Law of Neutrality





“Neutrality is the attitude of impartiality adopted by third states towards belligerents, such attitude creating rights and duties between the impartial states and the belligerents”.


Neutrality is an attitude of impartiality adopted by states in a war. Adopting neutrality avoids participating in a war and states come to known as neutral states. Neutrality discourages war. If war takes place, it localizes war and regularizes international relations.

When a state wishes to remain neutral, it has to make an immediate notification of neutrality and shall communicate it to the belligerents. In WW-II, immediately after its outbreak in September, almost all neutral states declared their neutrality at over and specifically communicated the fact to the belligerents.

Rights and Duties of Neutral States:

The term neutrality does not mean merely the non-involvement of a state during a war. The neutral state also has a duty to preserve that attitude in accordance to the complex “patterns of conduct” during war time.

The law on the rights and duties of the neutral states are governed by the Hague Conventions (1884-1907). Following are the rights and duties of the neutral states.

Duties of the Neutral States:


A neutral state is required to adopt the attitude of impartiality and must not provide any kind of help to the belligerents in the form of cash or kind, military equipment’s, refueling the vehicles, providing transportation by land or sea, giving government industrial plants which can be helpful in the war, providing shelter to the soldiers and fighters etc. even a public expression in favour of one belligerent and against another is prohibited.

“Any facility directly given to the belligerents concerning military or naval operations is illegal.”

Hague Convention No.v and xiii


A neutral state is under a duty to prevent either of the belligerents from carrying on certain activities within its territories or territorial sea that can be injurious to one belligerent and favourable to its enemy. The neutral state must prevent the preparations of war or training of fighters within its territories to assist any of the belligerents. A neutral state must prevent installing of communication equipment’s and other military installation which might be helpful in war. The neutral state has a duty to prohibit the passage of troops across its territory.


The duty of acquiescence is correlative to belligerents privilege. For example, belligerents have a right of visit and search and of capture at sea or may police the trading activities of the neutral state’s nationals; the neutral state has no legal redress against these actions rather than except giving acquiescence to them.

Compensation or Restoration:-

If a belligerent causes harm to its enemy by using neutral territory or territorial sea, which was under obligation to prevent such activities, the aggrieved belligerent can either demand to restore the things to the aggrieved belligerent or pay compensations.


It is duty of the neutral state to pay compensation to the belligerents for the violation of the duties. In the Alabama claim, 1872, England was required to pay compensation to the United States when it assisted the southern part in the American Civil war.

Rights of Neutral States:


The most important right of the neutral state is the inviolability of its territory. Hostile and war activities are prohibited on neutral territory and territorial sea. Belligerents cannot violate sovereignty of neutral state neither turn the land or sea into any military base for war purposes.

Trade with other countries:

The neutral state is free to carry on trade and commerce with states other then belligerents. The belligerents have an obligation not to prevent the trade of neutral states with each other.

Neutral persons and property under belligerent jurisdiction:

Neutral state has a right to make sure that its people residing in the belligerent lands are safe and well treated and their properties are neither seized nor destroyed.

Right to Grant Asylum:-

Neutral state has a right to grant Asylum to any person including those who are the members of the belligerent armed forces. They will be disarmed and prevented from joining the war again. It is duty of the belligerent state not to treat Asylum as an unfriendly act.

Compensation or Restoration:

The belligerent whose forces have, in contempt of the law, violated neutral territory, is bound in principle to make reparation for the wrong done to the sovereign neutral territory. The neutral state has a right to demand the complete restoration of any person and property captured within neutral territory as well as compensation in the form of payments.

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