The Politics of Military Occupation

By Peter M. R. Stirk | Go to book overview
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Chapter 2
Defining Occupation

The definition of military occupation has been disputed in terms of the core meaning ascribed to it and even in terms of the appropriateness of the term itself, with some commentators preferring the term ‘belligerent occupation’, in continuation of the Roman idea of occupatio bellica. Where such preference has been expressed, it has been acknowledged that there are other types of military occupation.1 That same preference and concession is repeated in the British Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, according to which ‘classically, this [belligerent occupation] refers to the occupation of enemy territory, that is, when a belligerent in an armed conflict is in control of some of the adversary’s territory and is directly responsible for administering that territory’.2 This manual includes occupation of neutral territory during wartime in belligerent occupation, but excludes liberation of allied territory, international administration of territory under such organisations as the United Nations and the presence of armed forces in another state in accordance with some treaty or agreement.3 Obviously, the core meaning ascribed to occupation will affect the extent of the range of types of occupation, with belligerent occupation suggesting a narrower range than the more expansive term military occupation. Yet the two issues, of the core meaning and the range of types of occupation, have not received the same consistency of attention. The first systematic study of military occupation beyond war, by Raymond Robin, was not published until 1913.4 In part at least, this neglect may have been encouraged by the tendency to treat certain occupations under the heading of intervention. Thus, in the 1880s, Calvo treated intervention separately from occupation.5 Even after Robin’s work, a leading French author, Paul Fauchille, continued this practice, despite favourable reference to Robin and explicit acknowledgement of ‘occupations of intervention’.6 Robin himself suggested that in these occupations, and even more so those intended to establish a protectorate or to lead to annexation, ‘the true character of the occupation is perverted’.7

This is not the only possible source of confusion, as can be seen

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