Modes Of Acquisition Of State Territory

The acquisition of territory by a state, or territorial sovereignty, by an existing state and member of the international community over another state is more accurately referred to as territorial acquisition. It should be stated right away that the recognition of a new state is not the same as the acquisition of territory. There may also be instances where private persons or businesses gain rights or even jurisdiction over area that was not previously under the territorial supremacy of any recognised state. Such instances, once again, are not covered by the “modes” of acquiring state land. Cession, occupation, accretion, subjugation, and prescription are the five[v] techniques of obtaining territory that have traditionally been distinguished.

Cession- The transfer of sovereignty over state territory by the owner state to another state is known as cession of state territory. Its foundation is the parties’ purpose to transfer sovereignty over the territory in question, and it is based on the idea that a State’s right to transfer its territory is a fundamental attribute of its sovereignty. The cession may cover a portion of the ceding State’s territory or the entire area of the ceding State. A cession can only take place if the ceding and acquiring states reach an agreement, usually in the form of a treaty, or if numerous states, including the ceding and cessionary states, reach an agreement. Many times, cession is the result of a peaceful agreement or a battle, and it may occur without compensation, though the acquiring state may be required to perform specific tasks. The involved states agree to such cessions for a variety of reasons and goals, such as a gift or voluntary merger. For example, in 1866, Austria gave Venice to France as a gift during its war with Prussia and Italy. Later, France relinquished control of Venice to Italy.

Occupation- Occupation is a state’s deliberate claim of authority over land that the international community considers terra nullius, or territory that belongs to no one. According to Jennings, it is “the appropriation by a state of a region that is not subject to the sovereignty of any other state at the time.” [viii] “Territory is deemed occupied when it is genuinely placed under the jurisdiction of the opposing army,” according to Article 42 of The Hague Regulations of 1907. Only the land where such power has been created and may be exercised is under occupation.”

Accretion- The geographical process of accretion refers to the physical extension of an existing territory. It is the word given to the expansion of land due to new formations. For example, when an island rises within a river (not increasing the territory, only the land) or when an island arises in the marine belt, such creation may constitute a modification of the current state territory. Enlargement of territories by new formations occurs ipso facto by accretion, without the state concerned taking any explicit steps for the goal of extending its sovereignty, according to international law. As a result, accretion is a direct method of acquiring land.

Subjugation- Conquest and annexation are the two steps in the process of subjugation. This method of direct acquisition is known as title by conquest. Because war was not unlawful in those days, it was acknowledged as a sovereign right to wage war. Between cession and subjection, there is a delicate line to be drawn. Conquest followed by annexation, like compulsory cession, would compel the surrender of territory, but unlike cession, there was no agreement between the parties involved. The victorious parties in most wars imposed a cession treaty. Simple subjugation titles are uncommon. War for the aim of obtaining territory was prohibited under Article 10 of the League of Nations Covenant. The acquisition of territory by force is also prohibited by the United Nations Charter[xiv], which requires member states to refrain from using force against a state’s territorial integrity or political independence.

Prescription- A prescription can be defined as ‘the acquisition of sovereignty over a territory through a continuous and undisturbed exercise of sovereignty over it during such a period as is necessary to create under the influence of historical development the general conviction that the present condition of things is in conformity with the international order.’[1] There was no set time limit or other conditions that had to be met in order to create such a title by prescription. The circumstances vary from instance to case. The real exercise of sovereignty is not disrupted as long as other governments continue to protest and assert claims, and there is no widespread belief that the current situation is in accordance with international law. However, once such protests have ended, a situation may arise where it becomes compliant with international law. The question of when and under what circumstances such a state of affairs occurs is just a matter of fact. Aside from the passage of time, there are several elements at work that lead to the conclusion that the current owner is the lawful owner of the land in the interests of stability and order. Furthermore, because many of these characteristics are political or historical in origin, the amount of time may vary significantly between cases.

References- [1] https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/sovereign-state-territory/

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