511.3 B 1/143: Telegram

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

3. The following draft convention for the international control of the traffic in arms and munitions has been submitted to the Temporary Mixed Commission by Admiral the Marquis Magaz, a Spaniard, in his personal capacity. This draft is now under general discussion in the Commission, after which it is proposed to refer it to the subcommittee for more detailed discussion. The comments of the Commission upon its provisions will be reported to the Department in separate telegrams. If the Department desires to express any opinions for my guidance in the subcommittee, it would be helpful to receive them immediately. This is the only draft submitted which would appear to tend to meet our views.

The explanatory preamble begins as follows:

“The Council, acting in pursuance of a recommendation of the Assembly, has invited our Commission to prepare draft conventions [Page 23] in such a form that they might be accepted by the governments of all countries which produce arms and munitions of war. We have also been asked to make alternative proposals for a convention or conventions which might be adopted by some of the producing powers, even if the others refused their cooperation.

In preparing the following draft, account has been taken of both the above recommendations. Care has been taken to avoid the insertion of any clause which might render it difficult for the Government of the United States to ratify the convention, while at the same time the draft has been conceived in such a way that it could if necessary be ratified by all the producing countries, even if the United States should refuse to adhere to it.”

The text of the draft convention is as follows:

“The high contracting parties being desirous of establishing an international regime to control the traffic in arms, have agreed on the following provisions:

Article 1. The present convention shall apply to three categories of material, arms and munitions, namely,

  • Category 1. To war material, which term shall be understood for the purpose of this convention to include all arms, munitions, chemical products and other objects appearing in the list annexed to the present treaty. Modifications, in the form of a list, omissions from or interpretations of this list, may be made at any time at the request of a high contracting party and shall become binding on all the high contracting parties as soon as they have been ratified by two-thirds of them.
  • Category 2. To sporting weapons and ammunition, which expression shall be understood, for the purposes of this convention, to mean all arms, ammunition and similar materials which do not appear in the annex referred to in the last paragraph, and which are recognized as such by the national sporting associations recommended for this purpose by at least half the governments of the high contracting parties.
  • Category 3. To other arms, including, in particular, pocket firearms employed for personal defense, et cetera.

Article 2. A central international office shall be established for the purpose of collecting and preserving documents of all sorts exchanged by the high contracting parties with regard to the trade in and distribution of the arms and ammunition specified in the present convention.

Each of the high contracting parties shall publish an annual report showing the imports and exports of arms of all kinds which have taken place through its customs offices, specifying the place of departure and destination and the quantities and natures of the material thus imported or exported. Each of the high contracting parties shall send this report in triplicate to central international office.

First category, Article 3. The high contracting parties undertake not to permit the sale or export of material of the first category except to governments recognized by at least half of the high contracting parties.

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Article 4. Material of the first category shall be exported by virtue of a license issued to the exporter by the exporting high contracting party. If the exporting high contracting party is not the state in whose territory the material has been manufactured, the export license must contain all the data necessary in order to trace, for the purposes of this convention, the movements of the material in question from the time of its leaving the factory until it was acquired by the exporter.

The export license must contain a certificate from the diplomatic or consular representatives of the purchasing government, granting the exporter official authorization to proceed with the export on behalf of the said government.

Article 5. With a view to rendering more effective the supervision of the limitations placed on export and sale by article 3, the high contracting parties undertake to prohibit the import of material of the first category, with the exception of material acquired for the government of the high contracting party concerned.

Second category, Article 6. The high contracting parties undertake to prohibit the sale of material of the second category by any person not furnished with a license issued by the proper authorities. The latter shall only issue such licenses to persons who can show that they belong to sporting associations recognized by the competent authorities of the high contracting parties concerned.

Article 7. The high contracting parties undertake not to allow material of the second category to be exported except by persons holding a license issued by the competent authorities of the exporting high contracting parties. This license must include an authorization to import issued by the government which exercises sovereignty over the territory of destination.

Article 8. Each high contracting party shall draw up authentic copies of the export licenses referred to in the two preceding articles with a view to the transmission of copies to the high contracting party which exercises sovereignty over the territory of destination and to all the governments, whether of high contracting parties or not, through whose territory the material would have to pass in transit. These copies must be despatched in sufficient time to enable the governments to supervise the transport of the material.

Third category, Article 9. The high contracting parties undertake to exercise supervision over the national and international traffic in arms of the third category and to take all necessary measures to prevent illicit stocks and traffic.

Article 10. With the above object in view, the high contracting parties undertake:

To provide for close cooperation among the respective national administrations and between these administrations and the international office referred to in article 2;

To institute a system of registration and licenses which shall make it possible at any time to trace arms which are in the possession of individuals;

To communicate to each other and to the international office referred to in article 2 any information calculated to facilitate this control.

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Article 11. The high contracting parties undertake to apply to arms in the third category the regime laid down in articles 7 and 8 of the present convention in regard to arms of the second category.

General provisions, Article 12. The high contracting parties undertake to assist each other mutually in bringing to light any infractions of the rules of this convention. They recognize in advance the jurisdiction of the Permanent Court of International Justice for all international investigation concerning negligence or connivance on the part of a government administration concerned with these matters. They further undertake to impose penalties of a uniform character on their nationals (individuals, associations or firms) who may be found guilty of [violating] the national laws passed in execution of the provisions of the present convention. These penalties shall be codified by common agreement between the national administrations, and the code shall appear as an annex to the present convention.

Article 13. The present convention shall come into force when it has been ratified by 4 of the states mentioned in the Covenant of the League of Nations as permanent members of the Council and by 16 other states. The international office referred to in article [2] shall be organized by the Belgian Government as soon as the convention has been thus ratified.

Article 14. The duration of the present convention shall be for 15 years. It shall remain in force for all states which have not notified the international office of their intention to denounce it 2 years before the expiration of the above period, unless, as a result of successive denunciations, the number of high contracting parties shall have been reduced to 10, including 2 of the nations entitled, under the Covenant, to be permanently represented on the Council.”