Word of welcome by Jan van Zanen at the meeting of the Judicial Club of The Hague, 2 February 2023



Madam President,

Honoured guests,


Isn’t it great that the Judicial Club of The Hague can meet in person again.

The theme of your meeting is ‘Fairness in international tribunals’.

How appropriate and relevant.

A couple of months ago I had the privilege of visiting the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.

During that visit I realised once again just how much these courts of law have contributed to the development of international criminal law.

And how important these tribunals have been for the survivors and the families of the victims of the genocide in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

We must never forget that this is about crimes against individuals.

Sometimes very large groups, but victims are, and always will be, individuals.

People like you and me.

A fact I emphasised during the Dachau Lecture that I gave soon after.

Last year’s lecture was dedicated to Carel Steensma, pilot and resistance fighter.

He was also the first director of the Nederlands Congresgebouw, now the World Forum.

Carel Steensma survived the horrors of the Natzweiler and Dachau concentration camps.

Despite that he harboured no bitterness.

He wanted justice.

When, after the liberation of Dachau, he saw an American soldier casually shooting a German boy of 17, he became very angry.

And Steensma said to the American that this was precisely what he and so many other Dachau prisoners had fought against.

‘Revenge solves nothing’, to quote Benjamin Ferencz, the nestor of international criminal law.

A motto which fits perfectly with the one on the coat of arms of this city: Peace and Justice.

Thank you.

And in all fairness, I wish you loads of fairness.