Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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Commentary of 1952 


Ratification is the formal act by which a Power finally accepts the text of the Convention, which has been signed at an earlier stage by its Plenipotentiaries. This act, performed by the competent body under the municipal law of each country, can alone give the Convention obligatory force and make binding on the State.
The ratification is made effective by the deposit with the Swiss Federal Council, of a communication called the instrument of ratification, which shows the will of the State concerned towards the other States. (1)
The statement that the Convention "shall be ratified as soon as possible" is a pressing recommendation to each country to hasten the above procedure.
In accordance with normal practice, provision has not been made for the direct exchange of ratifications between signatory countries, but for their deposit with a Government which is made responsible for receiving them and for notifying the fact of their reception. This task has been entrusted to the Swiss Federal Council, the traditional depositary of the Geneva Conventions.


Paragraph 2 lays down that the Swiss Federal Council is to draw up a record of the deposit of each instrument of ratification, and transmit a certified copy of this record to signatory and acceding Powers.
Both the record and copies will mention any reservation which may accompany the ratification, so that other States may be informed of them.
In so far as it is possible to follow rules in such a controversial matter, the absence of an objection to a reservation on the part of a State to which it is thus communicated may be taken as denoting assent.
What will be the effect of an objection, by a State party or signatory to the Convention, to a reservation which has been made? This problem [p.405] is at present under discussion. Those in favour of the traditional system claim that such an objection prevents the Power making the reservation from participating in the Convention. On the other hand, those who follow the Pan-American system claim that the objection only prevents the Convention from entering into force as between the Party making the reservation and the State which put forward the objection. The International Court of Justice, in an opinion given in connection with the Genocide Convention, recommended an intermediate solution, in which the criterion adopted would be the compatibility or incompatibility of the reservation with the object of the Convention (2).
In any case, it is obvious that a reservation which is accepted, expressly or tacitly, will only affect the relations which the State making it maintains with other contracting Powers, and not the relations of those Powers among themselves.
As stated above, a reservation made at the time of signature is only valid if it is confirmed at the time of ratification.

* (1) [(1) p.404] It is only the deposit of the ratification
which has force under international law and not the
authorization to ratify which, under the Jaw of the
majority of countries, must be given to the Government by

(2) [(1) p.405] See also above, page 302, footnote 1;