ICRC databases on international humanitarian law
  • Print page
Commentary - Meetings
    [p.103] Article 7 -- Meetings


    [p.104] General remarks

    264 This article offers the community of States Parties to the Protocol a specific method of improving the application of this instrument. It is inspired by a comparable provision in the Hague Convention of 14 May 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. (2) This article lays down the possibility for Parties to the Protocol to meet in order "to consider general problems concerning the application of the Conventions and ofthe Protocol". It is closely linked to Articles 1 (' General principles and scope of application '), paragraph 1, and 80 (' Measures for execution '), paragraph 1. It is also related to Article 11/11/11/12 common to the Conventions, (3) Resolution 1 of 1949, (4) and Article 97 (' Amendment ') of the Protocol. (5)

    265 After voting on three particular points, the article was adopted in Committee I by consensus; it was also adopted by consensus in the plenary Conference. (6)

    The right to request a meeting

    266 The request of one Contracting Party is sufficient to start the procedure. A meeting may also take place in the event of requests from two or more Parties acting together or separately. The expression "Hig Contracting Parties" refers to Parties to the Protocol: (7) only such Parties, and not Parties to the Conventions which are not Parties to the Protocol, have the right to request a meeting in accordance with this article, to be consulted about a request, and to participate in a meeting.

    267 This does not prevent those which are only Parties to the Conventions from being informed regarding any action undertaken in accordance with this article, or at least the result of such action. Neither Article 7 nor Article 100 [p.105] (' Notifications ') requires the depositary to do this, (8) but it might increase the interest of such States in the Protocol and extend participation in this instrument. In support of such views, it should be noted that a meeting may lead to an amendment procedure in the sense of Article 97 (' Amendment '). This provides that the Parties to the Conventions which are not Parties to the Protocol may participate in any conference called to examine a proposed amendment. The Conference made no rules on the question of information to be furnished to such States, nor did it raise any question about this or about whether such States might be invited as observers. It would seem that the depositary could submit proposals on such matters to the Contracting Parties in the context of the consultation which will be dealt with below. (9)

    Consultation of Contracting Parties

    268 Even though the text does not explicitly state this, it is in accordance with the functions of a depositary that such a consultation is carried out by it. (10) Thus if one or several requests are submitted, the depositary will consult all the Contracting Parties on the subject of such requests.

    269 When an appropriate period, determined by the depositary and advised to the Parties, has elapsed, the depositary will take note of the result of the consultation and notify it to all the High Contracting Parties. If the majority have stated that they are in favour of the meeting, notification of the result and notice of the meeting may be sent concurrently or successively.

    270 The wording that was used refers to the majority of the Parties to the Protocol, and not only of those who expressed their views. This is meant to ensure that a meeting is held only with the requisite representation, and only if there is sufficient interest. Since there is no qualification, it is a simple majority. (11)

    271 Determining whether there is such a majority will be more difficult if there are two or more simultaneous requests for a meeting and these are not concerned with the same problem. Only if a majority decides that a problem should be [p.106] discussed, a meeting may be held with that problem on its agenda: the requirement of a majority applies for every single problem, even when a number of requests are submitted simultaneously. However, it is conceivable that some of the Parties consulted might consider that the discussion of a given problem does not by itself justify a meeting, though they might be prepared to discuss it if in the end a meeting were convened to deal with another problem; to remove any doubt on this point, their conditional approval should therefore be clearly indicated in their response.

    272 The two points relating to the question of majority -- that it should be a majority of all Parties and that it applies separately to each question proposed -- should be reiterated by the depositary every time it consults the Parties, as should the possibility of conditional acceptance. Similarly, it should specify whether the approval must be explicitly given or whether there may be tacit approval in certain cases.

    Object and purpose of the meeting

    273 The agenda resulting from the consultation procedure described above will contain the discussion of one or more general problems relating to the application of the Conventions and the Protocol.

    274 With the expression "general problems" , the Conference wished to exclude the discussion of specific situations, to which other provisions apply. (12) Despite the wording of the text, such general problems could equally relate to interpretation or preliminary measures for execution, as well as to the application as such. Similarly they could be submitted either in advance as a result of reflection, or in the light of experience.

    275 The scope of the discussions covers the Conventions as well as the Protocol, this resulting from the "additional" character of the latter. A significant proportion, if not the majority of problems of application of the Protocol, will therefore also relate to the Conventions themselves, at least indirectly. (13)

    276 The article does not indicate the nature of the conclusions to which a meeting can lead, nor the procedures to be applied. As the meeting must be limited to general problems, and as amendments are governed by Article 97 (' Amendment '), conclusions will have the character of recommendations. They will not have a compulsory character, but may contain a common interpretation of specific provisions, practical means of application or draft amendments.

    ' B.Z. '

    NOTES

    (2) Art. 27, which differs from the present article essentially with regard to the method of convening the meeting. On this subject, cf. S.E. Nahlik, "La protection internationale des biens culturels en cas de conflit armé", 120 ' Hague Recueil, ' 1967/II, pp. 133, 142-143; J. Toman, "La protection des biens culturels dans les conflits armés internationaux: cadre juridique et institutionnel" in ' Studies and Essays in Honour of Jean Pictet, ' op. cit., p. 579;

    (3) The good offices of Protecting Powers, particularly in the case of disagreement about application or interpretation;

    (4) This resolution recommends that any dispute relating to the interpretation or application of the Conventions which cannot be settled by other means should be submitted to the International Court of Justice;

    (5) Reference could also be made to Art. 98. With regard to its object and specific provisions, see commentary, infra, p. 1099;

    (6) Cf. O.R. VIII, pp. 283-284, CDDH/I/SR.28, paras. 64-73; and O.R. VI, p. 68, CDDH/SR.37, para. 20, respectively;

    (7) On this subject, cf. commentary Preamble, supra, p. 25. This article might be considered not to cover Parties to which the Protocol applies only in pursuance of Article 96, paras. 2 or 3, unless the general problem to be examined is linked to the conflict in which they are engaged;

    (8) The depositary of the Protocol is the same as that of the Conventions, namely, the Swiss Federal Council; for the functions of the depositary as a whole, cf. commentary Art. 100, infra, p. 1114. The Swiss delegate said that his country was prepared to play the role with which it would be entrusted, if Article 7 were adopted (O.R. VIII, p. 188, CDDH/I/SR.20, para. 22);

    (9) The above-mentioned article of the Hague Convention (supra, note 2) also remains silent on these two questions. Nevertheless, States not Parties to the Convention were invited as observers to the only meeting held so far, under that article (cf. S.E. Nahlik, "La protection internationale des biens culturels...", op. cit., p. 142, and J. Toman, op. cit., p. 579). In our opinion, this is even more justified for Parties to the Conventions not Parties to the Protocol, in the case of a meeting in the sense of this article given the "additional" character of the Protocol;

    (10) In addition to the general statement quoted supra, note 8, the depositary subsequently confirmed that its obligations arising from this article involve the consultation of Parties and the sending of invitations; cf. ' Message concernant les Protocoles additionnels aux Conventions de Genève ' of 18 February 1981, addressed by the Swiss Federal Council to the Federal Parliament, Chap.211.1 in fine;

    (11) Committee 1 adopted this solution with a vote, in preference to a two-thirds majority of the Contracting Parties proposed in the draft; cf. O.R. VIII, p. 284, CDDH/I/SR.28, para. 71;

    (12) In addition to the articles quoted above at the beginning of the general remarks, this certainly refers to Part V, Section II. The insertion of the word "general" in the reference to problems was also decided by a vote in Committee I; cf. O.R. VIII, p. 284, CDDH/I/SR.28, para. 70;

    (13) However, the insertion of the words "of the Conventions and" was also voted on in Committee I; cf. ibid., p. 284, para. 72;