Draft of a note from the Russian Minister at Berne to the Swiss Federal Council.

[Handed to the Secretary of State, March 22, 1906.]


Before communicating the detailed programme prepared by Russia for the Second Peace Conference (which I shall do shortly), I am directed by the Imperial Government to invite the kind attention of the Swiss Federal Government to the following considerations:

The representatives of Switzerland at the First Peace Conference declared in the name of their Government that it was disposed to convene an international conference for the revision of the Geneva Convention of 1864. The Hague Conference took note of this declaration and included in its final act the wish that the said Geneva Convention should be revised within a short time. Various circumstances have prevented this wish from being realized until recently, but, on the other hand, these events made it evident that the revision of the convention of 1864 was an imperative necessity. Now, this revision will imply the examination of the sanitary orders which are allied to others connected with subjects to be introduced in the convention relative to laws and customs of war. It being necessary that the codification of the laws of war be characterized by unity and harmony between its parts, it would seem preferable that the revision of the Geneva Convention should take place simultaneously [Page 1538] and in connection with the elaboration of new regulations for the general war code.

Consequently, the Imperial Government, appreciating highly the eminent services which Switzerland has rendered to humanity by the development of the idea instituting the Red Cross, and inspired by the wish expressed by the conference of 1899, considers that in the paramount interest of the great work of peace it would be very desirable if the Swiss Federal Council would kindly take advantage of the forthcoming reunion of the proposed international conference to enable it to proceed to the revision of the convention of 1864, and to the agreement of its conclusions with the acts that are to be signed in this conference. To this end, the Imperial Government ventures to express the hope that the Swiss Federal Council will invite the powers signatories of the convention of 1864, as well as those who adhered to it later, to give to their representatives at the next peace conference special powers with regard to the revision of the Geneva Convention of 1864, which revision could be undertaken in special reunions at the same time as are the labors of the plenum of the conference. The plenipotentiaries might be assisted by delegates and technical experts whose special mission would be to collaborate in the revision of the Geneva Convention.

It goes without saying that the new convention, destined to replace that of 1864, would maintain in their integrity the bases of the special organization of the Red Cross and would preserve the name, so respected and so justly dear to the civilized world, of Geneva Convention.

While calling attention to the advantages which the combination explained above would seem to offer toward the realization of the common work, the Imperial Government does not fail to appreciate that the Swiss Government may have already decided upon another method of procedure, viz, the convening of a new conference at Geneva for the revision of the convention of 1864. If such should be the case, and if the decision of the Federal Council is irrevocable, the Imperial Government will not insist on the adoption of the Russian proposal above mentioned, provided that the revision of the convention of 1864 be effected at Geneva before the reunion of the peace conference, so that the states taking part in this last conference may be able to agree upon the conclusions reached at the two reunions. In this case it would be desirable to have the Swiss Government kindly request the powers who are to take part in the Geneva Convention to meet on a date not later than the second part of May, new style, of this year.

While thus carrying out the orders of my Government and awaiting a favorable reply from the Federal Council, I avail myself of this occasion, etc.