The Wirpi

CourtPrize Court (Germany)
Docket NumberCase No. 101
Germany, Prize Court of Hamburg.
Case No. 101
The Wirpi.

War — Commencement of — Hague Convention No. III of 1907 — Article 2 of the Convention — Notification to Neutral States.

The Facts.—The Finnish steamer Wirpi lying in Norwegian waters was seized by the German forces which invaded Norway. The German Government asked for the condemnation of the cargo on the ground that it consisted partly of absolute and partly of conditional contraband. The owners and shippers resisted the motion on the ground that the state of war was inoperative in regard to Finland, who had received no notification as required by Article 2 of Hague Convention No. III of October 18, 1907. That Article provided as follows:

“The state of war should be notified to the neutral Powers without delay and shall not take effect in regard to them until after the receipt of a notification, which may even be made by telegraph. Nevertheless, neutral Powers cannot plead the absence of notification if it be established beyond doubt that they were in fact aware of the state of war.”

Finland was neutral at all relevant times.

Held: that the cargo must be condemned. The Court said: “It is unnecessary to examine whether Germany or Norway gave Finland notice of the outbreak of war before the steamer Wirpi was seized, or whether Finland had at least obtained reliable information to this effect from other sources. For the interpretation of Article 2 of Hague Convention No. III by the owners and shippers is incorrect, as the history of this Article shows. In the proposal made during the Hague Peace Conference, 1907, by the Committee to the Second Commission, and in the report submitted by this Commission to the Conference,1 which is identical with the proposals as regards those parts which are relevant here, the following observations are made with reference to the French suggestion that belligerents should be bound to notify neutrals of the outbreak of war. The need for such a notification is recognized, but it is stated that in view of the perfection of the system of communications, it can hardly be assumed that a neutral State would plead ignorance [of an outbreak of war] in order to avoid all responsibility. A proposal of the Belgian delegation added that the effect of the notification was to operate only 48 hours after receipt, while the British draft proposed that a neutral State was only liable to take measures to preserve its neutrality after having been notified of the outbreak of war. The...

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