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U.S. Reservations on Geneva Conventions

The United States presented these reservations at its signing of the Geneva Convention on August 12, 1949.

Mr. VINCENT, Minister of the United States of America in Switzerland, on signing the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of August 12, 1949, made the following declaration:

"The Government of the United States fully supports the objectives of this Convention.
"I am instructed by my Government to sign, making the following reservation to Article 68:
"The United States reserve the right to impose the death penalty in accordance with the provisions of Article 68, paragraph 2, without regard to whether the offences referred to therein are punishable by death under the law of the occupied territory at the time the occupation begins"

SOURCE: Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol.I, Federal Political Department, Berne, p.346.

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Declaration made upon ratification:

"The United States in ratifying the Geneva Convention for the amelioration of the condition of the wounded and sick in armed forces in the field does so with the reservation that irrespective of any provision or provisions in said convention to the contrary, nothing contained therein shall make unlawful, or obligate the United States of America to make unlawful, any use or right of use within the United States of America and its territories and possessions of the Red Cross emblem, sign, insignia, or words as was lawful by reason of domestic law and a use begun prior to January 5, 1905, provided such use by pre-1905 users does not extend to the placing of the Red Cross emblem, sign, or insignia upon aircraft, vessels, vehicles, buildings or other structures, or upon the ground."
"Rejecting the reservations which States have made with respect to the Geneva Convention for the amelioration of the condition of the wounded and sick in armed forces in the field, the United States accepts treaty relations with all parties to that Convention, except as to the changes proposed by such reservations."
"Rejecting the reservations which States have made with respect to the Geneva Convention for the amelioration of the condition of wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of armed forces at sea, the United States accepts treaty relations with all parties to that Convention, except as to the changes proposed by such reservations."
"Rejecting the reservations which States have made with respect to the Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, the United States accepts treaty relations with all parties to that Convention, except as to the changes proposed by such reservations."
"The United States reserves the right to impose the death penalty in accordance with the provisions of Article 68, paragraph 2, without regard to whether the offenses referred to therein are punishable by death under the law of the occupied territory at the time the occupation begins" (Reservation formulated by the Representative of the United States of America at the time of signature.)
"Rejecting the reservations - other than to Article 68, paragraph 2 - which States have made with respect to the Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war, the United States accepts treaty relations with all parties to that Convention, except as to the changes proposed by such reservations."

SOURCE: UNTS, Vol.213, 1955, pp.379-384.

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By a note of 22 September 1955, the Permanent observer of Switzerland transmitted to the Secretariat of the United Nations a copy of the note addressed by the Embassy of the United States of America in Bern to the Political Department of the Swiss Confederation, the text of which reads as follows:

"(...)The Embassy has the honor to inform the Department that the statement regarding the reservations of other states which is embodied in each of the four ratifications is not considered by the United States Government to be a reservation to the convention. The Embassy is instructed to point out that only two reservations were made by the United States: the first relates to the use of the Red Cross emblem in so far as the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field is concerned, and the second, made at the time of signature, relates to the right to impose the death penalty, in so far as the Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War is concerned. (...)".

SOURCE: UNTS, Vol.213, 1955, pp.379.

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Objection to the reservations made upon accession by Guinea-Bissau

"The Department of State refers to the note of March 5, 1974 from the Embassy of Switzerland enclosing the notification of the Swiss Federal Political Department concerning the accession of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau to the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949 for the protection of war victims, subject to certain reservations.
The reservations are similar to the reservations expressed by others previously with respect to the same or different conventions and concerning which the government of the United States has previously declared its views. The attitude of the Government of the United States with respect to all the reservations by the Republic of Guinea-Bissau parallels its attitude toward such other reservations. The Government of the United States, while rejecting the reservations, accepts treaty relations with the Republic of Guinea-Bissau."

SOURCE: UNTS, Vol.970, 1975, pp.367-368.

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Declaration relating to the accession of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Viet-Nam:

"(...) The Government of the United States of America recognizes the Government of the Republic of Viet-Nam and does not recognize the 'Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Viet-Nam' as a government. The United States Government therefore does not recognize that the 'Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Viet-Nam' is qualified to accede to the Geneva Conventions. Bearing in mind, however, that it is the purpose of the Geneva Conventions that their provisions should protect war victims in armed conflicts, the Government of the United States of America notes that the 'Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Viet-Nam' has indicated its intention to apply them subject to certain reservations. The reservations expressed with respect to the Third Geneva Convention go far beyond previous reservations, and are directed against the object and purpose of the Convention. Other reservations are similar to reservations expressed by others previously and concerning which the Government of the United States has previously declared its views. The Government of the United States rejects all the expressed reservations.
"The Government of the United States notes that the views expressed in this note should not be understood as implying any withdrawal from the policy heretofore pursued by its armed forces in according the treatment provided by the Conventions to hostile armed forces"

SOURCE: UNTS, Vol.972, 1975, p.403.

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