The International Criminal Court: A new building, but is it better?

15 December 2015 by Tjitske Lingsma and Janet H. Anderson, The Hague

Six block buildings, the tallest holding the courtrooms, stand in a row along the coastal landscape of The Hague. They are bedecked with trapezoid windows, meant to reflect the changing daylight and convey a sense of transparency. High fences are absent. The sand dunes that protect the Netherlands from the North Sea’s high tide are, along with many other measures, ingeniously used to provide security. This is the new permanent premises of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Visitors must cross a moat before entering the International Criminal Court's new permanent premises (Photo: Tjitske Lingsma)
Image caption: 
Visitors must cross a moat before entering the International Criminal Court's new permanent premises (Photo: Tjitske Lingsma)

The premises was designed with victims and witnesses in mind, providing specially designated rooms where they can rest between the proceedings. But there has also been grumbling that in the main courtroom, the public is seated farther way, making them dependant on the court video stream for a clear view of the defendants.

This month, the ICC, with its approximately 800 permanent staff, is moving to the new complex, which has 1,382 workstations. After the winter holiday recess, the court is expected to be fully operational here.

Since entering into force in 2002, the ICC had been squashed in a temporary former telecoms buildings some five kilometres from the permanent premises. Pillars blocking the public’s view of the courtrooms in the old building reminded visitors that the wing was once a parking garage. It was a struggle to find available rooms for victims and witnesses to retire to when taking part in the proceedings.

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