Word of welcome by Jan van Zanen on the second day of the conference organised by the Bureau of International Crimes of the Court of First Instance of The Hague, 21 April 2023


Madam President,

Mister Chairman,



A very warm welcome to The Hague.

And to this conference organised by the Bureau of International Crimes of the Court of First Instance of The Hague.

With a specially warm welcome for our guests from Ukraine.

Please be assured of our continued solidarity with you and your compatriots.

In the knowledge that everything possible is being done in The Hague to bring justice to the victims of the Russian aggression and war crimes committed by Russian soldiers.


We are gathered here in the Peace Palace.

A building that like no other symbolises what The Hague stands for: the peaceful resolution of conflicts and disputes, in the courtroom, not on the battlefield.

Law, not war, was also the motto of Benjamin Ferencz.

Benjamin Ferencz, the tireless champion of international humanitarian criminal law, died just two weeks ago at the age of 103.

As you know, Ferencz was the last living prosecutor from the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.

That tribunal represented a milestone in the prosecution of international war crimes and its further development.

The archives from those proceedings have been stored in this building since 1950, where they are now managed and conserved by the International Court of Justice.


It was also after the Second World War that the Dutch government and parliament spoke about the importance of bringing international crimes, such as war crimes, to justice.

Court of First Instance of The Hague is the only court in the Netherlands designated to hear criminal cases related to international crime.

This makes it an ideal match with The Hague’s profile as international city of peace and justice.

And that is precisely why it is so special that you, from so many different countries, have come together here for this conference.

All of you in your national context are engaged in tackling international crime.

The conviction by The Hague court of Frans van A., who supplied Iraq with the raw materials for chemical weapons, is a striking example of such a crime.

That case was discussed here yesterday.

It is precisely this national approach which widens support for the international courts and tribunals in The Hague.

Not least because the system of international law can only exist by the grace of the support it receives from individual nations.

In the belief that these are matters which affect the entire international community.

Matters like the impact of climate change, the subject of today’s first panel discussion.

Member states of the United Nations recently asked the International Court of Justice to publish an opinion on what legal obligations countries have to protect the climate.

This was put forward by the island state Vanuatu in Oceania, which is seriously threatened by the rising sea levels.


Today’s last panel discussion on the use of large-scale digital data as evidence also has some lateral links to The Hague.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia did pioneering work in this area at the time.

The Hague now has an ecosystem in which lawyers, researchers and entrepreneurs from start-ups, for example, work together to develop and apply ‘legal tech’.

You will appreciate that as a municipality, this is a development which we wholeheartedly support.

Not only because it supports the administration of justice here, but because lawyers in other countries can benefit from  it, too.

With the ultimate aim of strengthening the international rule of law, a task which is laid down in our national Constitution.


It is in that spirit that I wish you a most fruitful conference.

Thank you.