The Peace Palace Library is known as one of the leading legal libraries in the world and one of the services it provides for its users is access to a growing number of databases, invaluable tools for legal research. The efforts to introduce access to these databases in the Library started several years ago and they have been growing. These databases, around 85 of them now in 2015, are an incredibly rich resource and by investing some time and a little bit of effort, the user can maximize their value. The kind staff of the Library is there to help.
The databases provide access to legal material from various countries, from France and Belgium to South Africa, the US, Turkey, China and Morocco and they contain legislation as well as jurisprudence of domestic courts. There are databases that focus on specific subjects and sub-fields of international law and can range from arbitration and investment claims to human rights and international criminal law. These are easily accessible in the library and, given that some require a special key, the staff will gladly provide it.
One of the most often used databases and one that is very useful in my own research is the Annotated Leading Cases of International Criminal Tribunals. This database is easy to use and provides a collection of important decisions, including the concurring, separate and dissenting opinions from a variety of international criminal tribunals. It is well known that sometimes dissents make particularly interesting reading.
The database includes cases from the ICTY, ICTR, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the ICC and the International Criminal Tribunal for Timor-Leste. The jurisprudence of the ICTY and ICTR is especially rich and what is particularly useful for the users are the accompanying commentaries posted along with the decisions. Academics, practitioners and students can use it simply by searching a case number, the name of the accused, or a specific term or legal concept. Many databases require significant effort in order for the user to be able to use them efficiently. This database is, on the other hand, really straightforward and easy to master. As such, I highly recommend it to students that are just now beginning their work in legal research.
Since the establishment of the ICTY and the ICTR, international criminal law has been growing and expanding and tools for keeping track of the jurisprudence are thus very useful to anyone keen on understanding developments in this vibrant field. Through their work, these tribunals not only decided on guilt or innocence of defendants charged with committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, they have also clarified a myriad of issues relating to fair trial standards or the protection of vulnerable witnesses. For anyone working in The Hague, these really present a window into an exciting world of international criminal law.
By Iva Vukusic
Iva Vukusic is a PhD student in the History Department at Utrecht University and is an affiliate researcher at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam. Iva worked as a journalist at Sense in The Hague, a news agency that specializes in covering trials at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Iva holds a masters degree in journalism from Zagreb University and a master’s in human rights (cum laude) from the University of Bologna, Italy and the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 2015, Iva started working at Utrecht University as a PhD Candidate within the NWO-funded VIDI project titled "Paramilitarism, Organized Crime and the State.