Occupied territories

From Academic Kids

An occupied territory is a region that has been taken over by a sovereign power after a military intervention (see military occupation). In most cases the period of occupation is temporary, pending the signing of a peace treaty, the resolution of specific conditions outlined in a peace treaty, or the formation of a new government. Examples of occupied territories include Germany and Japan after World War II, or Iraq after the fall of the government of Saddam Hussein.

Because military occupation is often considered illegitimate, the term is often used to refer to territories whose government one considers illegitimate. This usage is not technically accurate under international law because territory which has been formally annexed is not occupied territory even if that annexation is disputed. This opinion is not universally adopted, and bodies such as the United Nations Security Council frequently describe as "occupied" territories which have been annexed in the event that the annexation is not accepted.

A list of disputed territories and areas said to be under occupation are discussed in their own article, disputed territory. That entry discusses the issue in regards to many nations such as Israel, Morocco, and others.


Most current nations exist in once occupied territory.

Most nations in the world are in some way an occupier of a previous inhabitant's land. Generally, any disputed territory can be seen as occupied by the party that lacks control over it at that moment. Thus, the Germanic tribes displaced the original Celtic population of Europe; Egypt was conquered and absorbed in the 7th century by Arabs who were not its original population. This is particularly true of the region between Egypt and Turkey where repeated population movements and military conquests have occurred during the past several thousand years. See Occupation of Palestine.

Additionally, occupation has two distinct meanings:

  1. The state of being lived in (as in: "Isle of Man is occupied by the Manx", or this house is occupied by the Smith family);
  2. The state of military control following conquest by war.

Although (1) and (2) are obviously distinct, they are sometimes intermingled. Under (1), the territory in question is under normal civilian law; under (2) the territory is usually under military law, under the limits of the Fourth Geneva Convention.


Places considered Occupied Territories under International Law Since 1948

Land occupied by the United States of America and Canada

Historically, all of the territory of the United States of America was originally the territory of a multitude of Native American Indian tribes/nations. However, the source of this situation goes back several centuries, and includes land taken from Native Americans by the Spanish, French, Russians, Dutch, Danish and British. Likewise, many of those tribes had, themselves, displaced earlier tribes from their lands.

It is incorrect to hold that the Federal government of the United States of America, which only came into existence in 1776, is responsible for the initial issues. However, there is reportedly Native American Indian territory that is currently considered by some to be illegally occupied by the United States. This is said to be true because this land legally belongs to various Native American Indian groups due to legally binding treaties signed between the USA and particular Indian tribes, which the tribes believe that the United States of America later violated.

The United States does occupy several territories outside of its original "eminent domain", like Puerto Rico, an Arawakan island, claimed by the Spanish in 1493, then occupied by the United States after the collapse of Spain's colonial system in 1898. Guam is also an occupied territory of the US dating from the same time and event. The United States also occupies Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, against Cuba's wishes and Cuba's inability to displace the U.S.. Cuba itself was a territory of the United States up until May 20th, 1959 when Fidel Castro and his Communist Party won their revolutionary war.

In the case of Canada, most of the native treaties were signed on behalf of the British Crown, which is still recognized as the head of the contemporary Canadian government. This means, unlike the United States, the government of Canada is expected to honor the terms of many more treaties, some of which are hundreds of years old. As well, some lands occupied by the Canadian government were never settled as a result of treaties, and are thus considered by some native leaders to be illegally occupied. This has historically made native issues and land claims a much more complicated issue in Canada.


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