Hospital Ship Commissions

 

REPORT ON THE MEETING OF THE SAFETY AND HEALTH COMMISSION OF THE HOSPITAL SHIP 'L'HUMANITE I"

HELD ON THE HOSPITAL SHIP "USNS COMFORT" ON 14 MAY AND AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS ON 24 JUNE 1999

 


Were present:

Mrs. Amina Mesdoua, Counsellor, and Mr. Abdelkader Mesdoua, Minister Counsellor, delegated by H.E. Mr. Abbdallah Baali, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Algeria to the United Nations

Mr. Stephen Mecchan, Military Expert, nominated as observer to the Safety and Health Commission, delegated by H.E. Ms. Penelope Anne Wensley, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

Mrs. Nicole Elisha, Counsellor, delegated by H.E. Mr. Samuel Anehou, Chargé d'affaires i.e. , Permanent Mission of Benin to the United Nations

Mrs. Toe Séraphine, Counsellor, delegated by H.E. Mr. Michel Kafando, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Burkina Faso to the United Nations

Dr. Dubravka Simonovic, Minister Plenipotentiary, delegated by H.E. Dr. Ivan Simonovic. Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Croatia to the United Nations

Lieutenant Colonel Armand de Bejarry, Member of Military Staff Committee, and Lieutenant Colonel R. Payen, Military Advisor, delegated by H.E. M.Alain Dejamet, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

Mr. Yaw O Osei, Minister Counsellor, delegated by H.E. Mr. Jacob Botwe Wilmot. Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations

Mr. Zoumanigui Paul Goa, Counsellor, delegated by H.E. Mrs. Mahawa Bangoura Camara, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Guinea to the United Nations

Admiral Dr. W. Setiawan, delegated by H.E. Dr. Makarim Wibisono, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the United Nations, and Mr. Toto Riyanto, appointed by the Government of Indonesia as Military Expert to the Safety and Health Commission of the hospital ship "L'Humanité I"

Mr. Phakiso Mochochoko, Counsellor, delegated by H.E. Mr. Percy Metsing Mangoaela, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Lesotho to the United Nations

Mr. Amadou N' Diaye, First Secretary, delegated by H.E. Mr. Mahfoudh Ould Deddach, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Mauritania to the United Nations

Mr. Luc C.J.D Schillings, First Secretary, delegated by H.E. Mr. Arnold Peter Van Walsum, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations

Lieutenant Colonel Djibo Tahirou, Military Attaché, Embassy of Niger in Washington, appointed by the Government of Niger as Military Expert to the Safety and Health Commission of the hospital ship "L'Humanité I"

Colonel Vasyl' T. Sydorenko, Military Expert, delegated by H.E. Mr. Volodymyr. Y Yel'chenko, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations

Mrs. Tera Mc Carchy and Mr. Steve Brock, Military Expert, delegated by H.E. Mr. A Peter Burleigh, Chargé d'affaires i.e., Permanent Mission of the United States of America to the United Nations

Captain of Royal Navy (Ret) David J. Thompson, Principal Secretary, Liaison Office of Military Staff Committee, Department of Political Affairs of the United Nations

Major Laurence R. Garell, Representative of the Salvation Army to the United Nations, and Mr. Harden H. Whote, Executive Director of the Salvation Army

Mr. Remy Maradona, Representative of the World Association of Former United Nations Internes and Fellows to the United Nations

Mr. Justin Ngwira-Brook, Representative of the University of Delaware

Mr. Anthony Palmiotti and Mr. Harold Fleureton, Representatives of the Maritime College SUNY ( State University of New York)

Mr. Christian M. Bickert, Representative of the Aluminum Pechiney Group, New York

Mr. André Ferra and Mrs. Nicole Perlmann, Representatives of French Veterans Association, New York

Mr. Jean-Luc Pérez, Co-Founder of the Cercle de Réflexion, President of the Organizational Council

Mr. Bruce Boeglin, Advisor of the Cercle de Réflexion, Colonel Xavier Devaulx de Chambord (Ret), Advisor of the Cercle de Réflexion

The permanent representatives of the Dominican Republic and Tunisia expressed their regret for not join the Commission in time.
The permanent representatives of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Holy See, Iceland, India, Liechtenstein, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom regretfully could not be at the Commission due to their conflicting schedules. However; the Commission received their best wishes for success.

1. OPENING THE COMMISSION (Agenda item 2)

1.1 The Commission was convened at 11:00 a.m. by Mr. Pérez, President of
the Organizational Board of the Cercle de Réflexion. With a few words of welcome, he called to order the meeting of the Safety and Health Commission of the hospital ship "L'Humanité I".

 

1.2. Recalling the background for the Commission, Mr. Pérez stressed the urgent need, particularly in the wake of the Kosovo crisis, for building and commissioning a first humanitarian hospital ship for the United Nations as early as the year 2000, in order to remedy for the shortage of resources for medical assistance and for the treatment of casualties in armed conflicts.

1.3 Mr. Pérez thanked, through their representatives, the five Governments that had already officially appointed their military experts to the Commission, namely:

- Lt-Col. Mogoudou Soumalia, appointed by the Government of Benin;
- Lieutenant José Alberto Mena Martînez (Dominican Navy), appointed by the Government of the Dominican Republic;
- Captain Joseph Nii Lareya (Ghanaian Armed Forces), appointed by the Government of Ghana;
- Mr. Toto Riyanyo, Military Expert of the Permanent Mission of Indonesia to the United Nations, appointed by the Government of Indonesia
- Lt- Col. Dijobo Tahirou, Military Attaché, Embassy of Niger (Washington), appointed by the Government of Niger.

1.4. Mr. Pérez then moved for the election of the President of the Safety and Health Commission. Mr. Pérez was elected by acclamation. He appointed Colonel Xavier Devaulx de Chambord as its Rapporteur.

1.5. Mr. Pérez informed the Commission that the former Commander of the United Nations Protection Force in the Former Yugoslavia (UNPROFOR), General Jean Cot, was interested in the cause of the hospital ship "L'Humanité
I".
Mr. Pérez moved that General Cot be named Honorary President of the Commission, subject to his approval This motion was carried unanimously.

1.6. The agenda was adopted by the participants

 

2. VISIT TO THE HOSPITAL SHIP "USNS COMFORT" (Agenda item 3)

2.1 The President indicated that in order to prepare for this Commission, a delegation including the representatives of Algeria, Benin, Guinea, Lesotho and the Lao People's Democratic Republic visited the hospital ship "USNS Comfort" on 14 May last in the harbour of New York.
The President said that during this visit, the Commission realized the lack of armament on the ship and the ultramodern equipment of the hospital ship,
as well as its particularities such as the production of oxygen and the treatment of medical waste. The delegation was also interested in its capacity of receiving and caring of refugees on board. The delegation wished that the future hospital ship "L'Humanité I " would have the same
capacity.

2.2. The President thanked the US Navy for its excellent welcome on the occasion of this visit and said that the Commission accepted the assistance of the US Navy to realize this hospital ship "L'H'umanité I".

3. PRESENTATION OF THE " HUMANITE I HOSPITAL SHIP ( Agenda item 4)

3.1. The Delegates of SUNY Maritime College, signatories of an Agreement with the Cercle de Réflexion for the construction and commissioning of the humanitarian ships, explained the general concept of the hospital ship "L'Humanité I" and described the main features of the ship.

3.2. The President stressed the great importance of the Commission's role in protecting the lives of those on board.

3.3. One of the representatives of Algeria asked whether this ship would be committed within the framework of the United Nations or NATO and whether it would be a part of peacekeeping operations. The President replied that the ship was to be donated to the United Nations and he reported on the contacts made so far with the Under-Secretaries General interested in the
project. He stated that, while awaiting the General Assembly's acceptance of this donation, the Cercle de Réflexion would assume management of the ship, in collaboration with the United Nations.

3.4. The representative of Ghana then asked what role the Cercle de Réflexion would play, after the hospital ship was transferred to the United Nations. The President replied that it would have no role, except for such matters as meeting operating expenses, which would be the concern of the United Nations Cercle de Réflexion.

3.5. The President then moved for discussion of the five basic questions on the Agenda.

FRIST QUESTION

4. IS THE CHOICE OF THE FLAG OF REGISTRY A DETERMINING FACTOR FOR
THE SHIP'S SAFETY? CAN THE USE OF THE EMBLEMS OF MAJOR INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS ENHANCE THE SAFETY OF THE HOSPITAL SHIP? (Agenda item 5)

4.1. Commenting on the example of registry under the United States flag, as suggested by the President, the representatives of the SUNY Maritime College explained what this choice entailed. They indicated that, in such a case, the crew and the medical staff would have to be United States
Citizens, thus running at variance with the aims of the project; additionally, the required compliance with United Stated regulations would further limit the ship's possibilities for action and restrict building standards.

4.2. One of the French representatives felt that it was preferable to choose a "neutral flag", to facilitate the debate at the General Assembly and gain tax relief. He specified that the ship's building standards would have to be "of high and international level". The representative of Ghana added that great care should be exercised in the choice of flag, such as that of an internationally accepted neutral country and that such choice must be subject to the prior approval of the States.

4.3. One of the representatives of Algeria pointed out that the matter of the choice of flag would no longer be a factor once the ship flew the United Nations flag. However, the representative of the United Nations Military Staff Committee added that, even under the United Nations flag, this ship would have to opt for a reference flag for the selection of building standards. The matter was discussed and the participants generally expressed the wish that the ship should be in a position to fly the United Nations flag "as soon as possible", to obtain in principle " the protection of
Member States".

4.4. The President then moved that the choice of a flag registry be guided by the idea of " a country of acceptable neutrality" and that a list of possible countries be sent for approval, first to the participants in the Commission, and later to the other Member States of the United Nations.
He also moved that, in the meantime, official steps be taken to obtain early approval of the use of the United Nations flag on this ship.

The proposals were adopted.

SECOND QUESTION

5. SHOULD THE PRINCIPLE OF NOT ARMING THE HOSPITAL SHIP PRECLUDE THE POSSIBILITY OF PROVIDING MEANS OF DEFENCE OR OF RETALIATION IN CASE OF AGGRESSION ( Agenda item 6)

5.1. The President recalled that this hospital ship was a symbol of peace and should not, in principle, be armed. He requested the Commission's opinion on this essential point and asked about having naval protection forces escort the ship while in operation.

5.2. The representative of Niger, France, Indonesia and Ukraine confirmed that the hospital ship should not be armed and that it was up to the United Nations to ensure its protection by the naval forces of the peacekeeping operations. The representatives of Ghana shared the general opinion that the ship should not be armed, since it "must not be faulted for carrying weapons". The representative of Ukraine stated that this being a "Class 3 hospital ship", it was not to operate close to combat zones and that, therefore, it did not need specific protective equipment. Concurring with this opinion, the representative of Croatia quoted the relevant articles of the Geneva Convention

5.3. The representative of Benin asked if the crew should not be provided with light defensive weapons while the representative of Algeria agreed with this idea, the other participants emphatically disagreed.

5.4. The representatives of the United States pointed out that the many threats encountered in modern conflicts were serious and diverse and they felt it was necessary to reinforce the external protection of the ship.After a short debate on this point, the participants shared the opinion of the representative of the Military Staff Committee that highly effective means of communication and information be installed on board, in order to set up a kind of cordon sanitaire around the vessel. At the President's suggestion, this idea was adopted, to make up for the lack of armament on the ship.

5.5. Answering an earlier question from the representative of Benin on financing the project, Colonel Xavier Devaulx de Chambord stated that funding amounting of 400 million US dollars had been found and that contracts should be concluded in the course of the summer.

5.6. The meeting was suspended at 1:00p.m., and the President invited the participants to an on-the-spot buffet lunch.

THIRD QUESTION

6. TO WHAT EXTENT DOES THE SECOND GENEVA CONVENTION ENSURE
INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION FOR HOSPITAL SHIPS WHILE ON OPERATION? (Agenda item 7).

6.1. Reconvening at 1:30 p.m., the Commission considered the questions of the scope of the Second Geneva Convention, The President recalled the Convention's general provisions and raised the matter of the effectiveness of such protective measures.

6.2. One of the representatives of French noted that certain warring parties disregarded the Geneva Conventions. He felt that it was up to the United Nations Command to determine if and when the ship should approach the zone of conflict. Others participants concurred.

6.3. Recalling the need to comply with the Second Geneva Convention, the President moved that the proposal of the representatives of French be adopted.

The proposal was adopted.

 

FOURTH QUESTION

7. HOW FAR COULD MILITARY TECHNOLOGY SERVE IN APPLYING SAFETY MEASURES ON THE HOSPITAL SHIP (Agenda item 8)

7.1 One of the representatives of French first raised the question of the humanitarian ship's actual intended use and the need for the United Nations to set up an "extra unit to manage the vessel". He recalled that the Organization actually owned very little equipment and that "this vessel would pose a problem for the General Assembly".

7.2. One of the representatives of Algeria felt that it would be up to the General Assembly to determine what the appropriate terms would be for the ship's management and that the Commission should consider "all possible options" in order to make a useful submission to the General Assembly. This idea was shared by many participants who furthermore expressed the wish that the Cercle de Réflexion obtain officially an office at the United Nations in order to facilitate relations with delegations of Member States and with the various bodies and departments of the Organization involved in the humanitarian ship project. The representatives of the Military Staff Committee added that it was important to have "an operational concept of the use of the ship and of its standards, bearing in mind the submission to be made to the General Assembly".

7..3 As to the use of military technology, the representative of Niger was against such use, since it would place the ship's "neutrality" at risk. He felt the vessel should be built as a "civilian ship".

7.4. The idea of building a "civilian ship" met with the general approval of the participants, who also concurred with the representative of the Military Staff Committee who suggested that the use of military technology should be confined to communications and safety measures, as well as with the representative of French who suggested that the ship should have an organizational system "comparable to that of a military hospital". The President moved that this general opinion be expressed as a recommendation of the Commission .

The proposal was adopted

FIFTH QUESTION

8. HOW EFFECTIVE WOULD A "PROTECTED NEUTRAL TRANSIT ZONE" BE IF SET UP CLOSE TO A CONFLICT AREA FOR THE PURPOSE OF RECEIVING CASUALTIES AND REFUGEES ON THEIR WAY TO OR FROM THE HUMANITARIAN SHIP? (Agenda item 9)

8.1 The representatives of Algeria and Ghana recalled that "humanitarian corridors" had been set up in recent conflicts and that the warring parties had felt it necessary to acknowledge such "protected neutral transit zones". The participants considered them to be essential.

8.2. One of the representatives of French added that such "neutral zones" would have to be protected by cooperating military forces and, generally, by the peacekeeping forces. This opinion was shared by many participants who expressed the wish for further study of the establishment of such "neutral zones".

8.3 The President moved that the principle of "protected neutral transit zones" be adopted and that the terms of their operational use be further studied.

The proposal was adopted.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The Safety and Health Commission of the hospital ship "L'Humanité I":

1. Proposes that Army General Jean Cot be named Honorary President of the Commission, subject to his acceptance;

2-a. Believing that the humanitarian ship shall have to be registered under the flag of "a country of acceptable neutrality", requests its President to submit for approval a list of possible countries first to the members of the Commission, then to the other Member States of the United Nations;
2-b. Requests its President concurrently to enter an official application for the early granting of this hospital ship's right to fly the United Nations flag.

3. Emphatically rejects any armament for the ship and feels that its protection should be ensured as follows:
a. By an ongoing media campaign stressing the humanitarian purposes of this ship;
b. By having the ship escorted by cooperating naval forces, in particular by peacekeeping operations forces. The Commission further expressed the wish that its President obtain a "principled protection" from the relevant department.

4. Confirms that the Hospital Ship must scrupulously observe the terms of the Second Geneva Convention on the international protection of hospital ships;

5. Decides that the hospital ship shall be built like an "ordinary civilian ship", but shall have the benefit of military technology for communication and safety, as well as an organizational system comparable to that of a military hospital; The Commission requests its President:

a. To prepare a preliminary report on the operational concept for the use of the humanitarian ship and of its construction standards, with a vie to submitting it to the United Nations General Assembly;
b. To obtain for the Cercle de Réflexion an office at the United Nations, in order to facilitate relations with the delegates of United Nations Member States and with United Nations organs and departments that may be involved with the hospital ship.

6. Approves the principle of the establishment of "protected neutral transit zone" to receive the casualties and refugees on their way to or from the hospital ship. The Commission requests its President to undertake a further study on the establishment of such "neutral zones".

8. CLOSURE OF THE DEBATE ( Agenda item 10)

The President thanked the participants and requested the representatives of the States to request their Governments to appoint their experts to the Commission. He adjourned the meeting at 2:20p.m.

Jean-Luc Pérez
President of the Safety and Health Commission of the hospital ship "L'Humanité I"