Swiss Seek Clarification on the Modalities of the Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the 4th Geneva Convention

In follow up to General Assembly resolution ES-10/6 of 9 February 1999, the Swiss Government, in its capacity as depositary of the Conventions, addressed a diplomatic note to the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention seeking "clarifications with regard to the modalities of a conference as recommended by Resolution ES-10/6." (Resolution ES-10/6 recommended, once more, the convening of a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention on measures to enforce the convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and invited the Swiss Government to undertake whatever preparations are necessary prior to the conference.)

The Swiss diplomatic note posed 5 questions to the High Contracting Parties on issues related to the decision to convene the conference, the position of the parties principally concerned, rules of procedure, the outcome of the conference and the costs. The date set by the Swiss for responses was 10 April 1999.

On 1 and 6 April 1999, respectively, the Arab Group and the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) each presented a collective response to the Permanent Observer of Switzerland to the U.N. in New York. The responses emphasized that questions related to the principle of convening the conference have become moot in light of the consistent and repeated support of the overwhelming majority of Member States.

The position adopted by the Arab Group and the Coordinating Bureau of NAM, in support of the position outlined by Palestine, emphasizes the importance of convening the conference at the agreed upon time and venue (15 July 1999 at United Nations Offices at Geneva).

The collective responses by NAM and the Arab Group further recall that 20 months have passed since the adoption of the first recommendation for the convening of the conference (Resolution ES-10/3 of 15 July 1997), and since then Member States who are also States Parties to the Convention have repeatedly and consistently supported the convening of the said conference. They have voted overwhelmingly in favor of this recommendation four times during the resumed sessions of the Tenth Emergency Special Session. They have also shown consistent support during the first round of consultations conducted by the Swiss Government, in its capacity as depositary, following the adoption of resolution ES-10/3 of 15 July 1997.

At the same time, the responses conveyed ideas and suggestions regarding the modalities and rules of procedure for such an unprecedented conference. It was suggested that these could be drawn from the accumulative experience of past conferences related to international humanitarian law such as the Preparatory Meetings of the Two Additional Protocols of 1972 and 1979, as well as those of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

In addition to the diplomatic note sent to the High Contracting Parties of the 4th Geneva Convention, the Swiss authorities indicated also that they have been working on other aspects regarding preparation for the conference, including checking the availability of the facilities for the conference, preparing necessary documents and fielding suggestions regarding the conduct of the conference.