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in international law, goods necessary or useful in the prosecution of war that a belligerent may lawfully seize from a neutral who is attempting to deliver them to the enemy. The term is sometimes also applied to the goods carried into a country by smugglingsmuggling,
illegal transport across state or national boundaries of goods or persons liable to customs or to prohibition. Smuggling has been carried on in nearly all nations and has occasionally been adopted as an instrument of national policy, as by Great Britain against Spain
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. The penalty for carrying contraband goods is the confiscation of the goods and often also of the vessel (see prizeprize,
in maritime law, the private property of an enemy that a belligerent captures at sea. For the capture of the vessel or cargo to be lawful it must be made outside neutral waters and by authority of the belligerent.
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). Neutral ships guilty of direct assistance to the enemy may be treated as enemy ships. International law has not precisely defined all classes of goods that are contraband of war per se. Munitions are certainly absolute contraband, but the status of food and other conditional contraband at least indirectly needed for war is often in doubt. At the second (1907) of the Hague ConferencesHague Conferences,
term for the International Peace Conference of 1899 (First Hague Conference) and the Second International Peace Conference of 1907 (Second Hague Conference). Both were called by Russia and met at The Hague, the Netherlands.
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 a vain attempt to define the classes of contraband was made. In World War I many powers at first agreed to abide by the terms of the Declaration of London (see London, Declaration ofLondon, Declaration of,
international code of maritime law, especially as related to war, proposed in 1909. The declaration grew largely out of the attempt at the second of the Hague Conferences to set up an international prize court with compulsory jurisdiction.
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) respecting contraband, but in time unconditional blockadeblockade,
use of naval forces to cut off maritime communication and supply. Blockades may be used to prevent shipping from reaching enemy ports, or they may serve purposes of coercion. The term is rarely applied to land sieges.
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 of all goods was adopted. At the beginning of World War II the belligerents drew up lists of absolute and conditional contraband, but the total absorption of the economy in warfare led to the prohibition, so far as possible, of all shipping to the enemy.


See P. C. Jessup, The Early Development of the Law of Contraband of War (1933).


a. goods that are prohibited by law from being exported or imported
b. illegally imported or exported goods
2. illegal traffic in such goods; smuggling
3. (during the American Civil War) a Black slave captured by the Union forces or one who escaped to the Union lines
4. of goods
a. forbidden by law from being imported or exported
b. illegally imported or exported