Opening Remarks by Jozias Van Aartsen

Article excerpt

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Presidents of the courts, ladies and gentlemen, it's June the 25th, 1995, when a young girl in beleaguered Sarajevo is finally able to go outside and play again. Together with her friends, Sidbela Zimic is playing with a skipping rope, and she enjoys being outside in the fresh air and is having fun. A few minutes later, a Serbian shell ends her short life and those of her three playmates, bringing the number of children killed on Bosnian soil since the start of the war to 16,771.

Seven years later, Samantha Power starts her famous book, A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, with this tragic story. The story, however, didn't end with Sidbela's death. Since then, those politically and military figures responsible for the siege of Sarajevo have been brought before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic have the death of this nine-year-old Bosnian girl on the their consciences, and that is also why they have been brought to trial to The Hague.

These are the stories you hear in the more than 130 international organizations in The Hague. Some 18,000 people work there day in, day out, to create a better and a safer and a more peaceful world, a world without chemical weapons, without ethnic cleansing, a world in which conflicts between states are settled not on the battlefields but in the courtroom, a world where the rule of law reigns and not the rule of the mob, and those who think that they can flaunt the rule of international law are held account by the world and the city of The Hague.

Over the last 120 years of its history, The Hague has become the international city of peace and justice. It was supported in this role by the United States and by American greats such as both the Roosevelts and Andrew Carnegie. To this day, America and the Netherlands have always been close allies when it comes to promoting the international rule of law.

As Professor van Vollenhoven long ago said, this is indeed a vocation of Holland, and it is part of our constitution. …