Annexation (Latin ad, to, and nexus, joining) is the administrative action and concept in international law relating to the forcible acquisition of one state's territory by another state and is generally held to be an illegal act. It is distinct from conquest, which refers to the acquisition of control over a territory involving a change of sovereignty, and differs from cession, in which territory is given or sold through treaty, since annexation is a unilateral act where territory is seized and held by one state. It usually follows military occupation of a territory.
International law regarding the use of force by states has evolved significantly in the 20th century. Key agreements include the 1907 Porter Convention, the 1920 Covenant of the League of Nations and the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact, culminating in Article 2(4) of Chapter I of the United Nations Charter, which is in force today: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations". Since the use of force against territorial integrity or political independence is illegal, the question as to whether title or sovereignty can be transferred in such a situation has been the subject of legal debate.
It is generally held that countries are under obligation to abide by the Stimson Doctrine that a state: "cannot admit the legality of any situation de facto nor... recognize any treaty or agreement entered into between those Governments... not... recognize any situation, treaty or agreement which may be brought about by means contrary to the covenants and obligations of the Pact of Paris of August 27, 1928".
The authors of the Fourth Geneva Convention made a point of giving the rules regarding inviolability of rights "an absolute character", thus making it much more difficult for a state to bypass international law through the use of annexation. GCIV Article 47, in the first paragraph in Section III: Occupied territories, restricted the effects of annexation on the rights of persons within those territories:
Protected persons who are in occupied territory shall not be deprived, in any case or in any manner whatsoever, of the benefits of the present Convention by any change introduced, as the result of the occupation of a territory, into the institutions or government of the said territory, nor by any agreement concluded between the authorities of the occupied territories and the Occupying Power, nor by any annexation by the latter of the whole or part of the occupied territory.
In 1954, the residents of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, a Portuguese enclave within India, ended Portuguese rule with the help of nationalist volunteers. From 1954 to 1961, the territory enjoyed de facto independence. In 1961, the territory was merged with India after its government signed an agreement with the Indian government.
In 1961, India and Portugal engaged in a brief military conflict over Portuguese-controlled Goa and Daman and Diu. India invaded and conquered the areas after 36 hours of fighting, ending 451 years of Portuguese colonial rule in India. The action was viewed in India as a liberation of historically Indian territory; in Portugal, however, the loss of both enclaves was seen as a national tragedy. A condemnation of the action by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was vetoed by the Soviet Union. Goa and Daman and Diu were incorporated into India.
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During the British colonial rule in India, Sikkim had an ambiguous status, as an Indian princely state or as an Indian protectorate. Prior to Indian independence, Jawaharlal Nehru, acting as the leader of Executive Council, agreed that Sikkim would not be treated as an Indian state. Between 1947 and 1950, Sikkim enjoyed de facto independence. However, the Indian independence spurred popular political movements in Sikkim and the ruler Chogyal came under pressure. He requested Indian help to quell the uprising, which was offered. Subsequently, in 1950, India signed a treaty with Sikkim bringing it under its suzerainty, and controlling its external affairs, defence, diplomacy and communications. A state council was established in 1955 to allow for constitutional government under the Sikkimese monarch. Meanwhile, trouble was brewing in the state after the Sikkim National Congress demanded fresh elections and greater representation for the Nepalese. In 1967 India and China went to war in Sikkim, Cho La incident where a Chinese occupation was attempted and repulsed. In 1973, riots in front of the palace led to a formal request for protection from India. The Chogyal was proving to be extremely unpopular with the people. In 1975, the Kazi (prime minister) appealed to the Indian Parliament for a change in Sikkim's status so that it could become a state of India. In April, the Indian Army moved into Sikkim, seizing the city of Gangtok and disarming the Palace Guards. A referendum was held in which 97.5% of the voting people (59% of the people entitled to vote) voted to join the Indian Union. A few weeks later, on May 16, 1975, Sikkim officially became the 22nd state of the Indian Union and the monarchy was abolished.
On 18 September 1955 at precisely 10:16 am, in what would be the final territorial expansion of the British Empire, Rockall was declared officially annexed by the British Crown when Lieutenant-Commander Desmond Scott RN, Sergeant Brian Peel RM, Corporal AA Fraser RM, and James Fisher (a civilian naturalist and former Royal Marine), were deposited on the island by a Royal Navy helicopter from HMS Vidal (coincidentally named after the man who first charted the island). The team cemented in a brass plaque on Hall's Ledge and hoisted the Union Flag to stake the UK's claim. However, any effect of this annexation on valuable maritime rights claims under UNCLOS in the waters beyond 12 nautical miles from Rockall are neither claimed by Britain nor recognised by Denmark (for the Faroe Islands), Ireland or Iceland.
Following a controversial plebiscite in 1969, West Papua or Western New Guinea was annexed by Indonesia. West Papua is the western half of the island of New Guinea and smaller islands to its west. The separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM) has engaged in a small-scale yet bloody conflict with the Indonesian military since the 1960s.
Following an Indonesian invasion in 1975, East Timor was annexed by Indonesia and was known as Timor Timur. It was regarded by Indonesia as the country's 27th province, but this was never recognised by the United Nations. The people of East Timor resisted Indonesian forces in a prolonged guerrilla campaign.
Following a referendum held in 1999 under a UN-sponsored agreement between the two sides, the people of East Timor rejected the offer of autonomy within Indonesia. East Timor achieved independence in 2002 and is now officially known as Timor-Leste.
In 1975, and following the Madrid Accords between Morocco, Mauritania and Spain, the latter withdrew from the territory and ceded the administration to Morocco and Mauritania. This was challenged by an independentist movement, the Polisario Front that waged a guerrilla war against both Morocco and Mauritania. In 1979, and after a military putsch, Mauritania withdrew from the territory that left it controlled by Morocco. A United Nations peace process was initiated in 1991, but it has been stalled, and as of mid-2012, the UN is holding direct negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario front to reach a solution to the conflict. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is a partially recognized state that has claimed the entire region since 1975.
The part of former Mandatory Palestine occupied by Jordan during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which some Jews call "Judea and Samaria", was renamed "the West Bank". It was annexed to Jordan in 1950 at the request of a Palestinian delegation. It had been questioned, however, how representative that delegation was, and at the insistence of the Arab League, Jordan was considered a trustee only. Only the United Kingdom and Pakistan recognized the annexation by Jordan. It was not condemned by the UNSC and it remained under Jordanian rule until 1967 when it was occupied by Israel. Jordan did not officially relinquish its claim to rule the West Bank until 1988. Israel has not taken the step of annexing the territory (except for parts of it that was made part of the Jerusalem Municipality), rather, there were enacted a complex (and highly controversial) system of military government decrees in effect applying Israeli law in many spheres to Israeli settlements.
During the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel occupied East Jerusalem, a part of the West Bank, from Jordan. On June 27, 1967, Israel unilaterally extended its law and jurisdiction to East Jerusalem and some of the surrounding area, incorporating about 70 square kilometers of territory into the Jerusalem Municipality. Although at the time Israel informed the United Nations that its measures constituted administrative and municipal integration rather than annexation, later rulings by the Israeli Supreme Court indicated that East Jerusalem had become part of Israel. In 1980, Israel passed the Jerusalem Law as part of its Basic Law, which declared Jerusalem the "complete and united" capital of Israel. In other words, Israel purported to annex East Jerusalem. The annexation was declared null and void by UNSC Resolutions 252, 267, 271, 298, 465, 476 and 478.
Jewish neighborhoods have since been built in East Jerusalem, and Israeli Jews have since also settled in Arab neighborhoods there, though some Jews may have returned from their 1948 expulsion after the Battle for Jerusalem. Only Costa Rica recognized Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem, and those countries who maintained embassies in Israel did not move them to Jerusalem. The United States Congress has passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which recognizes Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel and requires the relocation of the U.S. embassy there, but the bill has been waived by presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama on national security grounds. President Trump has begun the controversial process of moving the United States embassy to Jerusalem, but has not recognized the annexation of East Jerusalem.
Israel occupied two-thirds of the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War, and subsequently built Jewish settlements in the area. In 1981, Israel passed the Golan Heights Law, which extended Israeli "law, jurisdiction, and administration" to the area, including the Shebaa farms area. This declaration was declared "null and void and without international legal effect" by UNSC Resolution 497. The only state that recognized the annexation is the Federated States of Micronesia.
The vast majority of Syrian Druze in Majdal Shams, the largest Syrian village in the Golan, have held onto their Syrian passports. When Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, 95% of the Majdal Shams residents refused Israeli citizenship, and are still firmly of that opinion, in spite of the Syrian Civil War.
On 29 November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly reaffirmed it was "[d]eeply concerned that Israel has not withdrawn from the Syrian Golan, which has been under occupation since 1967, contrary to the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions," and "[s]tress[ed] the illegality of the Israeli settlement construction and other activities in the occupied Syrian Golan since 1967." The General Assembly then voted by majority, 110 in favour to 6 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, United States), with 59 abstentions, to demand a full Israeli withdrawal from the Syrian Golan Heights.
In March 2019, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham visited the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, saying he will start an effort to recognize the Golan as part of the State of Israel. U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States will recognize Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights.
North Vietnam de facto annexed South Vietnam following the military defeat of the South Vietnamese army in April 1975. The communist regime of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam had officially reunified the country.
After being allied with Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War (largely due to desiring Iraqi protection from Iran), Kuwait was invaded and annexed by Iraq (under Saddam Hussein) in August 1990. Hussein's primary justifications included a charge that Kuwaiti territory was in fact an Iraqi province, and that annexation was retaliation for "economic warfare" Kuwait had waged through slant drilling into Iraq's oil supplies. The monarchy was deposed after annexation, and an Iraqi governor installed.
United States president George H. W. Bush ultimately condemned Iraq's actions, and moved to drive out Iraqi forces. Authorized by the UNSC, an American-led coalition of 34 nations fought the Gulf War to reinstate the Kuwaiti Emir. Iraq's invasion (and annexation) was deemed illegal and Kuwait remains an independent nation today.
In March 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, which had been a part of Ukraine and administers the territory as two federal subjects -- the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol. Russia rejects the view that this was an annexation and regard it as an accession to the Russian Federation of a state that had just declared independence from Ukraine following a referendum, and considers it secession as a result of irredentism. A term often used in Russia to describe these events is "re-unification" (?) to highlight the fact that Crimea was part of Russian Empire and later Russian SSR.
One example of a claimed annexation after World War II is the Kingdom of Norway's southward expansion of the dependent territory Queen Maud Land. On most maps there had been an unclaimed area between Queen Maud Land's borders of 1939 and the South Pole until June 12, 2015 when Norway formally claimed to have annexed that area. The Antarctic Treaty, however, states: "The treaty does not recognize, dispute, nor establish territorial sovereignty claims; no new claims shall be asserted while the treaty is in force".
Conquest and annexation are not synonymous either. The latter term is used within and outside the context of armed conflicts, to designate a unilateral decision adopted by a State in order to extent its sovereignty over a given territory. In many cases, the effective occupation of a terra nullius was followed by a declaration of annexation, in order to incorporate the territory under the sovereignty of the acquiring State. In the context of armed conflicts, annexation is the case in which the victorious State unilaterally declares that it is henceforth sovereign over the territory having passed under its control as a result of hostilities. This attempt at producing a transfer of sovereignty through the exclusive decision of the victor is not generally recognized as valid, both in classical and in contemporary international law. An example of a case of annexation preceding the adoption of the UN Charter is the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1908. The annexation was not recognized by the major Powers and required a modification of the 1878 Treaty of Berlin which had simply granted Austria-Hungary the right to administer the territory. Another example is the annexation of Ethiopia by Italy in 1936. Examples of purported contemporary annexations are the Golan Heights annexed by Israel in 1980 and Kuwait by Iraq in 1990, both declared null and void by the Security Council, or the incorporation of Crimea and the City of Sebastopol in the Russian Federation.
Unlike cession, whereby territory is given or sold through treaty, annexation is a unilateral act made effective by actual possession and legitimized by general recognition.
it was obvious that they were in fact always subservient to the will of the Occupying Power. Such practices were incompatible with the traditional concept of occupation (as defined in Article 43 of the Hague Regulations of 1907)