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Convention (II) for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea. Geneva, 12 August 1949.
Art. 29. Chapter III : Hospital ships
. -- HOSPITAL SHIPS IN OCCUPIED PORTS
This Article is new. It was proposed by the Netherlands Delegation at the Stockholm Conference in 1948, and was adopted with hardly any discussion at the 1949 Diplomatic Conference. One delegate proposed omitting the provision, on the grounds that it was only a simple statement of established practice, but in reply the Netherlands representative pointed out, on the basis of the experience of the Second World War, that the Article was intended [p.178] to prevent a belligerent from claiming the right to seize a hospital ship found in a port occupied by its forces, pursuant to Article 53
of the Regulations annexed to the Fourth Convention of The Hague of 1907 (1).
It nevertheless seems to us that the Article is purely expletive. Article 22
provides hospital ships with absolute protection, valid everywhere in all circumstances, from armed forces ashore as well as naval forces. A hospital ship is exempt from capture or seizure in a port just as in the territorial sea or on the high seas. It may be called upon to proceed to an enemy port; it will be free to leave it again. It may be obliged to go there by the adverse Party, but the latter may not detain it for more than seven days, and then only if the gravity of circumstances so requires, pursuant to Article 31
. Why should the situation be different when a port is occupied while a hospital ship is there? If such an incident occurred during the last war, then a breach of the 1907 Convention was committed. In addition, the 1949 Convention also states, in Article 2, paragraph 2
, that "the Convention shall also apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party" (2).
This being said, the provision can certainly do no harm. The Geneva Conventions contain many provisions which merely serve to make the general principle more explicit and precise.
* (1) [(1) p.178] See ' Final Record of the Diplomatic
Conference of Geneva of 1949 ', Vol. II-A, p. 73;
(2) [(2) p.178] See above, p. 28;