Convention signed to combat international crime more effectively

On Wednesday 14 February 2024, 32 states signed the Ljubljana - The Hague Convention at the Peace Palace in The Hague. State Secretary for Justice and Security Eric van der Burg signed it on behalf of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The international convention contains agreements on legal cooperation in the detection, prosecution and trial of international crimes, such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This convention facilitates cooperation between states, so that impunity for serious crimes can be combatted more effectively.

Without this new convention it was often complicated to bring suspects of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes before a national court. In the case of these types of crimes the suspects, victims and evidence are often scattered across different countries. In order to still bring these cases before a national court, international cooperation is badly needed. The current legal framework for this is incomplete and partly outdated and that makes it tricky for states to cooperate effectively in the fight against impunity.

To change this, the Netherlands, together with Argentina, Belgium, Mongolia, Senegal and Slovenia - 'the lead group' - took the initiative to create this convention in 2011, with the Netherlands consistently playing a leading role. After years of preparations and negotiations, almost 70 states finally agreed on the text of the new convention in Ljubljana in May 2023. Any state can become a party to this convention and thereby join a modern and uniform framework for international cooperation in the field of mutual legal assistance, extradition and enforcement of sentences.

The convention includes provisions on Joint Investigation Teams, digital information exchange, video conferencing and various special investigation techniques. The convention also entails obligations to make the relevant international crimes punishable under national law and actually prosecute them. As a result, the convention will not only be important in facilitating cooperation between states, but also help prevent perpetrators of these crimes from finding safe havens. The establishment of this convention is therefore a milestone in the international fight against impunity for the most serious crimes and an important step towards justice for the victims of these crimes. At the same time, the fact that dozens of states from different regions of the world signed this convention in the Peace Palace is a key outcome of the Netherlands' commitment to promoting the development of the international rule of law.

From 19 February onwards the convention will be open for signing in Brussels for another year and the number of signatures is expected to increase significantly in the coming period. The convention will enter into force after the first three states have ratified it. In order to make this convention as effective an instrument as possible, it is very important that as many states as possible eventually become party to it, and the Netherlands will therefore work towards the global applicability of this convention in the coming years.