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World Court Digest

II. Substantive International Law - Second Part
1.1. Acquisition and Loss

¤ Application of the Convention
on the Prevention and Punishment
of the Crime of Genocide,
Provisional Measures,
Order of 13 September 1993,
I.C.J. Reports 1993, p. 325

[pp. 434-435 S.O. Lauterpacht] 81. It is beyond question that territory cannot lawfully be acquired by the aggressive use of force and that such acquisition is in theory null and void unless and until ratified by consent on the part of the State whose territory is thereby attenuated. This has been repeatedly stated by the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations, including on occasion specific reference to the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and there is no reason why the Court should not, albeit obiter, restate and confirm this fundamental rule of international law.

82. But that opinion does not necessarily extend to cover "annexation or incorporation of ... territory ... by any means or for any reason". If "annexation" is defined as "forcible seizure followed by unilateral assertion of title" then, of course, the request falls within the prohibition of the use of force for the acquisition of territory. On the other hand, if "annexation" is used in a more colloquial sense as meaning the assumption of title over territory as a result of a negotiated settlement, even one following aggression and hostilities, then it is not possible to say that the original illegal conduct of the State acquiring the territory taints permanently the transfer subsequently approved by the original sovereign. A fortiori, the same is true of the expression "incorporation" which, in normal usage, is a neutral expression not necessarily implying prior forcible action on the part of the acquiring State.