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The Customary Law of Refuge for Shipsin Distress

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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on the nature and content of the custom of granting refuge to ships in distress. Although of unknown origin, this custom is perhaps one of the earliest precursors of international humanitarian law and has been applied in both the law of peace and war. Port entry is regulated through international agreements and domestic law. Port entry by warships is generally regulated separately. For the purposes of identifying pertinent legislation reflecting the refuge custom, this chapter has examined available samples of legislation that identified the special situation of ships in distress and the exceptions they generated. The chapter has attempted to paint a broad-brush picture of a long-standing international custom. It has consciously not engaged in the doctrinal debate on custom, and focused instead on the actual practise of the custom.

Keywords: international humanitarian law; refuge custom; warships



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