Declaration of Neutrality,
September 3rd, 1939
THE Belgian Government declares that it is firmly determined to maintain its neutrality in the conflict which has just broken out in Europe. Consequently, the following rules will immediately be put into operation:
No hostile act shall be permitted and no base for hostile operations shall be established within the limits of the jurisdiction of the State, including the territory of the Kingdom in Europe and the Colonies and Possessions under mandate, the territorial sea, and the air space over such territory and territorial sea.
Territorial sea shall be understood to mean the sea round the coast to a breadth of three nautical miles, at the rate of 60 per degree of latitude, measured from the low-water line.
It shall not be permitted:
1. For any part of the territory whatsoever to be occupied by a belligerent military force;
2. For troops or convoys of munitions or war supplies to enter or pass through this territory by land;
3. For belligerent warships or similar vessels to enter or pass through the territorial sea;
4. For belligerent military aircraft or similar aircraft to enter or traverse the territory, territorial sea or air space over such territory or territorial sea within the jurisdiction of the State.
Merchant vessels armed for defence may enter and remain in ports and roadsteads after complying with the prescriptions enacted by the local authorities in the interests of security. The number of such vessels in each port or roadstead, however, may not exceed the maximum laid down by the local authorities in the interests of the security of the country.
Vessels carrying not moire than two guns of a calibre of over 8 cm. and under 16 cm. and a crew not appreciably larger in effectives than is required for commercial operations shall be regarded as armed for defence.
Troops or soldiers forming part of a belligerent force who may come within the jurisdiction of the State shall b e disarmed and interned.
Warships or similar vessels belonging to the belligerents which shall infringe the provisions of Article 2 or Article 7 shall be seized, and their crews and any military passengers shall be interned.
Military aircraft or similar aircraft belonging to the belligerents which shall enter the jurisdiction of the State shall be seized and their crews shall be interned. Such aircraft shall be forced to land or to alight should they fail to do so of their own accord.
Aircraft on board a warship or similar vessel shall be deemed to form part of the latter, provided that while the vessel remains within the jurisdiction of the State they remain on board.
Notwithstanding Article 4, the following shall not be interned:
(a) Shipwrecked persons or persons who are sick or wounded, provided they have not taken part in hostile acts within the jurisdiction of the State;
(b) Soldiers on board a merchant vessel not ranking as a warship, which is merely calling at a port or roadstead;
(c) Escaped prisoners of war;
The provisions of Articles 2 and 4 shall not apply to:
(1) A belligerent warship or other similar vessel which is able to prove that by reasons of damage sustained or the condition of
the sea, it is compelled to enter a port or roadstead of the State, provided that it shall not be pursued by the enemy.
A vessel may only repair damage in so far as this is essential to safe navigation, and it may not in any manner whatsoever increase its military strength.
It shall leave the said port or roadstead as soon as the circumstances which caused it to take refuge there shall have ceased to exist. The Government may fix a time-limit after which the vessel may be seized and the crew and military passengers interned. Members of the crew and military passengers who remain on land after the vessel has left shall be interned.
(2) Warships and similar vessels which are able to prove that they entered the jurisdiction of the State owing to force majeure and in spite of having taken every precautionary measure to avoid it.
(3) Warships, aircraft, or similar vessels and machines which are employed solely for religious, scientific, or philanthropic missions.
A belligerent warship or similar vessel which may find itself in a port or roadstead, or even in territorial waters, when war breaks out, shall leave within a time-limit laid down by the local authorities.
Belligerent aircraft or similar aircraft within the jurisdiction of the State on the publication of the Declaration of Neutrality shall be interned.
In the cases provided for under Articles 6 and 7, if warships or similar vessels belonging to the two belligerent parties should find themselves simultaneously in close proximity to one another, at least twenty-four hours shall elapse between the departure of the vessel of one belligerent and the departure of the vessel of the other belligerent.
Vessels shall leave in the order in which they arrived, except in special circumstances.
A belligerent warship may not leave a port or roadstead until at least twenty-four hours after the departure of a merchant vessel flying the flag of its enemy.
Warships or similar vessels covered by Article 7 shall only be permitted to revictual in ports and roadsteads for the purpose of replenishing their normal peace-time stores of food and water.
Similarly, such vessels may only take on fuel to enable them to reach the nearest port in their own or allied country.
Warships or similar vessels covered by Article 6 (1) may replenish their stores of food, water, and fuel in so far as this is necessary for their requirements during their stay.
Prizes may not be taken into waters subject to the jurisdiction of the State.
Should a prize be taken into the said waters, it shall be released, together with its crew.
The crew placed on board by the captor shall be interned, provided that the prize was not brought in owing to damage or to the bad condition of the sea.
Any war material washed ashore or found in the sea and subsequently brought to land shall be seized unless it is necessary to destroy it in the interests of public safety.
Combatant corps may not be formed or enlistment offices opened in the territory of the State for the benefit of the belligerents.
It shall be prohibited, within the jurisdiction of the State, to take service on board belligerent warships or similar vessels.
It shall be prohibited, within the jurisdiction of the State, to fit out, arm or equip vessels intended to assist in hostile operations against a belligerent, or to supply or conduct such vessels to a belligerent.
It shall be prohibited, within the jurisdiction of the State, to supply arms or ammunition to warships or similar vessels belonging to a belligerent or to assist them to augment their fighting strength.
It shall be prohibited, within the jurisdiction of the State, to repair warships or similar vessels belonging to a belligerent or to supply them with materials for repairs, tools, supplies, water, or fuel, unless permission has been obtained beforehand from the competent local authorities.
1. It shall be prohibited to form supplies of arms, ammunition, material for repairs, fuel, and any articles useful for the conduct of the war, with the object of seeking an opportunity to hand them over to the maritime forces of a belligerent in close proximity to the territorial seas.
2. Similarly, it shall be prohibited to convey arms, ammunition, material for repairs, fuel or any article useful for the conduct of the war directly out of the territory to belligerent vessels near the coast.
1. Aircraft shall not be permitted to leave if it is either in a condition to attack a belligerent Power or has on board apparatus or materials the assembling or use of which would enable it to make such attacks, when there is reason to believe that such aircraft is intended to take part in the hostilities.
Similarly, no aircraft shall be permitted to leave if the crew includes any member whatsoever of the fighting forces of a belligerent Power.
It shall be prohibited to execute on an aircraft any work intended to fit it for purposes contrary to the present article.
2. These provisions shall not apply to neutral military aircraft which come within the jurisdiction of the States after the declaration of war, with the permission of the Government.
It shall be prohibited, within the jurisdiction of the State, to make use of any kind of aircraft whatsoever for aerial observation of the movements, operations, or defence works of a belligerent with the intention of communication information to the other belligerent.
It shall be prohibited, within the jurisdiction of the State, for a belligerent Power or persons in his service to install or operate wireless stations or other means of communication.
1. It shall be prohibited, within the jurisdiction of the State, to use wireless stations for transmitting information relating to the military forces of the belligerents or to military operations in a belligerent country.
2. Within the jurisdiction of the State, vessels and aircraft may only use their wireless stations for giving signals of distress, for signals essential to navigation, and for transmitting meteorological information.
The Government draws the very serious attention of the population to its duty to comply strictly with the above rules and to avoid any act which would be such as to compromise the neutrality and interests of the country.
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