The Hague - International city

The Hague: international city of peace & justice

With the 100th anniversary of the Peace Palace the international allure of The Hague is very well visible. Besides the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Hague has another 200 international organisations, and 111 embassies and consulates. For centuries, The Hague has been the city of Peace and Justice with the international legal order taking a leading role. No wonder GMW lawyers often has to deal with international law.

International city of Peace & Justice

The various international institutions situated in The Hague include the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons), the ICC (International Criminal Court) and the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia).

The Hague also has several academic institutions in the field of international relations, international law and international development, united in the so-called The Hague Academic Coalition. The Hague is, after New York, the most important city of the UN (United Nations). Also established in The Hague are Europol and the European Patent Office.

The Hague is a governmental city and the large presence of international institutions attracts new institutions with a diplomatic or intergovernmental status. There are more than 18.000 residents of the Hague working towards world peace. GMW lawyers supports these (international) employees and organisations and in this way contributes to the international and legal character of The Hague.

How did all these organizations end up here?

Ever since the establishment of the government of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands in the 16th century, The Hague has offered accommodation to foreign diplomats. The international history makes The Hague very special.

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) was a lawyer in The Hague who made the Netherlands a guiding country for international relations. In his most famous work “The Rights of War and Peace” (1625), he established legal limitations to the destruction of war. This document is still the basis of modern international law.

Tobias Asser (1838-1913), Dutch lawyer and later Nobel prize winner, set up the The Hague Conference of International Private Law. In line with this, the first edition of The Hague Peace Conference took place in 1899. This then led to the establishment of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Subsequently, the Peace Palace was built to accommodate this new Court of Arbitration. With the establishment of the ICC (International Criminal Court) after the Second World War, The Hague became a magnet for other intergovernmental institutions.

Characteristics of international organisations

The establishment of international organisations is generally governed by the conventions in which these organisations are founded. This means that in principal these organisations only have to comply to the terms of their own treaty and to the general regulations of national and international law.

The independency of international organisations is revealed by their special privileges and immunities. Due to these special privileges, the host state does not have (full) legal authority over them. In a procedure, a judge in The Hague may declare himself unauthorised over an international organisation. Furthermore, buildings of international organisations are inviolable. This means that Dutch authorities may not enter these buildings without permission.

Mini states and their personnel

With the various international organisations, The Hague actually has a large collection of mini states. What does this mean for the people who work there? First of all, immunity also applies to the personnel of the mini states. There are some exceptions to this immunity, namely if a member of the personnel buys a house or gets married. In that case Dutch law applies.

This is quite different when it comes to Dutch employment law. International organisations have their own internal employment law rules. Only in exceptional situations a judge may be authorised to review a case relating to employment law, namely in the case of demonstrable violations of human rights. Either way, authorities may use diplomatic pressure to make sure that Dutch laws will be respected.



Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or for more information.


Godelijn Boonman - Expat lawyer (employjment law)

Godelijn experienced an international upbringing and education as an expat child living in Africa and England. Back in The Netherlands, she studied law at the University of Utrecht (1990). She then embarked on her legal career as a lawyer by working 10 years for the well-known law firm of ‘Wladimiroff en Spong Advocaten’. In 2000 she joined GMW lawyers as a partner and is the head of the Labour law and Pension section.

Godelijn specialises in international employment law and has extensive experience in dealing with both non-contentious and contentious international employment matters including (collective) redundancy packages and dismissal. She works for both companies and individual employees, enabling her to keep an open mind to both sides of a case. Naturally she helps her clients when a problem has arisen, but prefers to act before an escalation has taken place. Advice on a fair Human Resource policy is an essential part of her work.

Godelijn Boonman is considered to be the undoubted employment specialist for the expat community because she is bilingual, has a large international clientele and a wealth of experience in international employment law matters. She is therefore frequently asked to be the key note speaker at international seminars.

Godelijn has a keen interest in the international community and has been a member of the advisory board of ACCESS and the Women’s Business Initiative International since its beginning.