Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
Treaties and Documents
Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocols, and their Commentaries
Historical Treaties and Documents
Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.
[p.609] ARTICLE 151
. -- SIGNATURE
The procedure resorted to in order to make the Geneva Conventions a part of positive international law is the one normally adopted and is in two stages: namely, the conclusion of the treaty and its entry into force (1). The first stage is complete when representatives of the Parties have drawn up a final text (2) and when that text has been signed (3) in the name of at least two States. It is the act of signature which is the subject of Article 151. The procedure for bringing the Convention into force is dealt with in the subsequent Articles.
Article 151 begins by laying down that the Convention is to bear the date of the day of signature, viz. August 12, 1949. It should be noted that the other three Geneva Conventions drawn up by the Diplomatic Conference of 1949 bear the same date.
The Article then gives States an opportunity of having the Convention signed in their name up to February 12, 1950,i.e. within a period of six months (4). This opportunity is, moreover, extended not only to Powers represented at the Conference but also to those which, although absent from Geneva, were party to the 1864, 1906, or 1929 Conventions (5). The few States which are not covered by this provision may become parties to the Convention by acceding to it.
As will be seen in the discussion on the next Article
, States are not bound by the Convention until they have ratified it, but the actual act of signature marks the agreement of their Plenipotentiaries to a text which cannot thereafter be altered. The importance of the act cannot therefore be disregarded. Moreover, the Swiss Federal Council [p.610] assumes its responsibilities as depositary of the Geneva Convention as from the date of signature.
Another point which should be mentioned is that certain delegations made reservations at the time of signature (6). Such reservation will not remain in force, however, unless they are confirmed when the instrument of ratification is deposited.
Notes: (1) [(2) p.609] Certain writers consider, however, that a
treaty is not actually "concluded" until it enters unto
(2) [(3) p.609] Attention should be drawn here to the words
introducing the Convention: "The undersigned... have
agreed as follows". See above, p. 11;
(3) [(4) p.609] When signatures are given ' ad referendum, '
they are subject to confirmation;
(4) [(5) p.609] Eighteen States signed the Convention on
August 12. 1949. Twenty-seven did so on December 8 of the
same year at a ceremony organized for the purpose by the
Swiss Federal Council, and sixteen did so later within the
time limit laid down. The total number of signatory States
is thus sixty-one;
(5) [(6) p.609] Five States availed themselves of this
opportunity, two of them having been represented at the
Conference by observers;
(6) [(1) p.610] For the text of those reservations, see
' Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of
1949 ', Vol. I, pp. 342-357;