The Peace Palace ("Vredespaleis" in Dutch), situated in The Hague, Netherlands, is often called the seat of international law because it houses the International Court of Justice (which is the principal judicial body of the United Nations), the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Hague Academy of International Law, and the extensive Peace Palace Library
In addition to hosting these institutions, the Palace is also a regular venue for special events in international policy and law.
The idea of the Palace started from a discussion in 1900 between the Russian diplomat Friedrich Martens
and the American diplomat Andrew White
, over providing a home for the Permanent Court of Arbitration
(PCA), which was established through the first Hague Peace Conference
in 1899. White contacted his friend and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie
about this idea. Carnegie had his reservations, and at first was only interested in donating money for the establishment of a Library of International Law. White however was able to convince Carnegie, and in 1903 Carnegie agreed to donating 1.5 million dollars needed for a Peace Temple that would house the PCA as well as to endow it with a library of international law.
In first instance Carnegie simply wanted to donate the money directly to the Dutch
Queen, Wilhelmina of the Netherlands
for the building of the palace, but legal problems prohibited this, and in November 1903 the Carnegie Stichting (Carnegie Foundation
) was founded in order to manage the construction, ownership, and maintenance of the Palace. This foundation is still responsible for these issues at present date.
To find a suitable design, the foundation called for an open international competition. The winning design, set in the Neo-Renaissance style, was submitted by French architect Louis M. Cordonnier. In order to build within the budget the design was adjusted by Cordonnier and his Dutch associate Van der Steur. The palace initially had two big bell towers in front and two small ones in the back. Only one big tower and one small tower remained in the final building. Also in order to save money the separate library building from the winning design was incorporated in the Palace itself.
The grounds were designed by Thomas Hayton Mawson, who also had to discard some fountains and sculptures in order to fit the budget.
The Palace is filled with many gifts of the different nations who attended the Second Hague Conference as a sign of their support. Among the gifts are a 3200 kilo vase from Russia, doors from Belgium, marble from Italy, a fountain from Denmark, wall carpets from Japan, the clock for the clock tower from Switzerland, persian rugs from Iran and wood from Indonesia and the United States of America. The palace also features a number of statues, busts and portraits of prominent peace campaigners from around the world and of all eras.
In 1907 the first stone was symbolically placed during the Second Hague Conference. The construction began some months later and was completed with an inauguration ceremony on 28 August 1913, attended by, among others, Andrew Carnegie.
In 1999 an eternal peace flame was installed in front of its gates.
In 2007, Queen Beatrix opened the new building for the Peace Palace Library of International Law, housing the entire catalogue of the library, a lecture hall and a new reading room in the bridge to the main building of the Peace Palace.
The occupants of the Peace Palace are/were:
- Permanent Court of Arbitration (1913 - ...) The original occupant for which the Peace Palace was constructed. From 1901 till the opening of the Palace in 1913, the PCA was housed at Prinsengracht 71 in The Hague. It now (February 2008) has 107 State Parties.
- Peace Palace Library of International Law (1913 - ...) Being the original vision of Carnegie, the library grew quickly to house the best collection of international law. Although this stature is well in the past, the library still contains some original classical works, as the original copies of Hugo Grotius works on peace and law and the Querela Pacus from Erasmus;
- The Hague Academy of International Law (1923 - ...) Established in 1914, strongly advocated by Tobias Asser. Funds for the Academy came from another peace project by Andrew Carnegie, namely the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, established in 1910.
- The Carnegie Stichting (Carnegie Foundation) (1913 - ...)
- Permanent Court of International Justice (1922 - 1946) In 1922 the PCIJ of the League of Nations was added to the occupants. This meant the Library was forced to move to an annex building, and the PCA was moved to the front left of the building. This Court was followed by the;
- International Court of Justice (1946-...) In 1946, with the birth of the United Nations, the ICJ was established as her principal judicial organ. Because of limited space, different locations in The Hague have been used for bigger cases (for instance with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia).
The PCA and ICJ work separately, although they do use the same 'pool' of international judges.
References and further reading
- Arthur Eyffinger, The Peace Palace, ISBN 90-6611-331-6