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In accordance with Article 10 of the 1899 & 1907 Conventions, the procedure is regulated by the Convention for the inquiry. The language of the Articles is different: while the 1899 Convention provided explicitly that the Convention for the inquiry “settles the procedure”, the 1907 Convention holds that the Convention for the inquiry “determines … generally speaking, all the conditions upon which the parties have agreed.” and further holds that “the Contracting Powers recommend the following rules, which shall be applicable to the inquiry procedure in so far as the parties do not adopt other rules.” (Art. 17). Under the 1907 Convention, the commission is also “entitled to settle the details of the procedure not covered by the special Inquiry Convention or the present Convention, and shall arrange all the formalities required for dealing with the evidence.” (Art. 18).
With the exception of the abovementioned provisions, regulation of the procedure by the 1899 Convention is very limited, hence the following is based on the 1907 Convention. The parties submit material to the Commission that might assist in performance of its task. In its turn, the Commission is entitled to request further materials from the parties and, with the consent of the parties, to move to another location in order to conduct its investigation. Parties also undertake to use domestic law, if necessary, in order to enforce summons issued by the Commission for the purpose of making witnesses and experts available for its hearing. Any visits or requests made by the Commission, and that concerned the territory of another state, required a prior approval by that state. In all cases though, such activities took place through the governments of the states on which territory witnesses or experts were located. There are two major stages to the proceedings: oral and written, with the latter being optional. During the oral proceedings, agents of the parties participate only in so far as they can listen to the testimonies of witnesses and experts, they cannot cross-examine them. Any questions parties might have to witnesses can be asked solely through the President of the commission, who conducts the interviews, with other members of the Commission also able to ask questions. During the written proceedings, agents for the parties can submit their statements to the Commission and the other party. Proceedings are not public and remain confidential. Finally, the Commission prepares a Report and, after announcing it at the public meeting, provides copies to both parties.

See 'documents' for general comments on the 1997 Optional Rules.
The 1997 Optional Rules introduced several changes into the procedure of the Commission. First, the proceedings are now initiated by an ‘invitation’ sent by one party to another. Lack of response or rejection most obviously means impossibility of establishing a commission. Second, in contrast to the 1899 & 1907 Conventions, at the beginning of the proceedings parties not only submit materials related to the factual background, but also their opinions on the subject. This latter step is still optional, and takes place upon determination by the Commission (Art. 11). Third, the Commission would also determine “the method of obtaining oral testimony”, which implies it is in contrast to the provisions of the 1907 Convention; the representatives of the parties may be allowed to cross-examine witnesses and experts during the oral hearing.
As a general comment, the 1997 Optional Rules are much more focused on the actions of the parties than the 1907 Convention. The latter gave a significant procedural role to the Commission, assigning to parties the role of the ‘source of information’ rather than participants in the proceedings.


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