By Neil Allan Mules, Ambassador of Australia to the Netherlands.
The Australian Embassy in The Hague lies just behind the gardens of the Peace Palace, the
preeminent centre for international law and justice opened in 1913. The official residence,
not far from the chancery, was built during the same era and has been continuously occupied
by Australian Ambassadors since the 1940s. Australia’s role in the development of
international law and the delivery of international justice is similarly close and enduring.
Recognising early on the utility of a world court, Australia ratified the Statute of the
Permanent Court of International Justice in 1921 and subsequently accepted the Court’s
Australia played an important role in the drafting of the Statute of
the Permanent Court’s successor, the International Court of Justice, and advocated in favour
of compulsory jurisdiction. The Australian jurist and former Minister for External Affairs,
Sir Percy Spender, served as Judge of the Court from 1958 to 1964 and President from 1964
to 1967. Eminent Australian international lawyer, Professor James Crawford, has been
nominated for election as a Judge of the Court this year.Australia and Australians have also made a noteworthy contribution in the field ofinternational criminal law. Australia played a significant role in the drafting of the Rome
Statute of the International Criminal Court and continues to work to promote its ratification.
Australia has contributed financially to all the Hague-based international criminal courts
and tribunals. The first Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the
former Yugoslavia, Graham Blewitt, came to The Hague having prosecuted former Nazi war
criminals in Australia. Three Australians have served as Judges of the Tribunal, including the
former Governor-General of Australia, Sir Ninian Stephen, who drafted the first version of
the Tribunal’s rules.
Today, Australians are working in senior roles throughout the Hague-based legal institutions
as investigators, prosecutors, IT specialists, defence lawyers, librarians, researchers,
translators, analysts and administrators. The Presiding Judge of the Trial Chamber of the
Special Tribunal for Lebanon, David Re, is Australian, as is the current Registrar of the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, John Hocking. The Australian
Embassy continues to provide practical and diplomatic support to the international legal
institutions and works to strengthen and improve their governance. Australian diplomats
are active in the Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court, the
Administrative Council of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the Hague Conference on
Private International Law.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote that humankind was at its worst when separated from
law and justice. This was proven almost one hundred years ago when war broke out across
Europe, less than one year after the Peace Palace opened in The Hague. There is perhaps no
more an important time as now to reflect on the necessity of international law and the hope of
international justice. Australia is committed to working to ensure that hope becomes reality.