Muscat Dhows (France / Great Britain)

By a Compromis concluded in London on October 13, 1904, France and the United Kingdom submitted to an Arbitral Tribunal certain questions regarding the scope of France's right to grant subjects of the Sultan of Muscat the right to fly the French flag, and the privileges and immunities resulting therefrom. In particular, the privilege against searches of French flagged vessels was used by Arab traders engaged in the slave trade along the East African coast. On this basis, Great Britain protested the grant of French flags to Arab dhows following the prohibition of slavery adopted by the signatories of the General Act of the Brussels Conference of July 2, 1890.


These questions were decided by the Arbitral Tribunal in an Award dated August 8, 1905. The Tribunal ruled that each sovereign was free to decide to whom to accord the right to fly its flag and to prescribe the rules governing such grants. However, the Tribunal found that the exercise of this right was limited by The General Act of the Brussels Conference, article 32 of which limited the right of the signatory powers to grant their flag to their own subjects or to persons protected by them (protégés). The term protégé had to be understood in the sense best corresponding to the aims of the Brussels Conference and the principles of the law of nations. The Tribunal then identified those subjects of the Sultan of Muscat who were French protégés and, as such, could be authorized by France to fly the French flag. Those dhows that were authorized to fly the French flag were entitled in the territorial waters of Muscat to the inviolability provided by the French-Muscat Treaty November 17, 1844 which included immunity from search. The Tribunal stated that even if in a specific case slave trade was facilitated by this provision this could not affect the decision of the case before the Tribunal, “which must only rest on juridical grounds”.


Case information

Name(s) of Claimant(s)
Name(s) of Respondent(s) -
Names of Parties -
Case number 1904-01
Administering institution Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)
Case status Concluded
Type of case Inter-state arbitration
Subject matter or economic sector - Other -
Procedural rules 1899 Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes
Treaty or contract under which proceedings were commenced


Language of Proceeding English
Seat of Arbitration (by Country) Netherlands
Arbitrator(s), Conciliator(s), Other Neutral(s)

Mr. H. Lammasch

Mr. M. W. Fuller

Jonkheer A.F. de Savornin Lohman

Representatives of the Claimant(s) -
Representatives of the Respondent(s) -
Representatives of the Parties
Number of Arbitrators in case 3
Date of commencement of proceeding 13 October 1904
Date of issue of final award 08 August 1905
Length of Proceedings Less than one year
Additional notes -


Award or other decision
Muscat Dhows English Award