740.00116 European War 1939/1079: Airgram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

A–967. Embassy’s 5177, August 7, 5 p.m. The following note, dated August 30, 1943, has just been received from the Foreign Office:

“I have the honour to refer to Mr. Roberts’ letter of the 18th November 1942,19 enclosing a copy of a note addressed to the Soviet Ambassador, Chinese Chargé d’Affaires and Representatives of the Allied Governments in London on the subject of the proposed United Nations Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes.

The replies now received from all the Governments concerned, including Your Excellency’s Government, indicate that a sufficient basis of agreement exists to enable further progress to be made. I am impressed by the urgency of setting up the Commission without further delay and to this end would propose that a meeting of the Diplomatic Representatives in London of the Allied Governments concerned should be held towards the end of September in order to take the necessary steps to set up the Commission and to settle its constitution and functions. As a basis for discussion at the meeting I have the honour to enclose a memorandum setting out the views of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom upon the various points which have been raised in previous correspondence by the Allied Governments concerned.
I have the honour to express the hope that you will be able to attend such a meeting on behalf of your Government.
I would also enquire whether your Government wish to suggest the name of a legal expert to participate in the work of the proposed small technical committee, referred to in paragraph 9 of the attached memorandum. An early reply on this last point will be appreciated.”

The memorandum enclosed with the Foreign Office note quoted above reads as follows:

“1. Headquarters of the Commission

There appears to be general agreement that the Headquarters of the Commission might most suitably be established in London.

[Page 418]

2. Panels

Machinery will, of course, be required for the collecting and recording of evidence in places where the main body of the Commission could not conveniently operate. The Chinese Government, for instance, are understood to favour the establishment of a ‘panel’ in Chungking. The Soviet Government, on the other hand, do not consider that the circumstances call for the establishment of a ‘panel’ in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the United States Government would prefer to leave this sort of question over for consideration by the Commission itself after it has met. His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom would, therefore, propose that the Commission should be empowered to set up ‘panels’, or arrange otherwise in the light of the wishes of the Governments most closely concerned, for local investigations on its behalf so far as these seem appropriate.

3. Membership

His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom have appointed Sir Cecil Hurst to be the United Kingdom member of the Commission. The United States Government have similarly appointed Mr. Herbert C. Pell and the Chinese Government Mr. Wellington Koo.20

4. Chairmanship

The United States Government have expressed the view that it would be appropriate that the British representative should be the Chairman of the Commission. The Soviet Government have proposed that the chairmanship might suitably be held in rotation by the representatives of Great Britain, the United States of America, China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom would propose that it should be left to the Commission to settle this question at its first meeting.

5. Procedure

In general, His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom would propose that it should be left to the Commission to settle its own procedure.

6. Secretariat

His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom would be prepared to find a British Secretary General for the Commission if this was considered appropriate by the other Governments concerned. They would propose that the secretarial staff should be of mixed nationality and would be glad if any of the other Governments who may wish to do so would furnish them with the names of officials and typing and secretarial staff who could be made available for this purpose.

7. Expenses

His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom would propose that each member of the Commission and his staff, if any, should be paid by the Government appointing him. The salary of the Secretary General and additional secretarial and administrative expenses should [Page 419] be divided equally between the various Governments represented on the Commission.

8. Premises

His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom would be prepared to find accommodation for the Commission.

9. Technical Committee

The primary task of the Commission will be, as has already been publicly announced, to collect and record evidence, with a view to identifying those responsible for war crimes, and assembling the proof of their guilt. This is a most essential task, and upon its adequate discharge depends the possibility of punishing war criminals who are brought to trial. There are, however, certain other matters of a technical kind which require consideration and which would be most appropriately considered by a committee of experts to be appointed by the Governments concerned, who would work concurrently with the Commission and in adequate contact with it. For example, the Governments concerned will require to be advised as to the sort of tribunals to be employed, and as to the procedure to be adopted and the rules of evidence to be followed. His Majesty’s Government share the view held by a number of the other Governments that this work would be most properly entrusted to a separate committee of the kind described. His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom would propose that such an expert committee would be formed at the earliest possible moment, and if necessary in advance of the establishment of the Commission, and that it should consist of legal experts, the nomination to be made by those of the various Allied Governments participating in the work of the Commission who desire to be represented on the Committee.”

Copies of Mr. Roberts’ letter and of its enclosure, referred to in the first paragraph of the Foreign Office note of August 30, were transmitted to the Department with Embassy’s despatch No. 6393 of November 21, 1942.21

The Department’s attention is called particularly to paragraphs 3 and 4 of the Foreign Office note quoted above.

  1. Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. i, p. 63.
  2. Chinese Ambassador in the United Kingdom.
  3. Despatch No. 6393 not printed.