This morning we all said our last goodbyes to our host families and thanked them for their generosity and kindness over the past couple of weeks. We all managed to lug our heavy suitcases onto the train and we were on our way to the next portion of our adventure. We kicked off this last part of our ten week excursion with a one way ticket to Den Haag, also known as The Hague. When I told my friends and family that I was traveling to The Hague, many were confused as to where it was and why I was going. Most do not know that The Hague, the third largest city in the Netherlands, is an international city of peace and justice that houses some of the most influential institutions in terms of human and civil rights. It is home to the International Criminal Court and the Peace Palace, which seats the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Aside from the institutions, The Hague has all of the elements to make a perfectly balanced city. It contains the city aspect with the close and compact office and shopping buildings, but also has a beautiful beach and absolutely amazing weather!
After clumsily carrying our luggage from the train station to the hotel, we settled in and then were immediately on the move. We has an appointment at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at 14:30 and made it there with time to spare. Upon arriving, we were greeted by the daughter-in-law of one of our host families! She gave us an extremely informative presentation on the ICC and how it operates. The International Criminal Court was established on July 17, 1998 with the Rome Statute and went into force on July 1, 2002 after being ratified by sixty states. She explained that the ICC puts individuals on trial for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and most recently: crimes of aggression. The Rome Statute established that the ICC can only hold trial if a state unwilling or unable to properly investigate and prosecute the perpetrators, meaning that the court does not infringe on national sovereignty. Cases are brought forth in one of three ways: 1. A state request that the court conduct an investigation and/or trial, 2. The United Nations security council refers a case, or 3. The Office of the Prosecutor opens an initiative for an investigation with permission from the Pre-Trial chamber judges. The ICC has heard 26 cases and resulted in 8 convictions and 2 acquittals. The ICC can issue arrest warrants, but the court itself does not have a police force meaning that arrests rely on states and cooperation between states. This is due to a stipulation in the Rome Statute which states that the court holds the judicial pillar and the states hold the states hold the operational pillar, meaning that any execution of action is left up to the individual states. The court is funded by a combination of state contributions, individual contributions, international organizations, and corporations.
Two of the most interesting aspects of the court, in my opinion, is the concept of no immunity and the most recent addition of crimes of aggression. The concept of no immunity is simply the idea that no one is exempt from the prosecution of the court, including head of states, government members, or other people in prominent positions. This reinforces the idea that no one is above the law and everyone must be held accountable for their actions. The other interesting aspect is the addition of crimes of aggression to the court’s jurisdiction. The ICC defines a crime of aggression as the planning, initiation, or execution of using force to infringe on another state’s national sovereignty. The individual that would be held responsible is whoever has the authority to exercise military action in a state. The concept of no immunity and the newly added jurisdiction of crimes of aggression seem to compliment each other, with the crimes of aggression being more specifically targeted towards powerful and influential individuals. The addition of crimes of aggression comes with the most recent amendment of the Rome Statute in 2010 and will be going into full effect within the next month.
After our informative presentation and session in the visitors center, the group gathered outside in the nice, sunny weather to discuss and unpack all of the information with Dr.Birchfield and Dr.Markley. One of the most interesting points of the conversation touched on how the United States is not apart of the International Criminal Court. Criticisms were made against the United States because the US claims to champion human and civil rights, but does not take part in the ICC, one of the core institutions that works to promote human and civil rights. Others pointed out that if the United States were to take part, it would make the US a target to many cases involving high level military officials due to the large number of military missions that the US is involved in. The United States will most likely continued to be criticized for not participating in the ICC, but it does not seem to have the desire to join any time soon.
Once our session at the ICC ended, we all prepared to have a traditional dutch pancake by the beach for dinner. The pancake is not at all like a traditional American pancake, but it was still just as delicious! There were various options for savory filling such as stir fried chicken, smoked salmon, or Thai beef. For dessert we had a traditional dutch dessert called poffertjes. They are reminiscent of American mini pancakes, but slightly denser with a sweet touch. After dinner we watched the sunset on the pier, a perfect way to end to our first day at The Hague!