File No. 763.72114/4061

The Minister in Switzerland ( Stovall) to the Secretary of State


4968. International Red Cross, acting under the Geneva convention, recently requested competent German authorities to restore [Page 50] American sanitary personnel in Germany and received report to the effect that, as Government of the United States does not regard the Geneva convention binding upon repatriation of prisoners in question, [German Government] cannot accept it in the absence of a special agreement. This action by Geneva Red Cross was unknown to the best of our knowledge.

International Red Cross now writes as follows:

You will allow the International Committee of the Red Cross, who consider themselves as the advocates of the principles on which the convention is based, to express to you their astonishment. The Geneva convention is the statute on which the Red Cross is based.

The American Red Cross, this gigantic institution, in its international action, is rooted in this convention, and therefore we cannot well understand how today America says that the convention is not binding upon her.

At present, there are only such states as Liberia and Costa Rica among the belligerents who have not signed the convention, and certainly they play an insignificant part in the present war. Therefore we cannot help thinking that America’s action is a dangerous precedent. As for us it would prevent us from doing anything in favor of her prisoners, since in all the cases in which we have interfered we always availed ourselves in our requests of the conventions of Geneva and The Hague.

All the belligerents, especially the great powers, have always insisted on the principle of the Geneva convention being enforced and the newly made agreements between them on prisoners have taken the convention as base.

We should be thankful to Your Excellency to let us know whether America maintains her point of view concerning Geneva convention.