The Chargé in Italy (Gunther) to the Secretary of State

No. 794

Sir: Referring to the Department’s unnumbered instruction of September 10, 1923, file 711.659/3, in which the Embassy is instructed to submit a report stating whether the following Italian authorities:

Gazzetta Ufficiale, August 16, 1914, Act No. 282, Royal Decree No. 7.

Gazzetta Ufficiale, 27 June 1912, No. 151.”

support the following statement:

“Italy requires customs manifests to be shown to her officers anywhere within ten kilometers (about six miles). The Court of Cassation in 1885 held that her territorial waters extend four or five miles. Her neutrality laws are enforced within a zone of six and her navigation laws within ten nautical miles.”

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and in which the Embassy is instructed to set forth any additional Italian laws, treaties, agreements or regulations that may be considered of interest, I have the honor to report, after consultation with an Italian lawyer in whose ability the Embassy has confidence, as follows:

It is necessary to discriminate between the extent of territorial jurisdiction for (1) customs purposes and (2) for purposes of protecting the safety and sovereignty of the nation.

(1) For customs purposes Italy claims that manifests must be shown to Italian officers at any point in a zone of 10 kilometers distant from the shore line. This distance of ten kilometers is calculated as provided in the fundamental customs law in force (Law of January 20, 1896, No. 20.).

(2) For purposes of protection to the national safety and sovereignty, Italy claims, at least in theory, a jurisdiction in accordance with the Hague Convention of October 18, 1907.53 This Convention has not yet been ratified by Italy but has been actually applied. It is to be observed that in all Italian decrees and laws relating to the subject matter of this Convention mention has been specifically made of the fact that Italy has not ratified it.

For the protection of her national safety and sovereignty Italy has taken the following special measures, in times of emergency as follows:

War against Turkey.—The law of June 16, 1912, No. 612, published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale of June 27, 1912, No. 151, states that in some localities, to be established by special decree, Italy has the privilege of preventing the transit of vessels within ten sea miles (about eighteen and a half kilometers, each sea mile being equal to about 1 kilometer, 851 meters), with special rules for measuring this distance in front of bays, gulfs, etc., and provides that ships not submitting to this control may be fined, retained until payment of fine or, in special circumstances, delivered to the competent judicial authority.
The Great War.—By the Decree-Law No. 798 published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale of August 10, 1914, No. 190, promulgated on the occasion of the Italian declaration of neutrality, Italy claimed the privilege of enforcing her laws of neutrality within a zone of six sea miles (about 11 kilometers, 110 meters) from the shore line.
Both of these laws (a) and (b), although not specifically repealed, have fallen into disuse since the particular situations which they were intended to meet have passed.

The Embassy is informed that the Court of Cassation has nothing to do with these matters, and the only sources of a positive character [Page 197] are the laws above indicated; that Act No. 282 mentioned in the Department’s instruction does not exist in the collection of the Gazzetta Ufficiale of August, 1914, the last number of that month being No. 234.

The lawyer whom the Embassy has been consulting remarks that without doubt each nation has the right of providing for its defense and safety; that an ancient principle of international law determined this point as extending to the maximum reach of a cannon; that although this principle cannot now be considered an absolute and invariable one, yet the reach of a cannon has been considerably extended in recent years, so that a distance of ten sea miles for the purpose of enforcing neutrality laws cannot be deemed to be an unreasonable distance.

I have [etc.]

F. M. Gunther
  1. See footnote 62, p. 211.