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Occupied territories

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An occupied territory is a region that has been taken over by a sovereign power after a military intervention. In most cases the period of occupation is temporary pending the signing of a peace treaty or the formation of a new government, Examples of occupied territory include Germany and Japan after World War II, Iraq after the fall of the government of Saddam Hussein, and the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

The term occupied territories is also used as a synonym for the Gaza strip and West Bank - see Palestinian territories for more detail.

Because military occupation is often considered illegitimate, the term is often used to refer to territories whose government they consider 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.

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

Table of contents

All current nations exist in once occupied territory.

It is important to note that every nation in the world is in some way an occupier of a previous inhabitant's land. Generally, any disputed territory can be seen as occupied by the party that has control over it at the moment. Thus, the Germanic tribes outplaced the original Celtic population of Europe; Egypt has been conquered and absorbed in the 7th century by Arabs who were not its original population.

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.


Land occupied by the United States of America and Canada

Historically, all of the United States of America and Canada 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. In the case of America, is incorrect to hold that the Federal government of the USA, which only came into existence in 1776, was responsible for the initial issues. However, there is much Native American Indian territory that is currently illegally occupied by the United States; this is said to be 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 USA later violated. In the case of Canada, most of the native treaties were signed on behaf 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.

Places considered Occupied Territories under International Law

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