The Institute of International Law was founded on 8 September 1873 at the Ghent Town Hall in Belgium. Eleven international lawyers of renown had decided to join together to create an institution independent of any governmental influence which would be able both to contribute to the development of international law and act so that it might be implemented.
Behind the Ghent meeting one can discern in particular, the combined efforts of Gustave Rolin-Jaequemyns and Gustave Moynier. The latter had in 1863 been one of the five founding members of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Like many others, he had been appalled to observe that the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field (1864) had met with such little compliance during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. There was a need to react and it is in this spirit that the founders established a private association whose scientific credentials, the quality of its works and its independence were to enable the “progress of International Law”, in accordance with the terms of the Statutes (Article One).
In principle, the Institute meets every two years. Between Sessions, Scientific Commissions study themes chosen by the plenary Assembly. The latter receives the work of the Commissions, examines them attentively and if appropriate adopts Resolutions of a normative character.
These Resolutions are then brought to the attention of governmental authorities, international organizations as well as the scientific community. In this way, the Institute seeks to highlight the characteristics of the lex lata in order to promote its respect. Sometimes it make determinations de lege ferenda in order to contribute to the development of international law.
In 1904 the Institute of International Law was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its action in favour of arbitration among States, a peaceful means of settling disputes. The three people whose portraits appear on this site are Pascal Mancini, the Institute’s first President, Gustave Rolin-Jaequemyns, the first Secretary-General, and Gustave Moynier, who was instrumental in the creation of the Institute.