Laws of War :
Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers in Naval War (Hague XIII); October
CONVENTION CONCERNING THE RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF NEUTRAL POWERS IN NAVAL
With a view to harmonizing the divergent views which, in the event of naval
war, are still held on the relations between neutral Powers and belligerent
Powers, and to anticipating the difficulties to which such divergence of
views might give rise;
Seeing that, even if it is not possible at present to concert measures
applicable to all circumstances which may in practice occur, it is nevertheless
undeniably advantageous to frame, as far as possible, rules of general
application to meet the case where war has unfortunately broken out;
Seeing that, in cases not covered by the present Convention, it is expedient
to take into consideration the general principles of the law of nations;
Seeing that it is desirable that the Powers should issue detailed enactments
to regulate the results of the attitude of neutrality when adopted by them;
Seeing that it is, for neutral Powers, an admitted duty to apply these
rules impartially to the several belligerents;
Seeing that, in this category of ideas, these rules should not, in principle,
be altered, in the course of the war, by a neutral Power, except in a case
where experience has shown the necessity for such change for the protection
of the rights of that Power;
Have agreed to observe the following common rules, which cannot however
modify provisions laid down in existing general treaties, and have appointed
as their Plenipotentiaries, namely:
(List of Plenipotentiaries)
Who, after having deposited their full powers, found in good and due
form, have agreed upon the following provisions:
Belligerents are bound to respect the sovereign rights of neutral Powers
and to abstain, in neutral territory or neutral waters, from any act which
would, if knowingly permitted by any Power, constitute a violation of neutrality.
Any act of hostility, including capture and the exercise of the right of
search, committed by belligerent war-ships in the territorial waters of
a neutral Power, constitutes a violation of neutrality and is strictly
When a ship has been captured in the territorial waters of a neutral Power,
this Power must employ, if the prize is still within its jurisdiction,
the means at its disposal to release the prize with its officers and crew,
and to intern the prize crew.
If the prize is not in the jurisdiction of the neutral Power, the captor
Government, on the demand of that Power, must liberate the prize with its
officers and crew.
A prize court cannot be set up by a belligerent on neutral territory or
on a vessel in neutral waters.
Belligerents are forbidden to use neutral ports and waters as a base of
naval operations against their adversaries, and in particular to erect
wireless telegraphy stations or any apparatus for the purpose of communicating
with the belligerent forces on land or sea.
The supply, in any manner, directly or indirectly, by a neutral Power to
a belligerent Power, of war-ships, ammunition, or war material of any kind
whatever, is forbidden.
A neutral Power is not bound to prevent the export or transit, for the
use of either belligerent, of arms, ammunition, or, in general, of anything
which could be of use to an army or fleet.
A neutral Government is bound to employ the means at its disposal to prevent
the fitting out or arming of any vessel within its jurisdiction which it
has reason to believe is intended to cruise, or engage in hostile operations,
against a Power with which that Government is at peace. It is also bound
to display the same vigilance to prevent the departure from its jurisdiction
of any vessel intended to cruise, or engage in hostile operations, which
had been adapted entirely or partly within the said jurisdiction for use
. A neutral Power must apply impartially to the two belligerents the conditions,
restrictions, or prohibitions made by it in regard to the admission into
its ports, roadsteads, or territorial waters, of belligerent war-ships
or of their prizes.
Nevertheless, a neutral Power may forbid a belligerent vessel which
has failed to conform to the orders and regulations made by it, or which
has violated neutrality, to enter its ports or roadsteads.
The neutrality of a Power is not affected by the mere passage through its
territorial waters of war-ships or prizes belonging to belligerents.
A neutral Power may allow belligerent war-ships to employ its licensed
In the absence of special provisions to the contrary in the legislation
of a neutral Power, belligerent war-ships are not permitted to remain in
the ports, roadsteads, or territorial waters of the said Power for more
than twenty-four hours, except in the cases covered by the present Convention.
If a Power which has been informed of the outbreak of hostilities learns
that a belligerent war-ship is in one of its ports or roadsteads, or in
its territorial waters, it must notify the said ship to depart within twenty-four
hours or within the time prescribed by local regulations.
A belligerent war-ship may not prolong its stay in a neutral port beyond
the permissible time except on account of damage or stress of weather.
It must depart as soon as the cause of the delay is at an end.
The regulations as to the question of the length of time which these
vessels may remain in neutral ports, roadsteads, or waters, do not apply
to war-ships devoted exclusively to religious, scientific, or philanthropic
In the absence of special provisions to the contrary in the legislation
of a neutral Power, the maximum number of warships belonging to a belligerent
which may be in one of the ports or roadsteads of that Power simultaneously
shall be three.
When war-ships belonging to both belligerents are present simultaneously
in a neutral port or roadstead, a period of not less than twenty-four hours
must elapse between the departure of the ship belonging to one belligerent
and the departure of the ship belonging to the other.
The order of departure is determined by the order of arrival, unless
the ship which arrived first is so circumstanced that an extension of its
stay is permissible.
A belligerent war-ship may not leave a neutral port or roadstead until
twenty-four hours after the departure of a merchant ship flying the flag
of its adversary.
In neutral ports and roadsteads belligerent war-ships may only carry out
such repairs as are absolutely necessary to render them seaworthy, and
may not add in any manner whatsoever to their fighting force. The local
authorities of the neutral Power shall decide what repairs are necessary,
and these must be carried out with the least possible delay.
Belligerent war-ships may not make use of neutral ports, roadsteads, or
territorial waters for replenishing or increasing their supplies of war
material or their armament, or for completing their crews.
Belligerent war-ships may only revictual in neutral ports or roadsteads
to bring up their supplies to the peace standard.
Similarly these vessels may only ship sufficient fuel to enable them
to reach the nearest port in their own country. They may, on the other
hand, fill up their bunkers built to carry fuel, when in neutral countries
which have adopted this method of determining the amount of fuel to be
If, in accordance with the law of the neutral Power, the ships are not
supplied with coal within twenty-four hours of their arrival, the permissible
duration of their stay is extended by twenty-four hours.
Belligerent war-ships which have shipped fuel in a port belonging to a
neutral Power may not within the succeeding three months replenish their
supply in a port of the same Power.
A prize may only be brought into a neutral port on account of unseaworthiness,
stress of weather, or want of fuel or provisions.
It must leave as soon as the circumstances which justified its entry
are at an end. If it does not, the neutral Power must order it to leave
at once; should it fail to obey, the neutral Power must employ the means
at its disposal to release it with its officers and crew and to intern
the prize crew.
A neutral Power must, similarly, release a prize brought into one of its
ports under circumstances other than those referred to in Article 21.
A neutral Power may allow prizes to enter its ports and roadsteads, whether
under convoy or not, when they are brought there to be sequestrated pending
the decision of a Prize Court. It may have the prize taken to another of
If the prize is convoyed by a war-ship, the prize crew may go on board
the convoying ship.
If the prize is not under convoy, the prize crew are left at liberty.
If, notwithstanding the notification of the neutral Power, a belligerent
ship of war does not leave a port where it is not entitled to remain, the
neutral Power is entitled to take such measures as it considers necessary
to render the ship incapable of taking the sea during the war, and the
commanding officer of the ship must facilitate the execution of such measures.
When a belligerent ship is detained by a neutral Power, the officers
and crew are likewise detained.
The officers and crew thus detained may be left in the ship or kept
either on another vessel or on land, and may be subjected to the measures
of restriction which it may appear necessary to impose upon them. A sufficient
number of men for looking after the vessel must, however, be always left
The officers may be left at liberty on giving their word not to quit
the neutral territory without permission.
A neutral Power is bound to exercise such surveillance as the means at
its disposal allow to prevent any violation of the provisions of the above
Articles occurring in its ports or roadsteads or in its waters.
The exercise by a neutral Power of the rights laid down in the present
Convention can under no circumstances be considered as an unfriendly act
by one or other belligerent who has accepted the articles relating thereto.
The Contracting Powers shall communicate to each other in due course all
laws, proclamations, and other enactments regulating in their respective
countries the status of belligerent war-ships in their ports and waters,
by means of a communication addressed to the Government of the Netherlands,
and forwarded immediately by that Government to the other Contracting Powers.
The provisions of the present Convention do not apply except between Contracting
Powers, and then only if all the belligerents are parties to the Convention.
The present Convention shall be ratified as soon as possible. The ratifications
shall be deposited at The Hague.
The first deposit of ratifications shall be recorded in a procès-verbal
signed by the representatives of the Powers which take part therein and
by the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The subsequent deposits of ratifications shall be made by means of a
written notification addressed to the Netherlands Government and accompanied
by the instrument of ratification.
A duly certified copy of the procès-verbal relative to the first
deposit of ratifications, of the ratifications mentioned in the preceding
paragraph, as well as of the instruments of ratification, shall be at once
sent by the Netherlands Government, through the diplomatic channel, to
the Powers invited to the Second Peace Conference, as well as to the other
Powers which have adhered to the Convention. In the cases contemplated
in the preceding paragraph, the said Government shall inform them at the
same time of the date on which it received the notification.
Non-Signatory Powers may adhere to the present Convention. The Power which
desires to adhere notifies in writing its intention to the Netherlands
Government, forwarding to it the act of adhesion, which shall be deposited
in the archives of the said Government.
That Government shall at once transmit to all the other Powers a duly
certified copy of the notification as well as of the act of adhesion, mentioning
the date on which it received the notification.
The present Convention shall come into force in the case of the Powers
which were a party to the first deposit of the ratifications, sixty days
after the date of the procès-verbal of that deposit, and, in the
case of the Powers who ratify subsequently or who adhere, sixty days after
the notification of their ratification or of their decision has been received
by the Netherlands Government.
In the event of one of the Contracting Powers wishing to denounce the present
Convention, the denunciation shall be notified in writing to the Netherlands
Government, who shall at once communicate a duly certified copy of the
notification to all the other Powers, informing them of the date on which
it was received.
The denunciation shall only have effect in regard to the notifying Power,
and one year after the notification has been made to the Netherlands Government.
A register kept by the Netherlands Ministry for Foreign Affairs shall give
the date of the deposit of ratifications made by Article
29, paragraphs 3 and 4, as well as the date on which the notifications
of adhesion (Article 30, paragraph 2) or of denunciation
(Article 32, paragraph 1) have been received.
Each Contracting Power is entitled to have access to this register and
to be supplied with duly certified extracts.
In faith whereof the Plenipotentiaries have appended their signatures
to the present Convention.
Done at The Hague, 18 October 1907, in a single copy, which shall remain
deposited in the archives of the Netherlands Government, and duly certified
copies of which shall be sent, through the diplomatic channel, to the Powers
which have been invited to the Second Peace Conference.
The above page is available at the Avalon
Project at Yale University.
© 1998 The Avalon Project. William C. Fray and
Lisa A. Spar, Co-Directors.