The Ambassador in Spain (Hayes) to the Secretary of State

No. 1026

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my telegram No. 1495 of 2 p.m., June 5, 1943,12 in response to the Department’s telegram No. 1251, 10 a.m., June 2, regarding the detention on May 20 by Spanish customs officers at Arbaoua of two American couriers en route from Tangier to Rabat.

A copy of my Note of protest, No. 1014 dated June 4, to the Foreign Minister and a copy and translation of his reply dated June 16 are enclosed.

Respectfully yours,

Carlton J. H. Hayes
[Page 728]
[Enclosure 1]

The American Ambassador (Hayes) to the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs (Jordana)

No. 1014

Excellency: I have the honor to inform Your Excellency that on May 20, 1943, two United States diplomatic couriers, bearing diplomatic passports and properly documented, were detained by the Spanish customs authorities at Arbaoua, en route to Rabat from Tangier, from 2:30 p.m. until 11:40 p.m., during which time their clothing was partially removed from them and their persons searched, they were prevented from communicating with Tangier, and otherwise subjected to indignities in flagrant violation of the treatment which diplomatic couriers are entitled to receive from friendly governments. As a result of this offensive treatment, official urgent communications of the Government of the United States were delayed in transmission.

Under instructions from my Government, I protest against this unwarranted and unfriendly treatment of our diplomatic couriers, and request formal and firm assurances that, in the future, such couriers will be unmolested and will not be delayed in any way, and that measures will be taken to punish the officials or employees responsible for the incident referred to.

I avail myself [etc.]

Carlton J. H. Hayes
[Enclosure 2—Translation]

The Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs (Jordana) to the American Ambassador (Hayes)13

No. 373

Mr. Ambassador: I have the honor to reply to Your Excellency’s Note No. 1014 of June 4, regarding the detention for several hours at the Arbaua Customs of two American diplomatic couriers who, in company with their wives, were proceeding from Tangier to Rabat May 20.

The accounts received at this Ministry establish that the Spanish customs Authorities did in fact place difficulties in the way of the [Page 729]aforesaid couriers. The reason for these difficulties was that the certificate prepared by the Legation of the United States at Tangier referred only to five pouches, which being official were at all times respected. However, the couriers also endeavored to cover as official material two large briefcases which were not closed and sealed by the Legation, nor included in the certificate covering the five pouches mentioned. When the Spanish customs officials attempted to explain this to the American couriers, they reacted warmly, beginning a forcible discussion which deprived the Spanish officials of the possibility of indulgence, for any exemption would then have appeared as being imposed by the strong attitude of the couriers. Unfortunately, the telephone connection between Arbaua and Tangier was interrupted, and the Customs were unable to talk with the Spanish Consulate General at Tangier. Instead, the Rabat Consulate General at once intervened with obvious good intention, taking the steps necessary to terminate the incident, as in fact took place.

For the reasons expressed, it is not a matter of having placed difficulties in the transmission of American official correspondence. The intention of the Spanish officials was to avoid abuse of immunity through packages which bore no guarantee whatever of their official status. The Embassy of the United States may rest assured that at all times there have been and will be respected official sacks duly sealed and included in the certification which is customarily delivered by the Representation of the United States at Tangier.

I seize this opportunity [etc.]

  1. Not printed (121.67/3611); it reported that representations had been made in accordance with the Department’s telegram No. 1251, June 2, supra.
  2. Erroneously addressed to the previous Ambassador in Spain, Alexander W. Weddell.