710.H Agenda/67

The Mexican Ambassador ( Castillo Nájera ) to the Secretary of State
[Translation33]

Mr. Secretary: I have received instructions from my Government to bring to the knowledge of Your Excellency a Project of Convention relative to the Prohibition of Aerial Bombardment, which Mexico proposes to submit for the consideration of the American Governments [Page 21] which may be represented at the Eighth International Conference of American States to be held at Lima, Peru, in December next.

Attached, I transmit to Your Excellency a ten-page copy of the Project, making known, at the same time, that the objectives which Mexico pursues in endeavoring to obtain your approval are purely humanitarian, since it is a question of attempting to avoid the suffering of defenseless women and children, safeguarding at the same time historic and scientific monuments, etc., and protecting Red Cross buildings.

I avail myself [etc.]

F. Castillo Nájera
[Enclosure—Translation34]
Project of Convention Relative to the Prohibition of Aerial Bombardments

Exposition

In view of the deplorable events which have taken place during the present wars in Spain and China, where cities located beyond the zone of combat have been bombed from the air, resulting in innumerable and innocent victims among the civil population, the Mexican Delegation, motivated by humanitarian sentiments, has the honor to present to the Eighth International Conference of American States the project of convention which is inserted below. The object of the project is to avoid the suffering of defenseless women and children, and at the same time to protect historic, scientific, etc., monuments and the establishments of the Red Cross.

Only one declaration exists which contains provisions relative to aerial bombardments, and this instrument, because of its inherent limitations, can be considered to be ineffective, in view of the fact that in the period when it was adopted, that is, at The Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907,35 aviation had not attained the development it has achieved today nor had it acquired its contemporary military importance.

In this connection, the following declaration was adopted at The Hague Conference of 1899:

“The contracting Powers agree to prohibit, for a term of five years, the launching of projectiles and explosives from balloons, or by other new methods of similar nature.”36

The Conference of 1907 adopted a similar declaration, which reads textually as follows: [Page 22]

“The contracting Powers agree to prohibit, for a period extending to the close of the Third Peace Conference, the discharge of projectiles and explosives from balloons or by other new methods ox a similar nature”.37

As indicated previously, these declarations, because of the generality of their terms, could be observed today only with difficulty. The modern war requires an extensive use of aviation for the purpose of destroying arms and munitions depots, factories for the manufacture of war implements, lines of communication, etc., which may be found at the front or behind the line of battle.

It should be desirable to adopt rules complementary of existing provisions relative to naval and land bombardments which while incorporating the humanitarian principle of the protection and safety of defenseless civilian populations would at the same time satisfy the actual necessities of war.

In relation to the subject of land bombardments, it should be observed that the following standards exist in the Annex to the Convention of The Hague respecting the laws and customs of war on land.

  • “Article 25.—The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited.”38
  • “Article 26.—The officer in command of an attacking force must, before commencing a bombardment, except in cases of assault, do all in his power to warn the authorities.”
  • “Article 27.—In sieges and bombardments all necessary steps must be taken to spare, as far as possible, buildings dedicated to religion, art, science, or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not being used at the time for military purposes.—It is the duty of the besieged to indicate the presence of such buildings or places by distinctive and visible signs, which shall be notified to the enemy beforehand.”

In regard to bombardments by naval forces in time of war, the Convention on this subject signed at The Hague in 1907 stipulates in its relevant articles the following:

Chapter I.—The Bombardment of Undefended Ports, Towns, Villages, Dwellings, or Buildings.—39

“Article 1.—The bombardment by naval forces of undefended ports, towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings is forbidden.—A place cannot be bombarded solely because automatic submarine contact mines are anchored off the harbor.

“Article 2.—Military works, military or naval establishments, depots of arms or war matériel, workshops or plant which could be utilized [Page 23] for the needs of the hostile fleet or army, and the ships of war in the harbor, are not, however, included in this prohibition. The commander of a naval force may destroy them with artillery, after a summons followed by a reasonable time of waiting, if all other means are impossible, and when the local authorities have not themselves destroyed them within the time fixed.—He incurs no responsibility for any unavoidable damage which may be caused by a bombardment under such circumstances.—If for military reasons immediate action is necessary, and no delay can be allowed the enemy, it is understood that the prohibition to bombard the undefended town holds good, as in the case given in paragraph 1, and that the commander shall take all due measures in order that the town may suffer as little harm as possible.”

“Article 3.—After due notice has been given, the bombardment of undefended ports, towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings may be commenced, if the local authorities, after a formal summons has been made to them, decline to comply with requisitions for provisions or supplies necessary for the immediate use of the naval force before the place in question.—These requisitions shall be in proportion to the resources of the place. They shall only be demanded in the name of the commander of the said naval force, and they shall, as far as possible, be paid for in cash; if not, they shall be evidenced by receipts.”

“Article 4.—Undefended ports, towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings may not be bombarded on account of failure to pay money contributions.”

Chapter II.—General Provisions.—Article 5.—In bombardments by naval forces all the necessary measures must be taken by the commander to spare as far as possible sacred edifices, buildings used for artistic, scientific, or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick or wounded are collected, on the understanding that they are not used at the same time for military purposes.—It is the duty of the inhabitants to indicate such monuments, edifices, or places by visible signs, which shall consist of large, stiff rectangular panels divided diagonally into two colored triangular portions, the upper portion black, the lower portion white.”

“Article 6.—If the military situation permits, the commander of the attacking naval force, before commencing the bombardment, must do his utmost to warn the authorities.”

In addition to the rules contained in the foregoing articles relative to the manner in which bombardments should be effected and regarding the protection of buildings, institutions and other establishments of a religious, scientific, etc., character, it should be noted that there also exist, in the Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments (Roerich Pact),40 precise provisions for the protection of such buildings, institutions and establishments. In this connection the treaty provides:

  • “Article I.—The historic monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational and cultural institutions shall be considered as neutral [Page 24] and as such respected and protected by belligerents.—The same respect and protection shall be due to the personnel of the institutions mentioned above.—The same respect and protection shall be accorded to the historic monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational and cultural institutions in time of peace as well as in war.”
  • “Article II.—The neutrality of, and protection and respect due to, the monuments and institutions mentioned in the preceding article, shall be recognized in the entire expanse of territories subject to the sovereignty of each of the signatory and acceding States, without any discrimination as to the State allegiance of said monuments and institutions. The respective Governments agree to adopt the measures of internal legislation necessary to insure said protection and respect.”
  • “Article III.—In order to identify the monuments and institutions mentioned in article I, use may be made of a distinctive flag (red circle with a triple red sphere in the circle on a white background) in accordance with the model attached to this treaty.”
  • “Article IV.—The signatory Governments and those who accede to this treaty, shall send to the Pan American Union, at the time of signature or accession, or at any time thereafter, a list of the monuments and institutions for which they desire the protection agreed to in this treaty.—The Pan American Union, when notifying the Governments of signatures or accessions, shall also send the list of monuments and institutions mentioned in this article, and shall inform the other Governments of any changes in said list.”
  • “Article V.—The monuments and institutions mentioned in article I shall cease to enjoy the privileges recognized in the present treaty in case they are made use of for military purposes.”

The Convention of Geneva on the amelioration of the condition of the wounded and sick in armies in the field, signed on July 27, 1929,41 provides in the same manner that medical establishments and the personnel of the Red Cross shall be protected and respected under all circumstances. The respective articles of the convention provide as follows:

Chapter II.—Medical Formations and Establishments.—Article 6.—Mobile medical formations, that is to say, those which are intended to accompany armies in the field, and the fixed establishments of the medical service shall be respected and protected by the belligerents.”

“Article 7.—The protection to which medical formations and establishments are entitled shall cease if they are made use of to commit acts harmful to the enemy.”

Chapter III.—Personnel.—Article 9.—The personnel engaged exclusively in the collection, transport and treatment of the wounded and sick, and in the administration of medical formations and establishments, and chaplains attached to armies, shall be respected and protected under all circumstances. If they fall into the hands of the enemy they shall not be treated as prisoners of war.—Soldiers specially [Page 25] trained to be employed, in ease of necessity, as auxiliary nurses or stretcher-bearers for the collection, transport and treatment of the wounded and sick, and furnished with a proof of identity, shall enjoy the same treatment as the permanent medical personnel if they are taken prisoners while carrying out these functions.”

“Article 10.—The personnel of Voluntary Aid Societies, duly recognised and authorised by their Government, who may be employed on the same duties as those of the personnel mentioned in the first paragraph of article 9, are placed on the same footing as the personnel contemplated in that paragraph, provided that the personnel of such societies are subject to military law and regulations.—Each High Contracting Party shall notify to the other, either in time of peace or at the commencement of or during the course of hostilities, but in every case before actually employing them, the names of the societies which it has authorised under its responsibility, to render assistance to the regular medical service of its armed forces.”

The Delegation of Mexico has considered that with the provisions contained in the agreements mentioned above in view, a project of a treaty relative to aerial bombardments, complementary of the said agreements, could be drafted, and with this in mind it has the honor to present to the Eighth International Conference of American States the following:

Project of Convention Relative to the Prohibition of Aerial Bombardments

The Governments represented in the Eighth International Conference of American States,

Wishing to avoid to the extent it may be possible that aerial bombardments cause innocent victims in the civil population;

Animated by the resolve to avoid the unnecessary destruction of historic monuments, museums, institutions dedicated to science, art, education and the preservation of the elements of culture;

Recognizing that it is equally indispensable to accord the most extensive protection to fixed medical establishments and to mobile medical formations which are intended to accompany armies in the field and to ameliorate the condition of the wounded and the sick;

Considering that the Declaration of The Hague of 1907 which prohibits the launching of projectiles and explosives from the air from balloons no longer fulfills the purposes it was designed to serve, both because of the exigencies of modern warfare and the technical progress attained in aviation;

Taking into account that until the present date only land and naval bombardments have been regulated, by means of the conventions signed at The Hague in 1907 relative to the Laws and Customs of War on Land and Concerning Bombardment by Naval Forces in Time of War;

[Page 26]

Believing that it is desirable and that high humanitarian ends are thereby served that aerial bombardments be regulated, in a manner which would complement the stipulations of the above-mentioned conventions,

Have resolved to give conventional expression to these objectives through the conclusion of the following Convention, and to this effect have named the following Plenipotentiaries:

. . . . . . .

. . . . . . .

. . . . . . .

Who, after having deposited their Full Powers, found to be in good and due form, have agreed as follows:

Article I

The bombardment from the air of the following is positively prohibited:

a)
Undefended cities, villages, dwellings and buildings, especially those which serve as the abode of the civil population;
b)
Historic monuments, museums, institutions dedicated to science, art, education and to the preservation of the elements of culture;
c)
Fixed medical establishments and mobile medical formations which are intended to accompany armies in the field and to improve the condition of the wounded and the sick, as well as the personnel engaged exclusively in the collection, transport and treatment of the wounded and the sick and in the administration of the said establishments and formations.

Article 2

The institutions, monuments, buildings and the personnel referred to in article 1, sections b) and c), shall make use of the distinctive emblems expressly provided for in the Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments (Roerich Pact) and in the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and sick in Armies in the Field, of July 27, 1929.

Article 3

Notwithstanding the provisions of article 1 of the present Convention, the bombardment from the air of the following military objectives shall be permitted, whether they are located at the front or at the rear of the line of battle:

a)
Barracks and other buildings intended to be occupied by troops, as well as fortifications and entrenchments.
b)
Factories, workshops and other industrial plant which could be utilized for the manufacture of arms, munitions, chemical products for use in war, and implements intended for destructive purposes.
c)
Depots of arms, munitions, chemical products for use in war, and implements intended for destructive purposes.
d)
Important strategic lines of communication and the rolling stock employed on such lines.

Article 4

The present Convention shall be ratified . . . . . . .

  1. Translation supplied by the editors.
  2. Official translation supplied by the Pan American Union (filed under 710.H Agenda/70). See also Diario de Sesiones, p. 83, and index, p. xxvi.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1899, pp. 511 ff., and ibid., 1907, pt. 2, pp. 1099 ff.
  4. Ibid., 1899, p. 531.
  5. Foreign Relations, 1907, pt. 2, p. 1246.
  6. Ibid., p. 1212.
  7. Ibid., p. 1226.
  8. Foreign Relations, 1935, vol. iv, p. 219.
  9. Foreign Relations, 1929, vol. i, p. 321.