Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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Commentary of 2016 
Article 27 : Societies of neutral countries
Text of the provision*
(1) A recognized Society of a neutral country can only lend the assistance of its medical personnel and units to a Party to the conflict with the previous consent of its own Government and the authorization of the Party to the conflict concerned. That personnel and those units shall be placed under the control of that Party to the conflict.
(2) The neutral Government shall notify this consent to the adversary of the State which accepts such assistance. The Party to the conflict who accepts such assistance is bound to notify the adverse Party thereof before making any use of it.
(3) In no circumstances shall this assistance be considered as interference in the conflict.
(4) The members of the personnel named in the first paragraph shall be duly furnished with the identity cards provided for in Article 40 before leaving the neutral country to which they belong.
* Paragraph numbers have been added for ease of reference.
Reservations or declarations
None
Contents

A. Introduction
2101  Article 27 sets out the conditions under which a recognized voluntary aid society of a neutral country may lend the assistance of its medical personnel and units to a Party to an international armed conflict. In order for this to occur in line with Article 27, several requirements need to be fulfilled and complied with. When these requirements have been met, the medical personnel and units of the neutral country’s recognized society will qualify as persons and objects protected under the First Convention.
2102  Article 27 must be read in conjunction with Article 26, since the former constitutes a variant of the latter. Article 26 deals with the conditions under which National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (hereinafter referred to as ‘National Societies’) – as well as other voluntary aid societies – can serve as auxiliaries to the medical services of their own State’s armed forces, when that State is a Party to an international armed conflict. Article 27, in turn, deals with the conditions pursuant to which a recognized society of a neutral country can assist the medical services of another State’s armed forces when that State is a Party to an international armed conflict.
2103  Hence, the commentary on Article 26 with regard to the impact of the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Movement’), applicable to National Societies when they act on the basis of that provision, is also applicable when National Societies act on the basis of Article 27. Therefore, this commentary is not repeated here.[1] In this context, special mention must be made of Article 27(3), which underscores, for National Societies, the idea that acting on the basis of Article 27 does not violate the Fundamental Principle of neutrality.[2]
2104  Several other provisions of the First Convention must be mentioned in order to afford a full understanding of the legal situation enjoyed by medical staff and units serving on the basis of Article 27. When these personnel fall into the hands of the adversary of the Party they are assisting, Article 32 applies. The real and personal property of the societies covered by Article 27 is protected by Article 34. When it comes to identification, Article 40 sets out the legal framework for the personnel covered by Article 27.
2105  Article 9(2) of Additional Protocol I also needs to be considered. This provision makes the relevant provisions of Articles 27 and 32 of the First Convention applicable to permanent medical units and transports,[3] and to those of their personnel who are made available to a Party to the conflict for humanitarian purposes by (a) a neutral or other State which is not a Party to that conflict; (b) a recognized and authorized aid society of such a State; or (c) an impartial international humanitarian organization.[4]
2106  Since the end of the Second World War, there do not seem to have been any instances in which the potential for assistance provided by Article 27 has been used.
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B. Historical background
2107  The historical background of Article 27 needs to be read in conjunction with the parallel section in the commentary on Article 26. Only those elements which are specific to Article 27 will be mentioned here.
2108  While paragraphs 3 and 4 of Article 27 were new additions to the 1949 version of the First Convention, the origins of paragraphs 1 and 2 can be traced back much earlier.
2109  In the Resolutions and Recommendations of the Geneva International Conference of 1863, one finds in embryonic form the current idea underpinning Article 27.[5] In the 1864 Geneva Convention, however, the role of voluntary aid societies (whether of a neutral country or of the Parties to the conflict themselves) as auxiliaries to the armed forces’ medical services was left unaddressed.[6]
2110  As early as the 1870–71 Franco-Prussian War, the aid societies of neutral countries (along with some neutral countries themselves) not only supplied relief to both sides, but also dispatched medical teams. Some of the volunteers of these societies, however well-intentioned they may have been, reportedly did not possess sufficient medical skills. As a result, they did not always succeed in having their role accepted by the military authorities.[7] During the 1877–78 armed conflict between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, at the request of the latter and with the agreement of all sides to the conflict, the Netherlands Red Cross Society administered a mobile hospital for the Ottoman Empire.[8] Another example of what eventually became Article 27 of the First Convention can be found in the 1897 Greek-Ottoman war.[9] These three examples developed in practice, before having been formally regulated in treaty law. This state of affairs was undesirable: neither the conditions for such charitable activities, nor the status of the persons and units involved, were clear.
2111  The 1906 Geneva Convention was the first treaty to formally recognize and regulate the role of voluntary aid societies as auxiliaries to the armed forces’ medical services.[10] The role of such societies from neutral countries was defined in Article 10 (the precursor of Article 26 of the First Convention of 1949), and further elaborated in Article 11.[11] The reason for the stringency of these conditions is clear: the medical staff and units of neutral voluntary aid societies would only be admitted to the protection of the Convention if the military authorities accepted them in such a role.[12]
2112  During both the Italo-Turkish armed conflict (1911–12)[13] and the Balkan Wars (1912–13),[14] the National Societies of several neutral countries sent medical units to the battlefield.
2113  Apart from minor differences in wording, Article 11 of the 1929 Geneva Convention on the Wounded and Sick is identical to Article 11 of the 1906 Geneva Convention. During the Geneva Diplomatic Conference of 1929, a proposal was made to allow for the protection of assistance when it is offered spontaneously, in an urgent situation, by the aid societies of neighbouring neutral countries.[15] The fact that this proposal was unsuccessful is telling: States wanted to maintain the formality of the arrangement, i.e. the protection of the medical personnel and units of recognized societies of neutral countries was to remain subject to a series of approvals and notifications.[16]
2114  After 1929, there seem to have been only three further instances in which a recognized society of a neutral country offered its support to the medical services of another State’s armed forces. In 1935, in the context of the armed conflict between Italy and Ethiopia, the United Kingdom made it known, pursuant to the requirements of Article 11 of the 1929 Geneva Convention, that the ‘British Ambulance Service in Ethiopia’ could provide medical assistance to the Ethiopian armed forces.[17] In connection with the same armed conflict, the Swedish Red Cross also acted on the basis of Article 11 when sending an ambulance brigade and a field hospital.[18] Under the same provision, during the Second World War, the Swiss Red Cross Society provided medical assistance to the German armed forces,[19] and the American Voluntary Ambulance Corps assisted the British and French armed forces before the United States of America became a Party to the conflict.[20]
2115  In terms of treaty development, the 1946 Preliminary Conference of National Societies proposed to add a further procedural requirement, namely that not only the Party to the conflict accepting the assistance, but also the neutral country, would need to notify the adversary of that Party. This requirement was adopted by the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949 as the first sentence of Article 27(2).[21] The Preliminary Conference of National Societies also added what was to become Article 27(3).[22] Article 27(4) was added by the 1947 Conference of Government Experts.[23] During the 1949 Diplomatic Conference, only one final substantive modification was introduced.[24]
2116  Since the end of the Second World War, no recognized Society of a neutral country has acted on the basis of Article 27. The reasons why this has been the case as far as Article 26 is concerned are equally valid here.[25] The scant practice with regard to Article 27 is without prejudice to this provision’s continued validity as a matter of treaty law: this provision has not fallen into desuetude.[26] The absence of past practice, in short, does not limit the possibility for societies to act in the future on the basis of Article 27. Support to the military medical services lies at the origin of the Movement, and could still be of practical value in the future.
2117  Furthermore, National Societies, as well as other voluntary aid societies, today also carry out a wide range of humanitarian activities in support of public authorities other than those defined under Articles 26 and 27, i.e. the armed forces’ medical services. As regards National Societies, such activities are nowadays considered to be part of their role and function as auxiliaries to the public authorities in the humanitarian field.[27] However, if ever carried out in support of the public authorities of a foreign State that is a Party to an international armed conflict, none of these activities would be covered by Article 27.
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C. Paragraph 1: Basic concepts and rules
2118  Article 27(1) lists the first series of conditions which must be met if a recognized society of a neutral country wishes to offer the assistance of its medical personnel and units to a Party to the conflict. Article 27 is silent on the question of who may take the initiative in this respect. As a result, all scenarios remain possible.[28]
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1. First sentence: Consent and authorization
2119  Only a ‘recognized Society of a neutral country’ can act on the basis of Article 27. A society wishing to qualify to act on the basis of this provision, while it needs to be based in the neutral country, may not be part of its public authorities.[29]
2120  The meaning of ‘recognized Society’ is not defined in Article 27. However, when read together with Article 26 it becomes clear that it equally refers to ‘National Red Cross Societies and other Voluntary Aid Societies’.[30] As is the case with societies acting on the basis of Article 26, those wishing to act under Article 27 need to have been ‘recognized’ by their own government.[31] In the case of Article 27, the government referred to is the neutral government. For the meaning of the term ‘neutral country’, see the commentary on Article 4.[32]
2121  The society not only needs to be recognized by its own neutral government; it also needs to have received this government’s previous consent to go abroad to assist the armed forces of a Party to an international armed conflict.[33] While semantically different, this requirement corresponds to the requirement in Article 26 that the society be authorized to assist the armed forces’ medical services.[34] This requirement is critical: Article 27 can be applicable only if the neutral government allows a recognized society of its country to serve on the basis of that provision.[35] This consent can be given either on a case-by-case basis or in advance of any specific instance in which the society would be deployed. In all instances, vis-à-vis the adversary of the Party to which the assistance is offered, the requirement to notify pursuant to the first sentence of Article 27(2) persists.
2122  Article 27 does not prescribe whether such consent – which remains a bilateral arrangement between the neutral government and the recognized society – needs to be expressed in writing. In any event, vis-à-vis the adversary of the State which accepts the society’s assistance, the consent will be established on the basis of the notification required by the first sentence of Article 27(2).
2123  Understandably, the Party to the conflict which wishes to accept the assistance of the neutral country’s recognized society also needs to authorize this. Article 27 does not prescribe how the authorization is to be given. In practice, it is better for the Party to the conflict which wishes to accept the medical units and personnel of a neutral recognized society to convey the required authorization in writing to the recognized society. In any event, vis-à-vis the adversary of this Party, the authorization will be established by the notification provided to the adversary pursuant to the second sentence of Article 27(2).
2124  On the basis of Article 27, the recognized society may ‘lend the assistance of its medical personnel and units’. There is no obligation to offer both medical personnel and medical units. Indeed, a National Society may offer medical personnel without medical units, or vice-versa.
2125  The terms ‘medical personnel’ and ‘medical units’ are not specifically defined, nor further regulated, for the purposes of Article 27.[36] In line with the logic of the First Convention concerning medical personnel and units, they need to be permanently and exclusively assigned to the medical activities referred to in Article 24.[37] Of note in this respect is Article 12(2)(c) of Additional Protocol I, pursuant to which civilian medical units shall be respected and protected at all times and shall not be the object of attack, inter alia, when they ‘are authorized in conformity with … Article 27 of the First Convention’.
2126  The medical personnel of a neutral State’s society remain civilians, and do not become members of the armed forces which they assist.[38]
2127  While the term ‘transports’ does not appear as such in Article 27, for the purposes of that provision ‘transports’ can be understood to be a subcategory of the category ‘medical units’.[39] As a result, a recognized society may offer the assistance of its medical transports on the basis of Article 27.[40]
2128  Article 27 is restricted to situations in which a recognized society of a neutral country offers its medical personnel, units or transports to a Party to an international armed conflict. All other humanitarian activities which may be carried out by a neutral recognized society in the context of an international armed conflict are outside the scope of Article 27.[41] This is true for other activities to benefit the armed forces of a Party to the armed conflict,[42] and especially for activities to benefit other categories of people in need (for example, aid offered through the host National Society).
2129  The assistance offered to one Party to an international armed conflict does not need to be balanced by a similar offer to that Party’s adversaries.[43] However, should the society of the neutral State encounter wounded or sick members of the adversary of the State which it is assisting, it goes without saying that the society – like the medical services themselves – must tend to them as well, without any adverse distinction.[44]
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2. Second sentence: Control
2130  Pursuant to the last sentence of Article 27(1), the medical personnel and units must be placed ‘under the control of’ the Party to the conflict which accepts the assistance. This sentence was proposed as late as the 1949 Diplomatic Conference, where it was accepted without further discussion.[45]
2131  Being ‘under the control’ of the Party to the conflict which accepts such assistance means, in order for the construct of Article 27 to be workable and practicable, that the medical services of this State’s armed forces are entitled to direct the activities of the medical personnel and units concerned. Conversely, the latter are not entitled to act unless directed to do so. Therefore, they operate under the responsibility of that State.[46]
2132  The question arises as to whether being ‘under the control of’ means that persons covered by Article 27 must be ‘subject to military laws and regulations’, which is a more stringent and formalistic requirement applicable to persons covered by Article 26.[47] Based on the clear textual differences, the conclusion can be reached that if the drafters had meant this to be the case, they would have used identical terminology. This difference in wording also makes sense from the perspective of the law of neutrality, in that a neutral State cannot be expected to agree to have its nationals made ‘subject to military laws and regulations’ of a Party to an armed conflict.
2133  Those covered by Article 27 can only be ‘employed on the same footing as the personnel’ covered by Article 24. This limitation on the activities which can be undertaken can also be deduced from the fact that Article 27 speaks only of the assistance of the recognized society’s ‘medical personnel and units’.[48]
2134  Once the conditions of Articles 27(1) and (2) have been met, the article is silent about the status of the persons and units covered and the protection which they enjoy as a matter of law. In order to ensure consistency between Articles 26 and 27, the only tenable view is that persons covered by Article 27 – like those covered by Article 26 – (a) are granted protection and treatment identical to that of persons covered by Article 24,[49] and (b) are protected persons within the meaning of the First Convention.[50] As a result, they are to be respected and protected in all circumstances, except when their conduct amounts to an act harmful to the enemy.[51]
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D. Paragraph 2: Double notification requirement
2135  Under the 1906 and 1929 Geneva Conventions, only a belligerent which had accepted the assistance of the recognized society of a neutral country had an obligation to make this known to its adverse Party, or adverse Parties,[52] before making use of the society. It was reported to the 1946 Preliminary Conference of National Societies that this requirement had frequently not been complied with in practice.[53]
2136  The 1949 Diplomatic Conference maintained the requirement for the Party to the conflict which accepts the assistance to notify its adversary of this fact,[54] and added a second notification requirement: the government of the neutral country concerned, after giving its consent for a recognized society to act under Article 27, must notify the adversary of the State which accepts such assistance of its consent.[55] Thus, if the Party to the conflict which accepts such assistance fails to notify its adversary, the latter would still be informed. Doing so is also in the neutral Power’s own interest.[56] By providing notification, the neutral Power shows that it fully supports its recognized society’s intention to act on the basis of Article 27.[57] It is therefore understandable that the drafters of Article 27 rejected a proposal to make the notification by the neutral Power merely optional,[58] and thus made Article 27(2) deliberately rigid.[59]
2137  Notification is to be given by both States to the adversary of the Party to the conflict which accepts the assistance, and not by the recognized society itself. It may be desirable to notify all other High Contracting Parties, or at least all such Parties which might become concerned by the assistance offered (such as neighbouring countries of the Parties to the conflict).[60]
2138  Article 27 does not prescribe how, or in what form, these notifications need to be provided. While parties are not explicitly required to give notification in writing, it is undoubtedly preferable to do so, for example through a diplomatic note or other means, including modern electronic means of communication, in order to avoid any ambiguity. Notification may be given directly, or through an intermediary such as the Protecting Power or the ICRC.[61]
2139  As to when notification needs to occur, Article 27(2) clarifies this only as regards the Party to the conflict which accepts the assistance: notification needs to occur ‘before [the said Party] mak[es] any use of’ the assistance. The time frame is left unaddressed as far as notification by the neutral country is concerned. In practice, it would seem advisable for the latter also to provide notification before the Party to the conflict which receives the recognized society’s assistance makes use thereof.[62]
2140  Article 27 recognizes the right of a State to supplement its medical services with the aid of a recognized society of a neutral country. It requires the adversary to be notified of this but does not foresee any other action or reaction by the adversary in this process.[63]
2141  The First Convention does not specify the consequences if only one of the notifications takes place, or if neither does. If the neutral Power does not comply with the notification requirement before the Party to the conflict which accepts such assistance makes use of it, the medical personnel and units of the neutral country’s recognized society are formally not entitled to the status of protected persons or objects within the meaning of the First Convention. In that case, indeed, the adversary of the State which accepts such assistance cannot be certain that the neutral country actually approves of its recognized society’s acting on the basis of Article 27.[64] This will be so even if the Party to the conflict which accepts such assistance has, for its part, complied with the notification requirement applicable to it.[65] On the other hand, while the medical personnel and units are, in that case, not persons specifically protected under the First Convention, their status remains that of neutral civilians, and they must protected as such.
2142  If the State which receives the neutral society’s assistance fails to notify its own adversary before making use of such aid, the adversary will still be required to treat the neutral society’s personnel and units in accordance with Article 27, provided that all the other conditions of Article 27 have been met. This includes the requirement for the neutral government to have notified the adversary of the State which accepts the assistance of its consent, as well as the requirement for the personnel and units to be placed under the control of that State. If all the other conditions of Article 27 are complied with, the adversary of the State which accepts the assistance would indeed be acting in bad faith to invoke the absence of notification as a reason to deny these medical personnel and units the protection to which they are entitled under the First Convention.
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E. Paragraph 3: Humanitarian nature of the activity
2143  Article 27(3) has its origin in the work of the Commission of Experts convened by the ICRC in 1937 to discuss the revision of the 1929 Geneva Convention. Legally speaking, the fact that a recognized society of a neutral Power assists the medical services of a Party to the conflict cannot be considered a violation of the applicable rules of the law of neutrality. The same holds true for the neutral Power which has given its consent for this.[66]
2144  In practice, however, the perception may be different, as demonstrated by the reactions to some of the few instances in which neutral societies have lent their assistance.[67] Article 27(3) therefore makes it clear that these perceptions are without any legal value.
2145  The provision of medical personnel and units to the medical services of a Party to a conflict is, indeed, an activity which is purely humanitarian in nature.[68] This observation also holds true when the recognized society provides its medical personnel and units to only one of the Parties to the conflict. Nothing in Article 27, nor in international law applicable to international armed conflicts, compels a recognized society of a neutral country, or the neutral country itself, to balance or supplement the aid given by a recognized society to only one side of a conflict through aid given by another (or by the same) society to the other side of the conflict.
2146  Lastly, it needs to be kept in mind that National Societies must comply with the Fundamental Principles of the Movement.[69] Their giving assistance to one Party to an armed conflict – which is prompted by purely humanitarian motives, i.e. the desire to reduce the suffering of the wounded and sick – must not be misunderstood as a violation of the Fundamental Principle of neutrality: by doing so, they do not take sides in the conflict.[70] For National Societies, therefore, Article 27(3) underscores the idea that acting on the basis of Article 27 does not violate the principle of neutrality.[71]
2147  Furthermore, as indicated above, the members of a neutral State’s National Society assisting the medical services of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict must treat all wounded and sick persons, regardless of the Party to the conflict to which they belong, in line with the Fundamental Principle of impartiality, namely without any adverse distinction, ‘guided solely by their needs’ and giving ‘priority to the most urgent cases’.[72] This should not be problematic, in that the military medical service they are assisting is, for its part, bound by the same standards under the First Convention.[73]
2148  Recognized societies that are not components of the Movement are not bound to comply with the Movement’s Fundamental Principles, nor with any of its other internal rules. However, since the activities referred to in Article 25 of the First Convention are of a humanitarian nature,[74] these societies will, as a matter of fact, most likely wish to comply with the principles of humanitarian action as they apply to such activities in time of armed conflict, and as equally reflected in certain rules of international law (for example, in Article 12 of the First Convention).[75]
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F. Paragraph 4: Identity cards
2149  Article 40 of the First Convention prescribes the means by which persons covered by Article 27 are to be identified.[76] These are a water-resistant armlet bearing the distinctive emblem (Article 40(1)), an identity disc, and a special identity card bearing the distinctive emblem (Article 40(2) and (3)). In respect of the special identity card, Article 27(4) stipulates that the persons covered by Article 27 need to be furnished with these cards before leaving the neutral country to which they belong. The cards in question are to be issued by the military authority of the Party to the conflict to which these personnel will provide assistance and not by the neutral country, or by the recognized society. This authority will therefore need to find a way to make sure that the persons covered by Article 27 receive the special identity card before they leave the neutral country.
2150  This paragraph originates in an incident during the Second World War. When members of the ‘American Voluntary Ambulance Corps’ were on their way to assist the British and French medical services, they were captured by the German armed forces on the grounds that they did not have proper identification cards proving that they intended to serve on the basis of Article 11 of the 1929 Geneva Convention. In light of this experience, it was felt that persons covered by Article 27 needed to receive their identity cards prior to leaving the neutral country,[77] and not just prior to any active employment.[78] Thus, the US delegation at the 1947 Conference of Government Experts proposed the text of what is now Article 27(4).[79] The advantage of this provision is that, if the persons covered by Article 27 fall into the hands of the adversary of the Party they will be assisting prior to reaching that Party’s armed forces, their status will be clearly defined.[80]
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Select bibliography
See the select bibliography of the commentary on Article 26 of the First Convention.

1 - See the commentary on Article 26, paras 2087–2088.
2 - For details, see section E below.
3 - Other than hospital ships, in respect of which Article 25 of the Second Convention remains the only relevant provision (this clarification can be found in the text of Article 9(2) of Additional Protocol I).
4 - See also Article 12(2)(c) of Additional Protocol I. Under this provision, ‘civilian medical units’ which have been ‘authorized in conformity with Article 9, paragraph 2, of [Additional Protocol I] or Article 27 of the First Convention’ shall be respected and protected at all times and may not be the object of attack. See also Article 64 of Additional Protocol I, which is similar to Article 27, although it pertains to different humanitarian tasks. This provision deals with the personnel and matériel (materials and equipment) of civilian civil defence organizations of neutral or other States not Parties to the conflict which perform civil defence tasks (as defined in Article 61 of Additional Protocol I) in the territory of a Party to the conflict, with the consent and under the control of that Party.
5 - Article 5(2) of the Resolutions and Recommendations of the Geneva International Conference of 1863 reads: ‘In time of war, the Committees of belligerent nations … may call for assistance upon the Committees of neutral countries.’ This concerns, however, assistance provided by one National Society to another, not assistance provided directly to the Party to the conflict.
6 - For details, see the commentary on Article 26, para. 2048.
7 - See Boissier, pp. 254–256, and Hutchinson, p. 125.
8 - See Bulletin international des Sociétés de la Croix-Rouge, Vol. 9, No. 33, January 1878, pp. 71–81. See also Frits Kalshoven, ‘Impartialité et neutralité dans le droit et la pratique humanitaires’, Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, Vol. 71, No. 780, December 1989, pp. 541–562, at 548–549.
9 - Des Gouttes, Commentaire de la Convention de Genève de 1929 sur les blessés et malades, ICRC, 1930, p. 68.
10 - For details, see the commentary on Article 26, para. 2049.
11 - Article 11 of the 1906 Geneva Convention reads: ‘A recognized society of a neutral state can only lend the services of its sanitary personnel and formations to a belligerent with the prior consent of its own government and the authority of such belligerent. The belligerent who has accepted such assistance is required to notify the enemy before making any use thereof.’ Here already one notes the restrictive tone of the terms ‘can only lend’. The article goes back to a proposal made by the UK delegation; see Proceedings of the Geneva Diplomatic Conference of 1906, p. 57, and Projet de Convention revisée soumis par les plénipotentiaires anglais (Draft revised convention submitted by the English plenipotentiaries), with proposed Article 6, pp. 60–61.
12 - Best, pp. 152–153.
13 - Durand, p. 16.
14 - See Bulletin international des Sociétés de la Croix-Rouge, Vol. 44, No. 173, January 1913, p. 37.
15 - Proceedings of the Geneva Diplomatic Conference of 1929, p. 18, proposed article 11bis. This proposal was introduced by the Dutch delegation, and had already been submitted to the 10th International Conference of the Red Cross, Geneva, 30 March–7 April 1921. It was inspired by a particular historical example. For a discussion, see Proceedings of the Geneva Diplomatic Conference of 1929, p. 139.
16 - See ibid. pp. 192–193 and 607.
17 - US Department of State, Treaty Information Bulletin, No. 74, 30 November 1935, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., p. 9. See also Bulletin international des Sociétés de la Croix-Rouge, Vol. 66, No. 398, October 1935, p. 794, and Vol. 66, No. 399, November 1935, p. 876.
18 - See Viveca Halldin Norberg, Swedes in Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia, 1924–1952: A study in early development co-operation, Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, Uppsala, 1977, pp. 154–159.
19 - Minutes of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, Committee I, Vol. II, Tome 1, p. 166. For historical references, see Edgar Bonjour, Histoire de la neutralité suisse pendant la seconde guerre mondiale, À la Baconnière, Neuchâtel, 1970, pp. 437–449. See also Karl Philipp Behrendt, Die Kriegschirurgie von 1939–1945 aus der Sicht der beratenden Chirurgen des deutschen Heeres im Zweiten Weltkrieg, inaugural dissertation submitted for the degree of Doctor of Medicine, University of Freiburg Faculty of Medicine, 2003, pp. 179–183, and Rudolf Bucher, Zwischen Verrat and Menschlichkeit. Erlebnisse eines Schweizer Arztes an der deutsch-russisschen Front 1941/42, 3rd edition, Huber, Frauenfeld, 1967, pp. 256–260. More generally, see Reinhold Busch, Die Schweiz, Die Nazis und die erste Ärtzemission an die Ostfront, Schweizer Ärztemissionen im II. Weltkrieg, Teil 1: Robert Nicole, Bericht über die Schweizerische Ärztemission nach Finnland, Frank Wünsche, Berlin, 2002.
20 - Minutes of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Committee I, Vol. I, 14th session, 11 May 1949, p. 34.
21 - Minutes of the Preliminary Conference of National Societies of 1946, Vol. I, pp. 84–86. The proposal dates from the meetings of the Commission of Experts convened by the ICRC in 1937 to discuss the revision of the 1929 Geneva Convention.
22 - Ibid. pp. 85–87. See also Minutes of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, Committee I, Vol. II, Tome 1, pp. 164 and 169. In the Draft Conventions submitted to the 1948 Stockholm Conference, this notification requirement appeared as the final sentence of the first paragraph (the second paragraph of this draft contained what had already been there since 1906, i.e. the notification requirement as it applies to the State accepting the assistance of the neutral Power’s recognized society).
23 - Minutes of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, Committee I, Vol. II, Tome 1, pp. 152–164.
24 - Upon the proposal of one delegation, and without further discussion, the drafters added what became the final sentence of Article 27(1), namely: ‘That personnel and those units shall be placed under the control of that Party to the conflict.’ See Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol. II-A, pp. 78, 122 and 212. Lastly, whereas the draft submitted to the 1949 Diplomatic Conference spoke of ‘that belligerent’, this was modified to read ‘that Party to the conflict’.
25 - See the commentary on Article 26, section F.
26 - For a discussion of the requirements which must be met before a treaty provision can be considered to have fallen into desuetude, see the Introduction, section C.8.
27 - See the commentary on Article 26, para. 2086.
28 - Minutes of the Preliminary Conference of National Societies of 1946, Vol. I, pp. 83–84.
29 - It should be noted that the idea that a neutral country could offer the services of its own armed forces’ medical services to a Party to the conflict was rejected in the period prior to 1949. Indeed, this possibility was discussed in 1937 when the ICRC convened a Commission of Experts to consider the revision of the 1929 Geneva Convention. See Report on the Interpretation, Revision and Extension of the Geneva Convention of July 27, 1929, Report prepared for the 26th International Conference of the Red Cross, London, June 1938, p. 16, where the idea was rejected ‘in view of the very great difficulties which would follow such practice’. See also Draft revision of the 1929 Geneva Convention submitted by the ICRC to National Societies in 1937, p. 6, and Minutes of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, Committee I, Vol. II, Tome 1, p. 170. This possibility is now envisaged in, and regulated by, Article 9(2)(a) of Additional Protocol I.
30 - For a discussion of the terms ‘National Red Cross Societies and … other Voluntary Aid Societies’, see the commentary on Article 26, section C.1. For further analysis, see Claudie Barrat, Status of NGOs in International Humanitarian Law, Brill Nijhoff, Leiden, 2014, pp. 89–91.
31 - For a discussion of the terms ‘recognized’ and ‘government’, see the commentary on Article 26, para. 2061. As is the case under Article 26, nothing precludes a Party to a conflict from being assisted by several recognized societies (of one or more neutral countries, in addition to domestic societies). Here, too, it must be emphasized that the term ‘recognition’, as used in Article 27, is not to be confused with the entirely separate issue of a society’s recognition by the ICRC as the National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society of that State. See the commentary on Article 26, para. 2062.
32 - It should be noted that, whereas Article 4 uses the term ‘neutral Powers’, Article 27 uses the term ‘neutral country’. While semantically different, these terms are functionally identical. For a discussion of what qualifies as a ‘neutral country’, see the commentary on Article 4, section C.1.
33 - Where Additional Protocol I applies, note must be taken of Article 81(2), (3) and (4) of that Protocol. These provisions impose certain (and differing) obligations on the Parties to the conflict and on the High Contracting Parties in terms of facilitating the work of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other humanitarian organizations.
34 - For a discussion of the term ‘authorized’, see the commentary on Article 26, section C.2.
35 - See Proceedings of the Geneva Diplomatic Conference of 1906, pp. 125 and 225. In practice, it may happen that a neutral government not only wishes to withhold such consent, but wishes to go further in terms of barring a society of its country from assisting the armed forces of another State, e.g. by adopting domestic legislation criminalizing its nationals if they should serve in the medical services of a Party to the conflict. This happened in Norway during the Second World War; see Minutes of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Committee I, Vol. I, 11 May 1949.
36 - For the term ‘fixed establishments and mobile medical units of the Medical Service’, see Article 19 and its commentary, section C.1.a. For the term ‘medical personnel’, see Article 24 and its commentary, section C.1. For the definition of ‘medical personnel’ in Additional Protocol I, see Article 8(c), which includes, in its subparagraph (ii), the ‘medical personnel of national Red Cross (Red Crescent, Red Lion and Sun) Societies and other national voluntary aid societies duly recognized and authorized by a Party to the conflict’. For the definition of ‘medical units’ in Additional Protocol I, see Article 8(e).
37 - See the commentary on Article 24, section D. As to why persons covered by Article 27 can only be engaged in the activities referred to in Article 24, see below, para. 2133. See also the definition of ‘permanent medical personnel’ and ‘permanent medical units’ in Additional Protocol I, Article 8(k).
38 - The same applies to personnel acting under Article 26. See the commentary on Article 26, para. 2079.
39 - See also the commentary on Article 34, para. 2342.
40 - Article 9(2) of Additional Protocol I explicitly includes permanent medical transports.
41 - Thus, a recognized society of a neutral country offering its services (for example, offering to distribute food to civilians in need) on the basis of common Article 9 (Article 10 in the Fourth Convention) is not covered by Article 27.
42 - For relief provided to prisoners of war by ‘religious organizations, relief societies, or any other organization assisting prisoners of war’, see Article 125 of the Third Convention. In contrast to societies covered by Article 27 of the First Convention, societies wishing to act on the basis of Article 125 of the Third Convention do not need to have been specifically recognized to carry out the activities covered by that provision. For a discussion, see Lanord, 1999, p. 91.
43 - Jean S. Pictet, Red Cross Principles, ICRC, Geneva, 1956, p. 75.
44 - See Article 12.
45 - Minutes of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Committee I, Vol. I, 11 May 1949.
46 - For the meaning and legal implications of the words ‘under its responsibility’, see the commentary on Article 26, section D.3.
47 - For the meaning of the words ‘subject to military laws and regulations’, see the commentary on Article 26, section D.2.
48 - The possibility of providing the assistance of religious personnel is not mentioned in Article 27, though it ought to exist.
49 - For a discussion of what this entails, see the commentary on Article 26, section E.
50 - For a discussion of what it means to be a protected person or object under the First Convention, see the commentary on Article 26, para. 2083. When persons covered by Article 27 fall into enemy hands, Article 32 applies. As for objects covered by Article 27, they are protected under the First Convention, and therefore benefit from the additional protection conferred by Article 34.
51 - For a discussion of what type of conduct amounts to an act harmful to the enemy, see the commentary on Article 24, section F. As with persons covered by Article 24 or by Article 26, those covered by Article 27 are entitled to carry individual light weapons for self-defence or for the defence of the wounded and sick in their charge; see the commentary on Article 24, paras 2004–2005. The fact that they may be armed can also be inferred from Article 32(4).
52 - If the State accepting the assistance is engaged in an international armed conflict against more than one other State (for example a coalition of States), both notifications required by Article 27 need to be addressed to all those States. For a discussion of this point, see Proceedings of the Geneva Diplomatic Conference of 1929, p. 138.
53 - See Minutes of the Preliminary Conference of National Societies of 1946, Vol. I, p. 84. See also Minutes of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, Committee I, Vol. II-1, pp. 164–165.
54 - This requirement comes in addition to the obligation, for the State accepting the assistance of the recognized society of the neutral country, to consent to receive this society’s services; see Article 27(1).
55 - The ‘adversary of the State which accepts such assistance’ (the term used in Article 27(2)) is not the enemy of the neutral country. The latter wording appeared in an earlier version of the text, but was modified accordingly by the 1947 Conference of Government Experts; see Report of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, p. 36.
56 - Minutes of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, Committee I, Vol. II, Tome 1, p. 165.
57 - ICRC, Report of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, p. 36. See also ICRC, Report on the Interpretation, Revision and Extension of the Geneva Convention of July 27, 1929, Report prepared for the 26th International Conference of the Red Cross, London, 1938, pp. 16–17.
58 - Minutes of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, Committee I, Vol. II, Tome 1, pp. 166–169.
59 - On this point, see Hutchinson, pp. 197–198: ‘Article 11 [of the 1906 Geneva Convention], with its requirement that neutral assistance receive a double authorization, seemed designed to limit rather than encourage participation in wars by the Red Cross societies of neutral countries.’
60 - Doing so may be particularly relevant in the event that persons covered by Article 27 fall into the hands of another neutral country. On the basis of Article 4, the latter will need to apply Article 32.
61 - It has been reported that this was done prior to the Second World War; see ICRC, Report on the Interpretation, Revision, and Extension of the Geneva Convention of July 27, 1929, submitted by the ICRC to the 26th International Conference of the Red Cross, London, 1938, p. 16.
62 - For a discussion of the time frame, see the commentary on Article 26, para. 2069.
63 - See Proceedings of the Geneva Diplomatic Conference of 1906, pp. 115, 125 and 255. See also Minutes of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, Committee I, Vol. II, Tome 1, p. 165.
64 - For a further indication that States wished to make sure that the neutral country formally approved of the assistance, and details on the unsuccessful proposal at the 1929 Diplomatic Conference with regard to spontaneously offered help, see para. 2114.
65 - In this respect, Article 27 is more stringent than Article 26, see the commentary on Article 26, para. 2071.
66 - For a discussion of the law of neutrality, see the commentary on Article 4, section A.
67 - See ICRC, Report on the Interpretation, Revision and Extension of the Geneva Convention of July 27, 1929, Report prepared for the 26th International Conference of the Red Cross, London, 1938, p. 17. See also Minutes of the Preliminary Conference of National Societies of 1946, Vol. I, pp. 86–87. See also Minutes of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, Committee I, Vol. II, Tome 1, p. 165. Similarly, see Lanord, 1999, pp. 67–68.
68 - As far as the National Societies are concerned, see International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as auxiliaries to the public authorities in the humanitarian field, 2003, p. 25. For further details, see the commentary on Article 26, para. 2094. See also United States, Law of War Manual, 2015, paras 15.5.2.1 and 15.6.2.2.
69 - For a discussion of the Fundamental Principles’ normative weight, and their impact on the ability of a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society to act on the basis of Article 26, see the commentary on Article 26, paras 2087–2088. When a National Society acts on the basis of Article 27, the Movement’s agreed coordination rules do not apply; see the commentary on Article 26, para. 2092. In particular, the recommendation as a matter of good practice to notify, if this has not already been done as part of the preceding agreement, the ‘host’ National Society prior to any activities on the basis of Article 26, applies in even stronger terms in the scenario envisioned by Article 27.
70 - See the commentary on Article 26, para. 2088.
71 - The Fundamental Principle of neutrality reads: ‘In order to continue to enjoy the confidence of all, the Movement may not take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature.’
72 - See the definition of the Fundamental Principle of impartiality in the preamble to the 1986 Statutes of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
73 - See Article 12.
74 - For a discussion of the concept ‘activities of a humanitarian nature’, see the commentary on Article 9, section C.2.a.
75 - For a discussion of these principles, see the commentary on Article 9, para. 1138.
76 - As to the identification of the medical units covered by Article 27, see Article 43.
77 - Minutes of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Committee I, Vol. I, 11 May 1949.
78 - For a discussion of this paragraph, see ICRC Remarks and Proposals on the 1948 Stockholm Draft, p. 13, and Minutes of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Committee I, Vol. I, 11 May 1949.
79 - Minutes of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, Committee I, Vol. II, Tome 1, p. 164. At the 1947 Conference of Government Experts, the proposal was adopted without any substantive discussion.
80 - Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol. II-A, p. 194. When persons covered by Article 27 fall into the hands of the adversary of the Party they are assisting, Article 32 applies.