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Commentary - Radiocommunications
    [p.1261] Annex I, Article 9 -- Radiocommunications


    [p.1262] Commentary

    4229 This article corresponds to Article 10 of the ICRC's draft of Annex I.

    4230 The use of radiocommunications within the meaning of this article is governed by Article 40, Section II, No. 3220, of the Radio Regulations. Accordingly, its provisions should be brought into line with those of Article 40 when Annex I is revised. (1)

    4231 No. 3220 of Article 40 of the Radio Regulations makes the use of radiocommunications optional, as is the case for all the distinctive signals. Clearly, a hospital ship sailing behind a fleet of warships will not break radio silence by transmitting any of the radio signals provided for in Section II of Article 40, thus revealing the fleet's course. The radiocommunications contemplated in this article will only be used when necessary, at the order of the competent authority.

    4232 Satellite links in the frequency bands listed in Article 38 of the Radio Regulations may be used for the radiocommunications referred to in Section II of Article 40. The text of Article 38 is annexed to the commentary on Article 7 ' (Radio signal) ' above. (2) n cases where high-speed radio-telex or radiotelephony transmissions in clear are used, this fact should be mentioned when the characteristics of the medical transports are notified, particularly where hospital ships are involved.

    4233 This transmission mode does not use a secret code; in addition, the satellite radiocommunication earth stations installed on board merchant ships are notified to, and recorded by, the ITU. This procedure should enable a certain degree of supervision to be exercised and should remove any ambiguity as to the requirement for a ship fitted with such equipment to communicate in clear if it is converted into a hospital ship. The same would apply to a rescue craft using satellite links.

    4234 It has been observed that, under Article 34 of the Second Convention, hospital ships may not possess or use a secret code for their wireless or other means of communication. The words "émissions" and "emisiones" are used in the French and Spanish texts respectively. Can it be deduced that hospital ships must not ' transmit, ' but may ' receive, ' messages in secret code? Such an interpretation would enable them to receive secret instructions concerning their movements, course and victualling without revealing he intentions, order of battle and victualling or refuelling points and sources of the war fleet at sea.

    4235 In all likelihood, the drafters of the 1949 Conventions intended to prohibit only the transmission -- and not the reception -- of secret codes. During the discussions relating to the revision of Hague Convention X and its replacement by the Second Geneva Convention of 1949, the reception of secret codes was not questioned in the proposals which formed the basis for Article 34 . Those proposals sought to prohibit the transmission of messages in secret code in order [p.1263] to avoid a repetition of incidents which had occurred during the First World War. (3) This opinion is shared by a number of naval experts.

    4236 With regard to the communications of coastal rescue craft, the International Life-Boat Conference (ILC) intends to prepare a handbook for the commanding officers of rescue craft which would deal with the question of radiocommunications in time of armed conflict. The ILC holds the view that this use of radiocommunications should also be covered in Article 40 and that the issue should therefore be submitted to the forthcoming World Administrative Radio Conference for the mobile services in 1987. It is to be proposed that the prefix "rescue craft" be set aside for the exclusive use of rescue craft both in peacetime and during armed conflicts.

    4237 The communications contemplated in this article have already proved to be useful both on land and at sea for the conclusion of agreements concerning the establishment of temporary neutralized zones used to exchange the wounded and arrange for the transport of medical equipment in a situation of armed conflict. (4)

    ' Ph. E. '


    NOTES (1) [(1) p.1262] Cf. commentary Art. 7, Annex I, general remarks, second paragraph and footnote I, supra, p. 1216;

    (2) [(2) p.1262] Cf. commentary Art. 7, Annex I, supra, p. 1223;

    (3) [(3) p.1263] Cf. Second Convention, Art. 58; Ph. Eberlin, "Modernization of Protective Markings and Signalling", op. cit., p. 59. On the "Ophelia" affair, cf. RICR, July 1915, pp. 296, 306; October 1915, p. 453; April 1916, p. 165; July 1917, p. 263 (in French only);

    (4) [(4) p.1263] Cf. Ph. Eberlin, "Identification of Hospital Ships...", op. cit., p. 324; Communications;