Annexation (Latin ad, to, and nexus, joining) is the political transition of land from the control of one entity to another. It is also the incorporation of unclaimed land into a state's sovereignty, which is in most cases legitimate. In international law it is the forcible transition of one state's territory by another state or the legal process by which a city acquires land. Usually, it is implied that the territory and population being annexed is the smaller, more peripheral, and weaker of the two merging entities, barring physical size. It can also imply a certain measure of coercion, expansionism or unilateralism on the part of the stronger of the merging entities. Because of this, more positive euphemisms like political union/unification or reunification are sometimes seen in discourse. Annexation differs from cession and amalgamation, because unlike cession where territory is given or sold through treaty, or amalgamation (where the authorities of both sides are asked if they agree with the merge), annexation is a unilateral act where territory is seized and held by one state and legitimized via general recognition by the other international bodies (i.e. countries and intergovernmental organisations).
During World War II, the use of annexation deprived whole populations of the safeguards provided by international laws governing military occupations. The authors of the Fourth Geneva Convention made a point of "giving these rules an absolute character", thus making it much more difficult for a state to bypass international law through the use of annexation.
International law after 1949
The Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV) of 1949 amplified the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 with respect to the question of the protection of civilians. GCIV also emphasised the United Nations Charter: the United Nations Charter (June 26, 1945) had prohibited war of aggression (See articles 1.1, 2.3, 2.4) and GCIV Article 47, 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.
Article 49 prohibits mass movement of people out of or into occupied territory:
Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive. ... The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
Protocol I (1977): "Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts" has additional articles which cover military occupation, but many countries including the United States are not party to this additional protocol.
Examples since 1950
Tibetan representatives in Beijing and the People's Republic of China signed the Seventeen Point Agreement on 23 May 1951, authorizing the PLA presence in Tibet. The Central Tibetan Administration considers it invalid and as having been signed under duress.
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.
In 1947, a popular vote rejected Sikkim's joining the Union of India, and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to a special protectorate status for the kingdom. Sikkim came under the suzerainty of India, which controlled its external affairs, defence, diplomacy and communications, but otherwise retained autonomy. A state council was established in 1955 to allow for constitutional government under the Sikkimese monarch called the Chogyal. 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.
In 1954, former British Ogaden (a Somali Region) was annexed by Abyssinia. Somali nationalists have waged wars of liberation since 1954. Currently, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) leads this nationalist effort and is engaged in a fierce military confrontation with Ethiopia, the new name of Abyssinia.
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), the Republic of Ireland or Iceland.
Western New Guinea
West Papua or Western New Guinea was annexed by Indonesia in 1969 and 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 which 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 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. Although only the United Kingdom and Pakistan recognized the annexation by Jordan, the British did not consider it sovereign to 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 (1948).
No countries recognized Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem, except Costa Rica, and those 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.
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 native Syrians 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.
After being allied with Iraq during the Iran–Iraq War (largely due to desiring Iraqi protection from Iran), Kuwait was invaded and declared 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 most of the Crimean Peninsula, at that time 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 secession as a result of irredentism. A term often used in Russia to describe these events is "re-unification" (воссоединение) 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".
Within countries that are subdivided noncontiguously, annexation can also take place whereby a lower-tier subdivision can annex territory under the jurisdiction of a higher-tier subdivision. An example of this is in the United States, where incorporated cities and towns often expand their boundaries by annexing unincorporated land adjacent to them. Municipalities can also annex or be annexed by other municipalities, though this is less common in the United States. Laws governing the ability and the extent cities can expand in this fashion are defined by the individual states' constitutions.
Annexation of neighbouring communities occurs in Canada. The city of Calgary, for example, has in the past annexed the communities of Bridgeland, Riverside, Sunnyside, Hillhurst, Hunter, Hubalta, Ogden, Forest Lawn, Midnapore, Shepard, Montgomery, and Bowness.
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- Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.Commentary on Part III : Status and treatment of protected persons #Section III : Occupied territories Art. 47 by the ICRC
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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)
- Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.Commentary on Part III : Status and treatment of protected persons #Section III : Occupied territories Art. 49 by the ICRC
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- UNSC res 478
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- Adam Roberts. Transformative military occupation: applying the laws of war and human rights, 100 The American Journal of International Law. vol 100 pp. 580–622 (2006)