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Ceremonies during the annexation of Hawaii.

Annexation (Latin ad, to, and nexus, joining) is the de jure 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 that tries to make its move legitimate by the recognition of the international community.[1]

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.[2]


Annexation and international law after 1948

The Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV) of 1949, emphasised an important international law.[2] 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 territorial gains which could be made through war by stating:

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:[3]

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 signatory to this additional protocol.

Examples of annexation since 1947



In 1947, Indian forces moved into the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir on the request of the Maharajah of Kashmir to help stave off an attack from across its borders by Pakistan's regular army and guerrillas who threatened to occupy large chunks of the state of Jammu & Kashmir, after the Maharaja of Kashmir had signed an instrument of accession to the Union of India. Jammu and Kashmir is an Indian state on the basis of the instrument (agreement) of ascension, and the Kashmiri people are Indian citizens. However its status is disputed by Pakistan and China.


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. However its status is disputed by Denmark (for the Faroe Islands), Ireland and Iceland.


Tibetan nationalists and human rights activists have argued that Tibet was occupied and annexed by the People's Republic of China in the 1950s.[4] This position is disputed by the PRC government and Chinese nationalists who argue that Manchu Dynasty 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.

Since the Simla Accord of 1914, the British Government's position was that China held suzerainty over Tibet but not full sovereignty—a position held by no other state. On 29 October 2008 the British Government issued a statement recognising China's full soverignty, and so weakened the position of Tibetan nationalists that Tibet was occupied and annexed by China.[5][6]


In 1947, a popular vote rejected Sikkim's joining the Indian Union and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to a special protectorate status for Sikkim. Sikkim came under the suzerainty of India, which controlled its external affairs, defence, diplomacy and communications, but Sikkim otherwise retained autonomy. A state council was established in 1955 to allow for constitutional government under the Chogyal. Meanwhile trouble was brewing in the state after the Sikkim National Congress demanded fresh elections and greater representation for the Nepalese. 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. [7]

East Timor

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 guerilla campaign. (See: Indonesian rule in East Timor).

Following a referendum held in 1999, under a UN sponsored agreement between Indonesia and, in which its people 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 1945, 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 to military and diplomatic pressure exerted by Indonesia, the United Nations transferred the de facto authority to the Indonesian government. The incorporation of western New Guinea into Indonesia remains controversial with many of the territory's indigenous population as they did not get a say in their own future- see

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 the West Bank, 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,[8][9][10] although many challenge the legitimacy of this action.[11]


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, except for Israel, is the Federated States of 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 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 is much more common in Canada, where the Unicity concept of city planning is popular. 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.[12][13]

See also


  1. ^ Annexation, Encyclopaedia Britannica
  2. ^ a b 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
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ Tibet: China Must End Rural Reconstruction Campaign (Human Rights Watch, 20-12-2006)
  5. ^ Staff, Britain's suzerain remedy, The Economist, 6 November 2008
  6. ^ David Miliband, Written Ministerial Statement on Tibet (29/10/2008), Foreign Office website, Retrieved 2008-11-25. "... Like every other EU member state, and the United States, we regard Tibet as part of the People's Republic of China. ..."
  7. ^ Department of Information and Public Relations, Government of Sikkim. 2005-09-29. Retrieved on 2006-10-12.
  8. ^ Sela, Avraham. "Jerusalem." The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. Ed. Avraham Sela. New York: Continuum, 2002. pp. 391-498.
  9. ^ Frank, Mitch. Understanding the Holy Land: Answering Questions about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. New York: Viking, 2005. p. 74.
  10. ^ "A/35/508-S/14207 of 8 October 1980." UNISPAL - United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine. 8 Octomber 1980. 8 June 2008.
  11. ^ Ian S. Lustick, 'Has Israel Annexed East Jerusalem?,' Middle East Policy Council Journal Volume V, January 1997, Number 1
  12. ^ [ "Annexation Policies and Urban Growth Management in Calgary." Tim Creelman. Accessed December 17, 2009.
  13. ^ History of Annexation. City of Calgary. Accessed December 17, 2009.

Further reading


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