Greeting by Jan van Zanen to those taking part in the memorial event for Benjamin Ferencz and Thomas Buergenthal, 2 June 2024.


Good afternoon everyone,

To my regret, I can only be here briefly but I would like to warmly welcome you to The Hague.

You have come here – some of you from far away – to remember two unique individuals.

Two men whose contributions to international law and international criminal justice were immense.

And thus to The Hague too, as international city of peace and justice.

Benjamin Ferencz and Thomas Buergenthal.

Ben visited The Hague well into his old age.

He stayed in touch with us even in the final years of his life, just as he remained in touch with the world right until the end.

And remained committed to international criminal justice.

Without him there would have been no International Criminal Court.

Tom was a judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague from 2000 until 2010.

He was closely involved in the founding of the International Nuremberg Principles Academy, of which he was honorary President until his death.

Ben and Tom shared a special bond.

A bond which was closely connected with the horrors of World War Two.

Tom experienced them first-hand as a boy and had survived.

As a soldier, Ben witnessed the inhuman conditions that US liberators found in German concentration camps.

It will have strengthened his resolve to call its instigators to account.

Ben and Tom developed a life-long friendship.

Both strongly believed that it should be possible to prevent war through the law.

In that way, they were acting in the spirit of the pioneers who convened the First Peace Conference of The Hague 125 years ago.

Ben and Tom knew that war is the work of people, just as peace is.

The Hague, city of peace and justice, will always abide by that principle: the legacy of Ben Ferencz and Tom Buergenthal.

May their good spirit live on in all of us.