Little Bits of History

First Hague Convention

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 29, 2014
First Hague Convention

First Hague Convention

July 29, 1899: The First Hague Convention is signed. The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 were the first multilateral treaties put in place to address conduct during warfare and both were based on the Lieber Code – a set of instructions for the Armies of the United States put in place by President Lincoln on April 24, 1863. This early law was the first to set out in codified form, regulations for behavior during times of martial law. It protected civilians and their property and listed punishments for transgressions. Also protected were prisoners of war, hostages, and spies and regulations were set down in regard to pillaging, truces, and prisoner exchanges. The 1874 Brussels Declaration listed 56 articles based on the Lieber Code, but it was never adopted.

The peace conference was proposed on August 24, 1898 by Russian Tsar Nicholas II. He and his foreign minister, Muravyov, were instrumental in bringing the conference to fruition. It opened on May 18, 1899, the Tsar’s birthday. Borrowing heavily from the Lieber Code, regulations about disarmament, the laws of war, and war crimes were addressed. The need for a binding international court for compulsory arbitration to settle international disputes was primary. It was an unachieved goal for both Hague Conferences. What was accomplished was the creation of a voluntary form for arbitration – the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The US, Britain, Russia, France, China, and Persia all favored a binding international court, but Germany led a small group of countries which vetoed this.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration still exists and has 115 state parties involved. The international organization is based in The Hague in the Netherlands. Many nations joined at the first convention with many more participating or reiterating their participation in the second. It is not a court in the conventional understanding of the term. It is, rather, an administrative organization which provides permanent and readily available means to serve as the registry for international arbitration and other related procedures, including enquiry and conciliation. They can assist with temporary arbitral tribunals or commissions. They are housed in the Peace Palace which was built specifically for the Court in 1913 with an endowment provided by Andrew Carnegie.

Also addressed at the 1899 conference was the laws and customs of war on land, adaptations to maritime warfare from the Geneva Convention of 1864, prohibition of discharging projectiles or explosives from balloons or other new analogous methods (Britain and the US did not sign this measure), prohibition against poisonous gases (the US did not sign), and prohibition against bullets which expand inside the human body (the US did not sign). The second council held in 1907 did little to advance peace. In the second conference called by President Theodore Roosevelt (but postponed until the war between Russia and Japan ended), thirteen more treaties were signed. Many of the rules laid down by the conventions were violated in World War I. By the end of World War II, at the Nuremberg Trials, most of the civilized world had recognized the laws and customs of war.

Peace is a journey of a thousand miles and it must be taken one step at a time. – Lyndon B. Johnson

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner. – Nelson Mandela

The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace. – Carlos Santana

If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies. – Desmond Tutu

Also on this day: Arc de Triomphe – In 1836, the Arc de Triomphe is inaugurated.
Irish Unrest – In 1848, the English put down a revolt by the Irish at Tipperary.
I Spy – In 1864, Isabella Boyd was captured.
USS Forrestal – In 1967, a fire broke out on the aircraft carrier.

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