Le droit des gens et le droit de la guerre : l'occupation militaire française de l'Helvétie (déc. 1798-mars 1799)

Abstract : The principles of the law of nations and the law of war, in the time before they became enshrined in the international Geneva Conventions in the first half of the 20th century, went through a process of theorization. It flowed from the work of European authors called jusnaturalists some of whom remain known to posterity (Grotius...). Nonetheless, given the theoretical nature of this body of work, it was not very influential: it might inspire states and governments, but it lacked binding force, which made its effect more than tenuous. However, if we examine the French military occupation of Helvetia (1778-1799), a fraternal country of the French Republic, for which we have detailed archives, the analyzed documents let us ask some questions about how Napoleon's armies dealt with it. Did the French army respect the civilian population as well as their material possessions? Did it respect enemy combatants? What position did it take with regard to espionage, an often decisive -- but controversial -- act in time of war? These questions are answered as much by the facts on their face as by lining them up against the positions of these authors. From this, it can be surmised that the French forces generally applied and respected, in a new way, rules or customs of war instead of committing excesses. By acting in this way, they improved on what was legal then, and they created a basis for conducting conflicts that would become the foundation for the law of nations in wartime a century later.
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Sébastien Evrard. Le droit des gens et le droit de la guerre : l'occupation militaire française de l'Helvétie (déc. 1798-mars 1799). Mémoires de la Société pour l'Histoire du Droit et des Institutions des anciens pays bourguignons, comtois et romands,, Société pour l'histoire du droit, 2012, pp.145-161. ⟨hal-01919751⟩

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