed with the principle of focusing on specific topics. Critical of the ineffectiveness of the Security Council, the apparent failure of the ban on the use of force by states, he suggested to pursue compulsory jurisdiction for the ICJ but stressed that any Hague Conference should focus on state actors and pursue tangible results. Compared to the pragmatic approach by the first speakers, Dire Tladi, Counselor for Legal Affairs of the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the UN, took a more idealistic approach. Establishing that the legal architecture for global peace has only been modified slightly since 1945, while the threats and characteristics of modern warfare have changed significantly, he proposed a new Hague Conference should investigate the possibilities of a Security Council reform. While commending evolving mechanisms such as peace keeping missions, Mr. Tladi noted that the Security Council only operated effectively if the interests of the permanent members were not at stake and if there was consensus.

Following more and equally interesting sessions, the day was closed by Hans Corell, former Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the Legal Council of the UN, who beautifully summarized the proceedings of the day and integrated them with accounts from his own experience, both from a recent and more distant past. Central in his appeal was the wish that the legacy of Tobias Asser should not be lost and the importance of striving towards international peace should not be forgotten in the face of adversity. Tobias Asser, he summarized, did just this by aiming for idealism but applying pragmatism. | |

Thursday, December 8, 2011

International territorial administration: the possible revival of a concept compromised by systemic accountability concerns

Guest-blog by Aleksandar Momirov, Assistant Professor of Public International Law at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, about his thesis “Accountability of international territorial administrations : a public law approach” (Erasmus University Rotterdam, 2011):
International territorial administration: the possible revival of a concept compromised by systemic accountability concerns.

This blog post introduces the main topic of the book “Accountability of International Territorial Administrations: A Public Law Approach”. In recent history, territories have at times been placed under temporary international administration, for example in the context of decolonization or as part of a broader endeavor to end a particular conflict. Within the framework of the League of Nations Mandates System and the United Nations Trusteeship System, the international community assumed responsibility over certain territories, while delegating the actual administration to proxy states.

Occasionally, however, international entities have assumed direct control over territories. In so doing, they adopt decisions which have direct effect on the ground and thus have a direct impact on the local population. Namely, international territorial administrations are geared with an inclusive mandate to guarantee much more than the mere absence of armed conflict. Decisions adopted by these missions relate to all spheres of public life and to all fields of public power. In other words, the legislative, executive and judicial process within a territory is internationalized. Three contemporary missions come to mind as a case in point: the ongoing international administration of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the impaired UN supervision of Kosovo and the completed UN administrations of East Timor.

While illustrative of the 90’s, recently opinions have been voiced in favor of placing new territories under temporary international rule. The East Timorese model has been mentioned in the context of post-conflict reconstruction efforts in Libya. Also, the troubled region of Northern Kosovo has at times been suggested as a possible candidate for international administration.

When full-fledged international administrations are imposed, this essentially means that in terms of law, the state is replaced by an international institution. In other words, the state as the traditional intermediary in the relationship between international law and individuals was taken out of the equation. As the Brahimi Report points out, for the people on the ground, this means ¬amongst others that international entities adopt and enforce the law, establish customs services and collect taxes, adjudicate property disputes and operate ¬– and at times privatize – public utilities. Furthermore, the international entities have for example made use of their prerogatives to detain individuals by decree and to remove elected office holders from office. When public powers as the ones just described are exercised, accountability and legitimacy issues arise, especially when the exercise of these powers has an adverse effect. Practice has shown that an accountability vacuum exists; in other words, the exercise of public power is not subjected to checks and balances and can hardly be challenged by adversely affected individuals.

International law does not provide a fit for purpose regulatory framework within which international administration of territories is carried out and, more importantly, through which international territorial administrations can be held to account for the manner in which they exercise the public powers that were entrusted to them. In case of international administration, there is no coherent legal framework which would curb the authority of international territorial administration missions. Although these missions operate on the basis of a specific mandate, the former UN Special Representative for East Timor pointedly remarked that “[T]he mandate is the floor (but not the ceiling) for everything the Mission does”. The troublesome situation is further complicated by extensive immunities. Namely, the following dichotomy presents itself: while administration missions enjoy state-like powers, they hold on to a conception of immunity common to international organizations and defended by operational necessity. This setting gives rise to fundamental issues concerning legitimacy and accountability of these international administrations.

The book “Accountability of International Territorial Administrations: A Public Law Approach” conceptualizes the accountability deficit of missions engaged in the international administration of territories. In addressing the accountability deficit, a public-law approach is adopted. The book explores to what extent it is warranted to perceive these missions as public entities exercising public power rather than international organizations merely engaged in extensive peacekeeping and how public law influences our understanding of the accountability deficit.

The book looks at public law as the body of law that traditionally regulates accountability with respect to the exercise of public power, arguing that public law principles can, mutatis mutandis, be applied in a non-state context where public law is exercised. Three public law principles are emphasized in this respect: the rule of law, reviewability and the independence of the judiciary, while exploring the linkage between these three principles on the one hand and the main institutional and conceptual characteristics of international territorial administration on the other hand. The book illustrates how the systemic disregard of these three principles is at the core of the accountability deficit of international administrations and how public law should play a role in addressing this deficit.

Aleksandar Momirov donated a copy of his thesis to the Peace Palace Library.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shabtai Rosenne Memorial Lecture

On Thursday, 24 November the first Shabtai Rosenne Memorial Lecture, delivered by Professor Malcolm N. Shaw Q.C., Senior Fellow at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law at the University of Cambridge, took place at the Peace Palace in The Hague, a little more than a year after Professor Rosenne’s death. The event was hosted by the Embassy of Israel in The Hague and Brill-Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, together with the Rosenne family.

The Hague and the Peace Palace were considered the obvious choice for this first Rosenne memorial lecture. Not only did Professor Rosenne devote an important part of his academic life to the study of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and its predecessor the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ), he was also the first person to be awarded The Hague Prize for International Law in 2004. His study of the ICJ and PCIJ resulted in a series of authoritative writings on the law and practice of these courts. In addition Rosenne published extensively on a variety of legal subjects, e.g., the law of treaties, the law of the sea, the codification of international law, the law of Israel, etc., in many books and legal periodicals as can be witnessed from the bibliography which was compiled especially for this occasion by the Peace Palace Library (PPL) and published in the booklet on the Memorial Lecture. All publications listed (his early publications from the 1940’s go under the name of S.W.D. Rowson) are available at the PPL and many of them can be readily found through the online catalogue.

In his lecture entitled, “The Peaceful Settlement of Disputes: Paradigms, Plurality and Policy”, Professor Shaw gave an overview of where he thought dispute resolution was at the moment. He emphasised the need to see international law generally and peaceful settlement of disputes specifically within the context of the contemporary social, political and economic circumstances. Such a context with its resulting legitimacy principles would help explain current international law, assist with its interpretation and give some indications of future developments. Essentially, changing economic and political circumstances require changing laws, institutions and mechanisms. He drew attention to the current trend for dispute settlement by the use of multiple techniques, discussing as an example the resolution of the Bakassi dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria with the close involvement of the UN, following upon the decision of the International Court of Justice. Further, Shaw noted the tendency of the International Court to be more prescriptive in its orders and decisions, with what he termed an increasing "long reach", whereby the Court called upon the parties to adopt specific measures or methods in order to ensure full resolution of the dispute that had been before it. He concluded by emphasising that international law is about getting things done in the most convenient manner and thus building cooperation, but all with the purpose, as Shabtai Rosenne had stated in his acceptance speech for the Hague Prize in 2004, of seeking justice.

In a Comment to the lecture of Professor Shaw, Dr. Daphné Richemond-Barak, from the Inter-Disciplinary Center (IDC) in Israel, highlighted two trends in international dispute settlement, (i) the growing influence of non-state actors, and (ii) the proliferation of dispute settlement. Dr. Richemond focused in particular on the increasing participation of international/regional organisations and civil society in dispute settlement. She also elaborated on the growing number of non-traditional mechanisms for the resolution of international disputes.

Both the text of and the comment to the Shabtai Rosenne Memorial Lecture will be published in the near future by Brill/Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dag Hammarskjöld (1905 - 1961)

Fifty years ago, the former United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld tragically passed away in a plane crash, on his way to cease-fire negotiations with the leaders of Katanga province of conflict-ridden Congo.

When Dag Hammarskjöld became Secretary-General in 1953, the United Nations was heavily divided by the Cold War. In spite of great political hostility between the Super Powers, he proved to be undaunted by powerful governments and was able to generate a strong and welcoming feeling of hope within the international arena. From the beginning, Hammarskjöld was very aware that the UN was still in its early stages of development and needed to make a constant effort to search for new ideas as well as establish new precedents to effectively deal with contemporary problems. He went to great lengths to lay a strong foundation for new ideas and techniques. For instance, he personally engaged in laborious negotiations of a Status of Forces Agreement with Egypt to define the relationship of the first UN Peacekeeping Force with its host country. [1] Hammarskjöld believed that a just and fair world could eventually be achieved by the establishment of precedents and case law.

In his last Annual Report to the UN General Assembly, Hammarskjöld argued that the objective of International Peace and Security would only be achieved on the basis of four fundamental principles, namely: (i) equal political rights, both sovereign and individual; (ii) equal economic opportunities, through higher standards and also conditions conducive to economic and social advancement; (iii) a firm framework of the rule of law, which should underpin all activities of the international community; and (iv) the prohibition of the use of force, where it is contrary to the other three principles.

Today, these same principles remain at the core of the UN's efforts to maintain global peace and security, and the international institutions that emerged. The development of a collective security system raises intriguing questions as to what extent comtemporary approaches are still consistent with Dag Hammarskjöld's vision of the UN.

To commemorate his legacy, The Hague Institute of Global Justice organizes a Conference on the 9th and 10th of November 2011 titled: Peace Diplomacy, Global Justice and International Agency, Rethinking Human Security and Ethics in the spirit of Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961)

The Conference will pursue the following objectives:

1. To investigate Dag Hammarskjöld's ideas in shaping the future role of the United Nations

2. Learning lessons from concrete conflict situations in which the International community was or is involved .

3. Raising our understanding of the critical relationship between justice and peace.

4. Making national and international efforts and institutions more effective and sustainable.

[1] New Routes, Volume 16 (2), Special issue in collaboration between the Life & Peace Institute and the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, Life & Peace Institute, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Abyei Arbitration between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement

The Peace Palace Library organizes an evening of lectures and discussion about the Abyei Arbitration between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement. The speakers are Mr. Brooks W. Daly, Deputy Secretary-General and Principal Legal Counsel of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), and Prof. Johan G. Lammers.

The lecture will take place Wednesday 30 November, 2011, at 17.30-19.30 (lecture starts at 18.00), in the Historic Reading Room of the Peace Palace Library.

On the 22nd of July, 2009, an Award on the delimitation of the Abyei Area was rendered, thereby settling a dispute between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army. The PCA acted as registry and provided administrative support. The rendering of the Award was meant to facilitate the organization of a referendum about the future of the area, where various oil fields are located. On the 9th of July 2011, South Sudan declared its independence, making the outcome of the referendum even more important. However, the referendum was postponed and despite the rendering of the award, the Abyei Area continues to be contested between the Republics of Sudan and South Sudan.

Brooks W. Daly is Deputy Secretary-General and Principal Legal Counsel of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). Before joining the PCA, Mr. Daly acted as Counsel at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Court of Arbitration in Paris, France, and practiced with law firms in Los Angeles and London. He will speak about the Abyei Arbitration between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.

Johan G. Lammers was Legal Advisor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Professor in International Law at the University of Amsterdam. In 1999 he was awarded the Elizabeth Haub Award for his exceptional contribution to the field of international environmental law. He will speak about the political “prehistory” of the Abyei Arbitration.

The Peace Palace Library Lecture Series consists of approximately four lectures a year about issues of international public law. Each lecture will start with a small reception in the library’s new reading room, followed by the lecture in the historical reading room. The Lecture Series are open to everyone and are especially interesting for researchers and students, as well as diplomats, international civil servants, journalists and other professionals working in the field of international public law.

Please register by sending an email to Otto Spijkers at We hope to see you there!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The United Nations, the Evolution of Global Values and International Law

In this blog post, a new and increasingly popular way to research the work of the United Nations (UN) is introduced. Instead of seeing the international organization as mainly a political organization, the UN is increasingly seen as a "Town Meeting of the World," i.e. a global debating society, where ideas are discussed and developed by representatives of the international community.

Of course, the United Nations (UN) is a political organization, an alliance of all the world’s States gathered together to achieve some ambitious common goals and tackle the most important global challenges. The focus in UN-research is generally on the way the UN has sought to achieve this formidable task, inter alia by encouraging its Member States to actively pursue these common goals.

The Organization achieves this by translating the moral language of global values into the language of public international law. This results in various treaty texts, recommended by the United Nations to its Membership. Many of these texts have indeed become binding international law through the consent of all States party to such treaties. Some of these treaties also establish separate legal regimes, where responsibilities are allocated and various (legal) incentives for compliance put in place.

In the book The United Nations, the Evolution of Global Values and International Law, this process is studied in a non-traditional way. The emphasis is not on the question as to what the existing legal obligations are and how compliance is ensured and how effective these compliance mechanisms are. Instead, the focus is on the role of the United Nations in the articulation and evolution of the goals themselves. The central question is as follows: What is the role of the United Nations in reaching global consensus on what the international community should look like and in which direction it ought to develop?

A detailed examination of the travaux préparatoires of the founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945 shows that the UN’s establishment was greatly influenced by global values, i.e. globally shared beliefs that distinguish evil from good, the present from a better world. A common desire to eradicate war, poverty, inhuman treatment and exploitation of peoples, has led to confirmation of the global values of peace and security, social progress and development, human dignity, and self-determination of peoples.

These values can already be found, albeit in rudimentary form, in the UN Charter. Over time, the Charter has proved to evolve, like a “living tree”: although the text of the Charter has not changed significantly, its interpretation has followed the changing conditions of society; this way the norms and values of the UN Charter have always remained topical and relevant. The study charts how the United Nations, and especially the General Assembly, have continuously contributed to the global values debate, and how these values have been translated into the language of international law, including through the introduction of novel legal concepts such as the responsibility to protect, sustainable development, human security and the right to self-determination.

The study shows that the value of peace and security mainly evolved through the UN’s efforts to identify a list of potential threats, such as interstate aggression, civil war, and terrorism. When it comes to social progress and development, the General Assembly has focused on the preparation of a long series of action plans and development programs. Furthermore, there is increasing attention for sustainable development and the legal rights and obligations deriving therefrom. The work of the United Nations on human dignity includes an impressive list of human rights that all countries should respect. The debate on self-determination is still in development. It is clear that it is based on the desire of communities to control their own destiny, without any external oppression.

In examining the intellectual history of the United Nations, one is struck by the abstract nature of the debates. This distinguishes them from the usual inter-State meetings, which have a more political or practical nature. Yet the debates in San Francisco and the General Assembly cannot be characterized as merely theoretical debates. The participants are all representatives of a particular State, with its own cultural and historical traditions and interests. To reach agreement, all representatives - together constituting a colorful patchwork quilt of various cultures, religions and traditions - have to negotiate. The final result is a carefully phrased global consensus on the direction the international community should take. While attempts are being made to achieve this goal, this goal itself - expressed in the language of global values - does not sit still. Instead, it is constantly developing or evolving...

Interesting website: Audiovisual Library of International Law (especially the section on the UN Charter)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation in The Hague

Guest Blog by Joël Groeneveld, Office Manager/Program Officer:

The Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation

Unresolved historical claims can, when misunderstood or manipulated, create and reaffirm prejudice and hatred among populations, thus fueling ethnic and nationalistic violence and conflict. Therefore, in order to promote tolerance and reconciliation, there is oftentimes the need to overcome these distortions of historical reality. The Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation seeks to contribute to this goal through helping scholars from different sides of a conflict work together to research and write narratives that can be shared among communities or peoples in conflict. Through this process of shared work, a better understanding of “the other” is gained by both sides. The process seeks to dispel public myths around disputed historical legacies through the use of shared narrative and to develop networks of engaged citizens who can debate, confront and change those disputed and confrontational historical legacies.

What does this mean in the practice? How can historical accounts help understand the position of ‘the other’? A good example is the most current book published by IHJR, Two Sides of the Coin: Independence and Nakba 1948, Two Narratives of the 1948 War and its Outcome. In this unique joint enterprise, a Palestinian and an Israeli, both historians, worked together to offer multi-perspective narratives on the War of 1948. Their task was not easy, as they explain: ‘the attempt to formulate one text consisting of two different and often contradictory stories was emotionally challenging for both of us, as it required each of us to take part in formulating a narrative that was contradictory to our own respective experiences and education and that often challenged our respective identities”. And yet, the fact that his book has come to light goes to show that the narrative of ’the other‘ can be understood and respected, even when in some cases it is not shared.

IHJR has worked extensively to tackle the historical claims in the Israel-Palestine conflict, through different historical approximations. For example the book Zoom In: Palestinian Refugees of 1948, Remembrances, presents pictures and individual students reactions to them. This approach showcases not only that there is still a need for understanding, but also how deeply ingrained perceptions of ‘the other’ are in this conflict. The Sacred Sites in the Holy Land: Historical and Religious perspectives publication seeks instead to familiarize both sides with the narrative of ‘the other’ regarding holy places, while working towards a common narrative of their religious significance.

Yet the issues of unresolved historical claims are not particular to one region; that is why IHJR is also involved in other areas of the world, such as the Former Yugoslavia and its successor states. The facilitation offered by IHJR was pivotal for the publication of Political Myths in the Former Yugoslavia and Successor States. A Shared Narrative, a book which attempts to dispel political myths that fueled the Balkan conflict. There is currently active work as well in the Armenia-Turkey area, and research is being done on the Roma population in areas of Eastern Europe where conflict is most acute and violence against this population is on the rise.

IHJR hopes that others are inspired by the institute’s approach and that they begin using history as a means for fostering peace-building efforts. It continues to disseminate shared narratives through various media, such as publications, documentaries and photo exhibitions, as well as through engaging civil society and educators. For more information, please visit the website at or write an email to

Monday, October 10, 2011

Eichmann Trial 50 years

On Tuesday 11th October, a lecture will take place on the lasting impact of the Eichmann Trial half a century after the trial took place.

Adolf Eichmann was a German Nazi official, a SS Obersturmbannführer and one of the prominent architects of the Holocaust.

When the Second World War came to an end, Eichmann managed to escape prosecution by fleeing to Argentina. He lived a quiet life in Argentina as a rabbit farmer under a false identity until 1960 when he was discovered by Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. After carefully planning his arrest, he was captured and smuggled out of the country without informing the Argentine government. This led to a diplomatic dispute over territorial sovereignty in which The United nations Security Council eventually mediated.

He was then transported to Israel to stand trial in what was to become one of the most controversial trials in international legal history. The news of his capture and abduction to Israel created much uneasiness for German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the members of his cabinet and their possible involvement in war crimes. According to Der Spiegel, the German government knew his whereabouts as early as 1952, but never made a serious attempt to bring him to justice. In 1956, Eichmann even wrote an open letter to Chancellor Adenauer in which he suggested he should be allowed to return to Germany to tell the people what really happened during the War. After Eichmann was abducted to Israel, the Adenauer government held a crisis meeting, where they agreed to take all necessary measures to make clear that he was a stooge of Himmler´s SS and that he was not an authorized agent of Germany.

The Eichmann trial started on 11th April 1962 in Jerusalem. Eichmann was indicted on 15 criminal charges including crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish People and membership in an outlawed organization. The legal basis of the trial against Eichmann was the 1950 ´´ Nazi and Nazi Collaborators Punishment Law´´.

The Eichmann trial can be considered as not just a trial of one individual, but a trial against anti Semitism as a whole throughout history. It was to demonstrate and communicate the dangers of anti Semitism and serve as a reminder for the dangers of permitting the destruction of six million Jews. Furthermore, it brought to light the lack of initiative of the West German government to bring ex Nazis to trial. This was discussed by Matthew Lippman in The Houston Journal of International Law (1982, vol. 5, pp. 1-34)summing up all legal issues raised in the trial. (“The Trial of Adolf Eichmann and the Protection of Universal Human Rights under International Law”)

The trial was broadcast internationally and was the first televised trial in history. After eight months, he was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to death. Five months later, he was executed by hanging and his ashes were scattered at sea.

Dr. Ruth Birn, Professor Thomas Mertens and Professor Harmen van der Wilt will lecture on the several aspects of this controversial trial.
The Peace Palace Library has an extensive collection on the Eichmann trial. These include books and articles on the legal, political, psychological and philosophical aspects of the trial.