[an-ik-sey-shuhn, -ek-]
annexation, in international law, formal act by which a state asserts its sovereignty over a territory previously outside its jurisdiction. Many kinds of territory have been subject to annexation, chief among them those inhabited by settlers of the annexing power, those which already have had the status of protectorates of the annexing state, and those conquered by the force of arms. The consent of other interested powers must be obtained in order that the annexation be generally recognized in international law. Efforts to establish the self-determination of inhabitants as the only grounds for the transfer of territory have been realized in the Charter of the United Nations, which does not recognize annexation as an instrument of national policy. The term annexation is also used in municipal government to describe the process by which an incorporated local government may extend its legal control over surrounding areas. Usually this type of annexation requires the consent of the other communities concerned.

Annexation (Latin ad, to, and nexus, joining) is the legal incorporation of some territory into another geo-political entity (either adjacent or non-contiguous). Usually, it is implied that the territory and population being annexed is the smaller, more peripheral, and weaker of the two merging entities. 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 terms like political union or reunification are sometimes preferred.

Annexation differs from cession and amalgamation, because unlike cession where territory is given or sold through treaty, or amalgamation where 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 made legitimate by the recognition of the international community.

During World War II the use of annexation deprived whole populations of the safeguards provided by international laws governing military occupations. Changes were introduced to international law through the Fourth Geneva Convention that makes it much more difficult for a state to bypass international law through the use of annexation.

Annexation and international law after 1948

The Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV) of 1949, emphasised an important international law. The United Nations Charter (June 26, 1945) had prohibited war of aggression (See articles 1.1, 2.3, 2.4) and GCIV Fourth Geneva Convention#Article 47, the first paragraph in Section III: Occupied territories, restricted the territorial gains which could be made through war by stating: Fourth Geneva Convention#Article 49 prohibits mass movement of people out of or into occupied territory:

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 signatory to this additional protocol.

Examples of annexation after 1948


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.


On 18 September 1955 at precisely 10:16 am, in what would be the final territorial expansion of the British Empire, Rockall was officially annexed by the United Kingdom 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.


Tibetan nationalists have argued that Tibet was occupied and annexed by People's Republic of China in the 1950s. This position is disputed by the PRC government and Chinese nationalists who argue that China has exercised sovereignty over Tibet since at least the 18th century, and that this sovereignty had been internationally recognized since at least the 20th century. Hence they would argue that the action in 1959 was an internationally acceptable example of a central government reasserting control over an internal region.


In 1961 the former Portuguese colony of Goa was annexed by India.

East Timor

[The accuracy of the statement of Indonesian motives for the annexation of East Timor is questionable, and quotes no sources. ] Following an Indonesian December 7, 1975 attempt to free East Timor from Massacre of the Pro-Integration people by Fretilin (60,000 deaths - Mass Murders Graves by Fretilin in Saboria, Manutane dan Aisirimoun as proofs to this account, some account say even 200,000 deaths as Fretilin forced long march to the forest and used the pro-integration people as human shields) in 1975, East Timor was annexed by Indonesia after the November 28, 1975 democratic Pro-Integration Referendum as the majority had chosen to join Indonesia and then was known as Timor Timur (East Timor Province). It was regarded by Indonesia as the country's 27th province, but this was never recognised by the United Nations nor Portugal. Some of the people of East Timor resisted Indonesian forces in a prolonged guerilla campaign and incited growing unrest. (See: Indonesian rule in East Timor). Following a referendum held in 1999, under a UN sponsored agreement between Indonesia and Portugal, in which majority of its people then rejected the offer of autonomy within Indonesia, East Timor achieved independence in 2002 and is now officially known as Timor-Leste.

West Papua

West Papua, or Irian Jaya as the Indonesian government has re-named it, is the territory on the western half of the island of New Guinea. This area was previously known as Netherlands New Guinea. Unlike Indonesia, which achieved independence in 1949, West Papua remained a Dutch colony until August 15, 1962. That year the Dutch ceded control of the territory to the United Nations (the New York Agreement), and due military and diplomatic pressure exerted by Indonesia, the United Nations transferred the de facto authority to the Indonesian government. In mid 1969 the result of the peaceful democratic People of Irian Referendum (Pepera) held by Indonesian government was a result in favor of integration with the Republic of Indonesia.

Western Sahara

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 guerilla 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-2007, the UN is holding direct negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario front to reach a solution to the conflict.


In the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War, in which Israel had captured Jerusalem as well as Judea and Samaria (commonly referred to as the West Bank by the outside world), Gaza and the Golan Heights, Israel declared East and West Jerusalem one united city, incorporating the eastern part to form one municipality. In 1980 Israel passed the Jerusalem Law, which redeclared the unity of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but did not declare its borders. In other words, Israel annexed East Jerusalem, although many challenge the legitimacy of this action.


In 1981, Israel extended its "laws, jurisdiction and administration" to the Golan Heights (including the Shebaa Farms/Har Dov), which it captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War. This not entirely clear "annexation" declaration was declared "null and void and without international legal effect" by United Nations Security Council Resolution 497. As of today, the only state to accept the validity of this annexation is Micronesia.


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 UN Security Council, 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.

Subnational annexation

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. There are exceptions to this in the United States, as laws governing the ability and the extent cities can expand in this fashion are defined by the individual states' constitutions.

See also


Further reading

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