The UPU cannot declare invalid a stamp issued by a Member’s postal administration.

Some postal administrations justified their postal war measures by relying on an article of the UPU Convention which allows Members to refuse objects whose importation in the country of destination is forbidden (so-called ‘Prohibitions’). The wording of such prohibitions varied under subsequent UPU Conventions as well as the numbering, even if the substance remained essentially unchanged:

  • 1947 Paris, Art. 49, par. 1d
  • 1952 Brussels Article 59 § 1 (d)
  • 1957 Ottawa Article 60 § 1 (d)
  • 1964 Vienna Article 28 § 1 (d)
  • 1969 Tokyo, Article 29 § 1 (g)
  • 1974 Lausanne Article 33 § 2 (f)
  • 1979 Rio de Janeiro Article 36 § 4 (f)
  • 1984 Hamburg Article 36 § 4 (f)
  • 1989 Washington Article 41 § 4 (f)
  • 1994 Seoul Article 18 § 1.8
  • 2004 Bucharest Article 15 § 2.1.3

For example: Article 28 of the 1964 Vienna Convention allows Members to refuse to deliver mail if certain conditions (dangerous goods, live animals etc.) are met. Some Members relied on this Article, and in particular its paragraph 1 (d), to refuse mail items franked with unwelcome postage stamps. Article 28 § 1 (d) reads:


1. The insertion in letter-post items of the following articles shall be prohibited:

  1. ...
  2. ...
  3. ...
  4. Objects of which the import in the country of destination is forbidden...”
1952 Brussels, Art. 59 par. 1d
Retour sticker France
UPU 1957: Art. 60 § 1.(d);
Retour cachet Poland;
Nr. 1965.1-II.Bb
UPU 1964: Art. 28 § 1 (d);
Retour cachet Poland;
1966.1-15, 1967.1-7;
1968.1-12, 1969.2, 1969.5
UPU 1964: Art. 28 § 1 (d);
Retour cachet Soviet-Union;
UPU 1984: Art. 36 § 4 (f);
Retour sticker Soviet-Union

In other cases, postal administrations relied on (non-binding) Recommendation C. 14 adopted at Ottawa 1957 and its successor Recommendation C. 93 adopted at Hamburg 1984 when they refused mail with unwelcome postage stamps of another Member. Recommendation C. 14 ‘calls on Members, when issuing postage stamps, to choose themes which contribute to better understanding between nations and cultures and to the improvement of international friendship’. Only Hungary relied on Article 1 Section 2 of the 1952 Brussels Convention: ‘The UPU serves the development of….international cooperation’ and thus claimed that postage stamps with a political, anti-Communist theme impeded international cooperation.

Brussels 1952: “Section 2, Chapter 1, Art. 1”.
Retour sticker Hungary 1957.1-C and 1959.5-C

Where a Member feels aggrieved by the choice of a postage stamp’s theme made by another Member, it can send a protest to the UPU. The UPU is obliged to inform all Members about such protest by means of a so-called ‘Circulaire du Bureau International’. Circulaires are numbered. The Polish protest against the West German stamp with the theme ’40 years of integration of German refugees’ had the number 1985/153 (see copy at the end of this chapter). These numbers are sometimes referred to in cachets or in correspondence, with which the refusal of mail is justified. See catalogue number 1985.1.

Copy of the UPU Circulaire 1985/153 in French: the Polish postal authorities protest against the 1985 postage stamp “40 years of integration of German refugees”.

French is the official language of the UPU. That is why all texts on international mail are at least bilingual: in French and the language of the country itself.

When did the two Germanys become formal UPU members after WW II? Irrespective of their de facto participation in international postal relations, these are the dates: BRD in 1955 and GDR on 1 June 1973