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  1. Preventing a ship from leaving port, or an aircraft from taking off, under international law, in time of war. This can apply to military vessels or aircraft which end up in neutral countries by error, to refuel or in order to take refuge; for warships there is generally a time limit within which they are required to leave without making repairs which will affect their fighting value (other than making themselves seaworthy). It can also apply to civilian vessels or craft in enemy territory.
  2. Detention of persons without trial.
    • As with ships and planes, this can occur under international law in times of war to military personnel who wind up in neutral territory (escaped POWs, crashed aircrew, shipwrecked sailors, deserters). A failure to apply this can be taken as a breach of neutrality, but it generally depends on realpolitik; small neutral countries surrounded by warring powers are more likely to be scrupulous about it than countries on the other side of the world from the action.
    • Again in time of war, in combatant countries it can apply to enemy aliens: civilian nationals of enemy states, either those who happen to be in countries or occupied territories when the war starts, or others such as merchant seamen who are captured; although conditions are supposed to be more tightly controlled than they are for prisoners of war, this can often wind up being a concentration camp in all but name; established communities can suffer through the crass application of this principle, which led to the British imprisoning many anti-Nazi German refugees during World War II and the notorious American treatment of the nisei Japanese-Americans.
    • Outside time of (declared) war, the term has been used for the detention without trial in otherwise democratic societies of terrorist suspects, inter alia by the UK in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s, and by the UK and the USA in the period following the events of September 11, 2001. This is generally a highly contentious measure in a society where safeguards on individual liberties are considered of paramount importance. The term is not generally used in connection with imprisonment without trial under totalitarian regimes, although the precise legal nature of the distinction may be difficult to define. Such imprisonment is generally proscribed in peacetime under most international human rights agreements.

In*tern"ment (?), n. [F. internement. See Intern.]

Confinement within narrow limits, -- as of foreign troops, to the interior of a country.


© Webster 1913.

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