[Honouring a champion] SCL lecture series rebranded in honour of Benjamin Ferencz

Published 2 June 2024

Photo @Christophe Paulussen - Don Ferencz, The Hague’s Deputy Mayor Saskia Bruines and Benjamin Ferencz at the ‘Law Not War’ bench in The Hague in 2018.

On 2 June 2024, during an event at the Peace Palace commemorating the work of international criminal justice champion Benjamin Ferencz and former ICJ judge Thomas Buergenthal, acting academic director of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut Christophe Paulussen announced the rebranding of the Supranational Criminal Law (SCL) Lecture Series into the Benjamin Ferencz Lecture Series on International Criminal Justice 

The SCL Lecture Series, established in 2003, has become a prominent platform to discuss international criminal law. The series is organised by the T.M.C. Asser Instituut, in cooperation with the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies of Leiden University (Campus The Hague) and the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.  

The series has hosted leading figures in the field, including former ICC officials, prosecutors from international tribunals, and renowned legal scholars. One such speaker was Benjamin Ferencz, a tireless advocate for international criminal justice, who sadly passed away in 2023 at the age of 103. Ferencz rose to prominence for his role in prosecuting Nazi war crimes at Nuremberg after World War II. As a young lawyer, he served as the chief prosecutor in the Einsatzgruppen trial and later helped establish the International Criminal Court (ICC).  

The power of law 
Ferencz's unwavering belief in the power of law to prevent future atrocities is reflected in his famous quote: "Nuremberg taught me that creating a world of tolerance and compassion would be a long and arduous task... If we did not devote ourselves to developing effective world law, the same cruel mentality that made the Holocaust possible might one day destroy the entire human race." 

Throughout his life, Ferencz tirelessly advocated for the creation of the ICC, which became operational in 2002. His dedication, which he compared to a rock being pushed up a hill which would roll down the hill the moment you let go continues to inspire young audiences worldwide, including those at the Asser Institute.  

In recognition of Ferencz's immense contribution to international criminal justice, the Asser Institute, in collaboration with its SCL Lecture Series partners, has decided to rename the series in his honour. The rebranding of the lecture series ensures that Ferencz's legacy continues to inspire future generations dedicated to upholding international criminal justice. The format and approach of the series will remain consistent, providing a platform for critical discussions on advancements in international criminal law. However, it will now carry the name of a true champion in the field. 

'The man who inspired thousands, including myself as a student, continues to live on through our lecture series on international criminal justice'

 Benjamin Ferencz (left) and Christophe Paulussen (right)Energy and optimism 
Dr Christophe
Paulussen, acting academic director of the Asser Institute, who took the initiative in the rebranding, is enthusiastic: "I am thrilled that the man who inspired thousands, including myself as a student, continues to live on through our lecture series on international criminal justice. Even though we must remain critical, we will use Ben's energy and optimism as an inspiration to keep pushing the law forward."

Don Ferencz, Benjamin’s son, is equally thrilled: “Growing up as the son of Ben and Gertrude Ferencz, I was often admonished that we should not leave a place the way we found it, but rather that we should leave it the way we would like to have found it. That message resonates with all who work to make the world a better, safer, and more humane place for everyone. It is an honour to know that my father’s spirit of commitment to advancing the rule of law will live on in the lecture series initiated by the T.M.C. Asser Instituut, which shares the same commitment to contributing to the development of international law. 

About the series 
The Benjamin Ferencz Lecture Series (formerly SCL Lecture Series) has welcomed the biggest names in international criminal law to the T.M.C. Asser Instituut, such as:  

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Dr Christophe Paulussen LL.M. M.Phil.