The Peace Palace: Residence for Justice, Domicile of Learning

Article excerpt

An old newsreel shows QueenMother Emma of the Netherlands entering the Palace to attend the inauguration. She wears the kind of silk, satin and lace dress with long white gloves and parasol that had been in fashion a decade earlier, when the Belle Epoque was not yet a memory.

Three quarters of a century later, in September 1988, her greatgrandaughter,Queen Beatrix, stands next to the United Nations Secretary-General in the same room, recalling that summer of peace and hope,

After two World Wars, the building is still intact and the institutions that it houses continue their double mission: to apply the rule of law to the international arena and to advance and help codify that law.

Originally, the Palace was built to house the Permanent Court of Arbitration and a library of international law. The Court of Arbitration was the main practical result of the First International Peace Conference in 1899.

That Conference held the attention of the world for months: it was the first time that nations not at war with each other gathered to discuss peace-the very concept of world peace was a revolutionary one. The Conference approved the Hague Convention for the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes.

In 1922, another tenant arrived: the Permanent Court of International justice, linked to the League of Nations. Its place was taken in 1946 by the World Court-the International Court of justice-one of the six main United Nations organs, which has become the most famous inhabitant of the Palace and of the city itself

A year later, in 1923, The Hague Academy of International Law was situated in the Palace, adding youth to the wisdom of age represented by the two other institutions housed there. Between 400 and 500 students from all over the world attend the Academy every year.

Paradoxically, the construction of the Palace and its gardens was far from peaceful. Spiralling costs, seven years of lawsuits and bad press dotted the process. The lawsuits and the public opinion furor were unleashed by a controversial architectural competition to select a design for the building. …