A number of provisions have been adopted under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to organize investigations into accidents and incidents on the international level.
These provisions are mainly included in Article 26 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation and in Annex 13 to this Convention. The general organisation of investigations is codified, as are the rules relating to the notification of events and the presentation and publication of the results.
States must start an investigation in case of a civil aviation accident or serious incident on their territory. It is specified that "The sole objective of the investigation of an accident or incident shall be the prevention of accidents and incidents" and that "It is not the purpose of this activity to apportion blame or liability". Close association between the representatives of the States of Registry, Operation, Design and Manufacture of the aircraft brings skills that the State leading the investigation needs.
Annex 13 specifies that information of a personal nature gathered during the investigation, such as recordings of onboard conversations or medical dossiers for example, must not be used for any other purpose than safety.
European Regulation (EU) n°996/2010 of the European Parliament and Council of 20 October 2010, on investigations and the prevention of accidents and incidents in civil aviation, which replaced directive 94/56/THIS, published in the Official Journal of the European Union of 12 November 2010, came into force on 2 December 2010.
This regulation follows on from the Convention on International Civil Aviation and the aforementioned Annex 13 by stating and integrating their definitions of the fundamental notions and their principle « recommended standards and practises». It confirmed the authority of safety investigation authorities and their national character, instituted a network grouping together these authorities, organised the participation of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the national civil aviation authorities of Member States in investigations, and set out new procedures for exchange of information between the various parties involved in aviation safety, as well as between them and the public.
The “code des transports” and “le code de l'aviation civile” respectively determine the legislative and regulatory provisions relating to the organisation of investigations, the status of the investigation authority and the prerogatives of its Director and its investigators.
These provisions are subject to the provisions of the aforementioned European regulation.