International Law and The Hague: The Peace Palace

LawLiving in the years prior to the Bolshevik Revolution and the foundation of Soviet Russia, Friedrich Martens was a diplomat in the employ of the Czars who played an instrumental role in the formation of international law. Representing the Russian Empire at the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1909, he is perhaps best known as the author of the Martens Clause for transnational law, but he also figured prominently in the establishment of the Peace Palace, which is also frequently referred to as the “seat of international law.” The first Hague Peace Conference of 1898 had called for the creation of a Permanent Court of Arbitration – and in discussing this development with U. S. diplomat Andrew White, Martens had mentioned the need for a permanent home for the new court. White took the financial requirement for this important building to the American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who donated the $1.5 million dollars for the construction of a “peace temple” that was also expected to house a library of international law. French architect Louis Marie Cordonnier won the rights to design the Peace Palace through an international competition the Carnegie Foundation sponsored, and the eventual drawings fell heavily within the Neo-Renaissance style that dominated the late 1800s and early 1900s. The first symbolic stone was laid in place during the Second Hague Peace Conference and the official inauguration ceremony, which was attended by Andrew Carnegie himself, occurred on August 28, 1913.

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The Peace Palace Officially Opened August 28, 1913
Photo credit: Pieter Musterd / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

For one hundred years, the Carnegie Foundation has been the owner and caretaker of the Peace Palace, which presently houses the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and The Hague Academy and Library of International Law. The building is one of “uncommon grandeur,” surrounded by gardens and situated on a north-south axis that that is customary with classical architecture. Built at a time of great hopes for world peace, in an epoch that included hundreds of active peace movements with millions of members and supporters, it stands as a monument to a huge peace movement that was sweeping Europe at the time – but which would meet with tragic disappointment with the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Accommodations at the facility include a foyer, visitor’s center, deliberation room, seminar room, and an academy hall that seats up to 350 people. Lectures and seminars are constantly in session, with a myriad of presentations that occurred to honor the 100th anniversary of August 28, 2013. Due to its crucial role in international peace and justice proceedings, tours of the Peace Palace are only available on the weekend – in fact, the building is not open to the public during the week in respect to the people that are working there on a daily basis towards world peace. However, the visitor’s center is open daily for interested parties.

Meeting within the Peace Palace is the International Court of Justice, which is charged with the duty of settling – in agreement with international law – legal disputes that are submitted from around the globe. At times, the Court will also provide advisory decisions on legal matters that have been submitted by authorized United Nations entities or specialized agencies – and of the six principal organs of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice is the only one based in a location other than New York City. The 15 judges that make up the Court are elected to 9 year terms of office by the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council. Convening officially in the languages of English and French, it is also assisted by its managerial organ known as the Registry, which helps in the administration of international justice, diplomacy with litigant countries, and the general day-to-day organizational tasks of the Court as it conducts its business. Approximately 100 appointed officials, holding permanent and temporary office, work in the Registry – taking an “oath of loyalty and discretion” before assuming their appropriate duties. Their salaries and pension rights are the responsibility of the United Nations. Also meeting in the Peace Palace is the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which provides “services for the resolution of disputes involving various combinations of states, state entities, intergovernmental organizations, and private parties.”

The International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice
Photo credit: United Nations Photo / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Down through the years, the Court’s research efforts have relied upon access to both the Peace Palace Library and its own library, which was officially created in 1931. Collecting publications since 1913, the Peace Palace Library is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious libraries specializing in the area of international law. Its primary function is to provide service to the various organizations that are housed in the Peace Palace, but it is also accessible to scholars and students involved in international law the world over. With over one million volumes that can be searched through an online catalogue, the Peace Palace Library is one of the many institutions within the Carnegie Foundation, whereas the official library of the Court that was created in 1931 is a separate entity and not open to the public. Benefitting in 1937 from a major donation from Judge Henri Fromageot of France, who was a Member of the Permanent Court of International Justice from 1929 to 1945, it now contains over 500,000 volumes that are in many cases very rare and precious. The purpose of the Court’s Library “is to assist the Members of the Court and staff of the various departments of the Registry – in particular the Legal and Linguistic Departments – with their research.”

So, how many important decisions on world terrorism has the International Court of Justice handed down, you might ask? The short answer to such a question is very few – close to none at all. Such conclusions on the part of the Court would require legal precedent, for which there is none to find. As experts on the subject have concluded, “establishing a universally accepted definition of terrorism remains a work in progress,” and the ultimate successful definition will “have to reconcile political expediency with international law.” These same experts are also very quick to point out that even the horrific “shock of 9/11 was not enough to break a century of impasse about how to define it in international law.” Down through the years, terrorism has been strangely and inappropriately regarded as political violence, rather than a crime against humanity – whether it is home grown or international in scope. In the years since the end of World War II in 1945, a comprehensive multinational convention on the subject of terrorism has never occurred – leading to “the continuing lack of agreement within the United Nations on a common definition of international terrorism.” In light of these facts, the establishment and inherent message of a monument to the victims of terrorism reaches beyond the confines of the United States, to the very ends of the earth – because terrorism is a crime that needs to be defined explicitly. Please join us in such respects by clicking on the link below and signing the petition to which this website is dedicated.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

PeaceNicholas Murray Butler, President of Columbia University from 1901 to 1945, was a noted leader in the Republican Party who once ran for vice-president on the same ticket with William Howard Taft, the Republican candidate defeated by Democrat Woodrow Wilson in 1912. Thwarted in his efforts to win national office for himself or any of the candidates he put forward for the Republican nomination, Butler nevertheless became a strong force “to unite the world of education and that of politics in a struggle to achieve world peace through international cooperation.” A recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, his zeal for world amity also led him to the noted philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, urging him to establish the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace through a gift of $10 million. Heavily involved in the efforts of the foundation for the rest of his life, Butler served as its president from 1925 until the end of World War II in 1945. Carnegie officially started the foundation on December 14, 1910 when he transferred the money to a group of 29 trustees. Despite the close allegiance of Butler and Carnegie to the Republican Party, the endowment’s work has never been associated with any political entity.

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Andrew Carnegie – Inspired to Promote International Peace
Photo credit: cliff1066™ / Foter / CC BY

From its inception, the organization has espoused Carnegie’s belief that global conflict can be averted through stronger international laws and effective institutions dedicated to the propagation of peace. Ever the philanthropist opposed to international conflict, Carnegie charged the trustees of the foundation with the mission and charter “to hasten the abolition of war, the foulest blot upon our civilization.” Although such a goal has always remained elusive, the “Global Think Tank” resulting from Carnegie’s zeal has continuously been involved with promoting international peace by directly appealing to the intellectual leaders of world. Down through the years, it has emphasized educational initiatives, programs dedicated to international cooperation, and the implementation of international law. Officially, the endowment is described as “a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing cooperation between nations and promoting active international engagement by the United States” – and it has done so with a strong conviction that its work should contribute to genuine change in the world. Of related interest, three famous “peace temples” stand has architectural monuments to  Carnegie’s dedication to international amity: the Peace Palace located at the The Hague in the Netherlands, the Pan-American Union Building in Washington D. C., and the Central American Court of Justice in Costa Rica.

With centers geographically located in Washington, D.C., Moscow, Beirut, Beijing, and Brussels, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is the oldest foreign affairs think tank in the United States. In the wake of the 911 tragedy, revolutionary efforts were announced in 2006 to forge the first “international think tank” for the confrontation of global challenges – thereby reinvigorating the institution to take on a modern world plagued by vastly different problems than one hundred years prior. At the Carnegie international locations “local experts produce unrivaled work on critical national, regional, and global issues, collaborating closely with colleagues across the world. The result provides capitals and global institutions with a deeper understanding of the circumstances shaping policy choices worldwide as well as a flow of new approaches to policy problems.” Under the leadership of Jessica Tuchman Mathews since 1997, it is considered to be the third most influential think tank in the world, behind only the Brookings Institution and Chatham House. The organization sports a long list of “experts” dedicated to a plethora of scholarly topics, such as economics, nuclear policy, environmental concerns, and multicultural issues.

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The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Celebrated 100 Years in 2010
Photo credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff / Foter / CC BY

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is comprised of a wide range of efforts dedicated to international politics, transnational economics, and global cooperation toward the elimination of violence and war. Down through the years, it has prided itself on practical results achieved through an emphasis on dedicated research, scholarly publication, and the creation of new institutions devoted to the promulgation of worldwide goodwill. The website is an educators dream, offering “free access to books for course adoption, with tables of contents and sample chapters, as well as Carnegie papers, rich-in-text commentaries, policy analysis and press releases, in addition to a well classified library of selected online sources (such as The Carnegie Moscow Center and The Carnegie-Tsinghua).” With a website that is offered in five different languages and centers located throughout the world, the organization is most certainly international in spirit and well tailored for its professed mission.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace seems to bear a common spirit with the University for Peace, which is located in Costa Rica. Both entities hope to promote understanding, tolerance, cooperation, and peaceful coexistence amongst the peoples of the earth – with the long range hope of lessening the obstacles to worldwide peace and prosperity. There is no doubt that terrorism is a result of misunderstanding, intolerance of differences in culture and religion, negative social and political trends, perceived injustices in economic opportunity, and an overriding sense of fear and the lack of open-mindedness. Critics point out that military intervention might be a short term answer to eliminating terrorist activity, but in the long run it only breeds more recruits to terrorist cells. Preventative efforts such as those evident with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace are crucial to the long term elimination of transnational radical violence, also referred to as terrorism. In the same manner that we prescribe to military academies that enable the means of waging war, we must also facilitate the means of waging peace through institutions of equal importance. We praise the efforts of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and urge you to sign the petition to which this website is dedicated.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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