IRRC No. 288

Neutral mariners and humanitarian law: a precedent for protecting neutrals in armed conflict

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Stormy petrels are small, dark-hued seagoing birds. In violent weather they fly between the waves for protection. According to the lore of the sea, they are heralds of danger.For centuries, neutral mariners navigating the same waters have tried to avoid the violence that engulfed seafaring warriors. In our mobile world, their experience is a cautionary tale and represents a legal precedent for all international travellers. In recent times airline passengers, expatriate workers and many others have been endangered by conflicts not their own. When that happens, their lives depend on the same principles that have been forged to protect neutrals at sea. Neutral mariners have been the stormy petrels of international law.

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