the bombardment of Dresden

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sid guttridge
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Re: the bombardment of Dresden

Post by sid guttridge » Sat May 03, 2008 4:30 am

Hi Phylo,

Both sides on the Eastern Front were technically subject to the Hague Conventions and neither adhered to them. However, as the USSR had not signed up to the Geneva Convention it did not technically have to adhere to it and this released Germany of the legal obligation to do so regarding the USSR.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: the bombardment of Dresden

Post by phylo_roadking » Sat May 03, 2008 10:05 am

Sid, that was indeed Geneva's opinion re HRLW - but IIRC this was expressed to try and retrospectively cover the events on the Eastern Front after the war. A bit like the Hostages Case, it was a postwar decision in a postwar environment - and would have received...and on several recorded cases DID...a different answer PRE-war. Or else - Stalin wouldn't have asked Hitler to respect it if it was in place by default. Same with the Winter War agreements. I.E. Geneva may have thought so after the war - but the parties actually INVOLVED didn't regard it was being in place by default. And NOT just for all the provisos on treating your enemy ;) IF it was in place by default - the PROTECTIONS Stalin wanted would have been in place.
Part of the defence was that some treaties were not binding on the Axis powers because they were not signatories. This was addressed in the judgment relating to war crimes and crimes against humanity contains an expansion of customary law "the Convention Hague 1907 expressly stated that it was an attempt 'to revise the general laws and customs of war,' which it thus recognised to be then existing, but by 1939 these rules laid down in the Convention were recognised by all civilised nations, and were regarded as being declaratory of the laws and customs of war which are referred to in Article 6 (b) of the [London] Charter." The implication under international law is that if enough countries have signed up to a treaty, and that treaty has been in effect for a reasonable period of time, then it can be interpreted as binding on all nations not just those who signed the original treaty. This is a highly controversial aspect of international law, one that is still actively debated in international legal journals.
HOWEVER - the two MAIN "group" charges relating to the war were "Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of crime against peace" and "Planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace" - and judged against "the laws and customs of law" - i.e NO charge against the breach of any section of the Hague Conventions, even though the 1941 attack on Russia was CLEARLY a breach of the requirements for a Declaration of War...in other words, the two charges were SO phrased because the Hague Convention didn't apply to Germany as the other combatant wasn't a signatory.
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Re: the bombardment of Dresden

Post by phylo_roadking » Sun May 04, 2008 11:01 am

But we're moving away from Dresden now, and as per the expressed rules surrounding the discussion of Wa Crimes (or not) they will remain on-topic.
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Re: the bombardment of Dresden

Post by sid guttridge » Tue May 06, 2008 2:54 am

Hi Phylo,

The Hague Conventions, under their own terms, had to be "denounced" in a specific manner to the Netherlands Government. The USSR does not appear ever to have done so. As I said earlier, "Both sides on the Eastern Front were technically subject to the Hague Conventions and neither adhered to them."

The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 are not irrelevant to any discussion on Dresden as they contain the international legislation most closely touching on the bombing of cities and provide the wriggle room under which all parties engaged in it technically legally or might have stopped it legally. Indeed, the third Hague Conference sceduled for 1916, but cancelled due to WWI, was due to deal with the topic of bombing, amongst others.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: the bombardment of Dresden

Post by phylo_roadking » Tue May 06, 2008 7:03 am

The Bolshevik regime didn't regard it as a successor regime to that of either the Tsar OR the post-abdication Dumas. Therefore it didn't regard itself as even a signatory of the Hague Conventions - not that it had to actually resign from them. Even the ICRC website, with its lists of signatories and High Contracting Powers still refers to the "Russian Federation" as High Contracting Powers to the Hague Conventions in 1907 - interestingly it WASN'T updated to "the USSR" after 1917... :wink:

More specifically - Lenin on IIRC the 17th November 1917 - tho' I could be corrected on the date - pronounced that the Bolshevik regime wasn't going to adhere to ANY international treaties signed by the Tsar. That meant the USSR didn't enjoy the protection of any of the "defensive" clauses of the Conventions, nor was it subject to any of the limits in the "offensive" clauses. Instead - we have the anomalous situation where the USSR as stated atempted to negotiate a full or partial recognition of the Conventions for the duration of any war it got involved it - for in the case of Finland and Germany - both were signatories...

...and the Conventions also DIDN'T apply where only ONE side was a signatory and the other wasn't ;)

IF the USSR had regarded itself as STILL being a signaotry of the Hague Convention - it wouldn't have needed to negotiate AT ALL - so confirming that the SOVIETS regarded themselves as not being signatories OR being protected by the Conventions.

In the case of Germany vs the USSR - it doesn't matter that Germany was a High Contracting Power - if the SOVIETS weren't then only one combatant was - and Hague is quite clear that in THAT case...it doesn't apply.

The idea that a treaty that is in existence long enough becomes regarded as applying by common usage to everyone - and in THIS case by 1939 :D was the result of the London Agreement of 1945 - to which the USSR WAS a signatory. Thus while in 1945 the situation was amended retrospectively to Stalin's benefit re being covered by the hague Conventions...it was STALIN himself who confirmed to Hitler that the USSR didn't regard itself as protected by the Hague Conventions - by ASKING for it to be observed for the duration of the conflict. In confirmation of this, note the first sentence of the June 6th 1941 Commissar Order -
the adherence of the enemy to the principles of humanity or international law is not to be counted on
Even at that late point before hostilities commenced, the USSR's position is not clear-cut. STALIN made it so in July...

And VERY interestingly - the IMT stated THIS in the trial of Wilheilm Von Leeb and others, December 1947-October 1948 -
Most of the prohibitions of both the Hague and Geneva Conventions, considered in substance, are clearly an expression of the accepted views of civilized nations and binding upon Germany and the defendants on trial before us in the conduct of the war against Russia
In OTHER words...the idea that Germany AND the USSR were both covered by the Hague Conventions when at war is spurious - the IMT's opinion only covered GERMANY'S position in relation to the USSR - NOT the USSR's position in relation to Germany!
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Re: the bombardment of Dresden

Post by phylo_roadking » Tue May 06, 2008 7:09 am

The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 are not irrelevant to any discussion on Dresden as they contain the international legislation most closely touching on the bombing of cities and provide the wriggle room under which all parties engaged in it technically legally or might have stopped it legally. Indeed, the third Hague Conference sceduled for 1916, but cancelled due to WWI, was due to deal with the topic of bombing, amongst others.
Discussion of WHO the Conventions apply to most certainly IS irrelvant to Dresden - as there the situation is VERY clear-cut; the combatants were Great Britain and Germany, both were High Contracting Powers to the Conventions, and they applied to both Germany and Great Britain. In the case of strategic and tactical bombing of civilian targets - neither power was going to make use of the "wriggle room" to stop it or condemn it, for both had engaged in it. And in the specifics of both Conventions, there is nothing banning it UNLESS it can be PROVED that it was the lives of civilians themselves that had been specifically targeted.
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Re: the bombardment of Dresden

Post by sid guttridge » Tue May 06, 2008 10:05 am

Hi Phylo,

The USSR signed a peace treaty with Germany at Brest-Litovsk in 1918 ending a war that Imperial Russia had embarked upon. It also initially claimed jurisdiction over all that had formerly been Imperial Russia's and resisted any attempts at independence by any part of the former Imperial Russia. The USSR, whatever its wider internationalist ambitions, very definitely acted as the de jure as well as de facto successor to Imperial Russia.

The Hague Convention contained its own specific provisions for how a contracting party could "Denounce" adherence to the Hague Conventions. I can't find any evidence that it followed this prescription. If it did not do so, it remained technically bound by the Hague Conventions.

If you consult the following:

The Soviet Union as a Neutral, 1939-1941
George Ginsburgs
Soviet Studies, Vol. 10, No. 1 (Jul., 1958), pp. 12-35

You will find the following: ".....the USSR considered itself bound by the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907”.

Sadly I cannot currently give you the full text as it is on JSTOR and I don’t have access to it. Remind me to dig it out next time I am in the British Library. However, that these words are in the article is verifiable from a net search.

Cheers,

Sid.

P.S. I think you might find that Russia signed the Hague Conventions as the Russian Federation in 1899 and 1907 and that it reverted to this name in the early 1990s.

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Re: the bombardment of Dresden

Post by sid guttridge » Wed May 07, 2008 3:26 am

Hi Guys,

Try Googling Hague Rules of Air Warfare 1923.

This gives the non-binding legislation that all powers eventually declined to follow.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: the bombardment of Dresden

Post by phylo_roadking » Wed May 07, 2008 9:30 am

all powers eventually declined to follow
Sid, that would have to be regarded as entirely spurious, in that case, with no part in this discussion.
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Re: the bombardment of Dresden

Post by sid guttridge » Thu May 08, 2008 3:33 am

Hi Phylo,

Why? The Hague Rules of Air Warfare of 1923 seem never to have been ratified and, as I posted, "all powers eventually declined to follow" them.

I did post the Hague Rules for Air Warfare, 1923, on Feldgrau yesterday so that everybody could see them, but for some incomprehensible reason they were removed, so I cannot currently show their contents here.

Suffice it to say that they would have made the bombing of Dresden, Guernica, Belgrade, Tokyo, etc., indisputably illegal.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: the bombardment of Dresden

Post by Tom Houlihan » Thu May 08, 2008 3:44 am

sid guttridge wrote:Suffice it to say that they would have made the bombing of Dresden, Guernica, Belgrade, Tokyo, etc., indisputably illegal.
Then shouldn't it have been posted in the "What If" section?
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Re: the bombardment of Dresden

Post by sid guttridge » Thu May 08, 2008 3:55 am

Hi Tom,

I don't think so. Both the provisions of the Hague Rules of Air Warfare and the events at Dresden, Guernica, Belgrad and Tokyo are pretty clear. The former would undoubtedly have made the latter operations illegal.

If you can guarantee that they will not be removed again, I will happily put the relevant clauses of the Hague Rules of Air Warfare up again so that you can see.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: the bombardment of Dresden

Post by sid guttridge » Thu May 08, 2008 4:05 am

What the hell.... here are some of the relevant provisions of the Hague Rules of Air Warare, 1923:

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

ARTICLE XXII
Aerial bombardment for the purpose of terrorizing the civilian population, of destroying or damaging private property not of a military character, or of injuring non-combatants is prohibited.

ARTICLE XXIV
1 ) Aerial bombardment is legitimate only when directed at a military objective, that is to say, an object of which the destruction or injury would constitute a distinct military advantage to the belligerent.

2) Such bombardment is legitimate only when directed exclusively at the following objectives: military forces; military works; military establishments or depots; factories constituting important and well-known centres engaged in the manufacture of arms, ammunition, or distinctively military supplies; lines of communication or transportation used for military purposes.

3) The bombardment of cities, towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings not in the immediate neighborhood of the operations of land forces is prohibited. In cases where the objectives specified in paragraph 2 are so situated, that they cannot be bombarded without the indiscriminate bombardment of the civilian population, the aircraft must abstain from bombardment.

4) In the immediate neighborhood of the operations of land forces, the bombardment of cities, towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings is legitimate provided that there exists a reasonable presumption that the military concentration is sufficiently important to justify such bombardment, having regard to the danger thus caused to the civilian population.

5) A belligerent State is liable to pay compensation for injuries to person or to property caused by the violation by any of its officers or forces of the provisions of this article.

ARTICLE XXV
In bombardment by aircraft all necessary steps must be taken by the commander to spare as far as possible buildings dedicated to public worship, art, science, or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospital ships, hospitals, and other places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided such buildings, objects or places are not at the time used for military purposes. Such buildings, objects and places must by day be indicated by marks visible to aircraft. The use of marks to indicate other buildings, objects or places than those specified above is to be deemed an act of perfidy. The marks used as aforesaid shall be in the case of buildings protected under the Geneva Convention the red cross on a white ground, and in the case of other protected buildings a large rectangular panel divided diagonally into two pointed [sic] triangular portions, one black and the other white.

A belligerent who desires to secure by night the protection for the hospitals and other privileged buildings above mentioned must take the necessary measures to render the special signs referred to sufficiently visible.

ARTICLE XXVI
The following special rules are adopted for the purpose of enabling States to obtain more efficient protection for important historic monuments situated within their territory, provided that they are willing to refrain from the use of such monuments and a surrounding zone for military purposes, and to accept a special regime for their inspection.

1) A State shall be entitled, if it sees fit, to establish a zone of protection round such monuments situated in its territory. Such zones shall in time of war enjoy immunity from bombardment.

2) The monuments round which a zone is established shall be notified to other Powers in peace time through the diplomatic channel; the notification shall also indicate the limits of the zones. The notification may not be withdrawn in time of war.

3) The zone of protection may include, in addition to the area actually occupied by the monument or group of monuments, an outer zone, not exceeding 500 meters in width, measured from the circumference of the said area.

4) Marks clearly visible from aircraft either by day or by night will be employed for the purpose of ensuring the identification by belligerent airmen of the limits of the zones.

5 ) The marks on the monuments themselves will be those defined in Article XXV. The marks employed for indicating the surrounding zones will be fixed by each State adopting the provisions of this article, and will be notified to other Powers at the same time as the monuments and zones are notified.

6) Any abusive use of the marks indicating the zones referred to in paragraph 5 will be regarded as an act of perfidy.

7) A State adopting the provisions of this article must abstain from using the monument and the surrounding zone for military purposes, or for the benefit in any way whatever of its military organization, or from committing within such monument or zone any act with a military purpose in view.

8 ) An inspection committee consisting of three neutral representatives accredited to the State adopting the provisions of this article, or their delegates, shall be appointed for the purpose of ensuring that no violation is committed of the provisions of paragraph 7. One of the members of the committee of inspection shall be the representative (or his delegate) of the State to which has been entrusted the interests of the opposing belligerent.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

These are often similar to provisions regarding bombardment in the original Hague Convention in 1899, but this was agreed at a time when bombardment by heavier-than-air machines was not considered because none had yet flown.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: the bombardment of Dresden

Post by Tom Houlihan » Thu May 08, 2008 6:28 am

sid guttridge wrote:Why? The Hague Rules of Air Warfare of 1923 seem never to have been ratified and, as I posted, "all powers eventually declined to follow" them.
That makes them irrelevant to the discussion. If they were never ratified, and "all powers eventually declined to follow" them, then one can't use them to justify or condemn anything. They are meaningless. That's why I suggested "what if." Then maybe they'd be worth discussing. It just doesn't make sense to discuss something based on conditions that didn't apply.
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Re: the bombardment of Dresden

Post by phylo_roadking » Thu May 08, 2008 6:35 am

Closing this thread temporarily - Tom, it's in the Removed Threads section :wink:
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