Military occupation

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A military occupation begins with the takeover of a nation's territory, either partially or fully. A government run by the invading military is established and the de jure government is expelled. Military occupations are illegal under international law and the law of the invaded country.[1] An occupation is often followed by annexation of a territory by the invading country.[2] Under the Geneva Convention, the human rights of the people in occupied territories must be upheld (although this is not usually the case).[3]

Understanding military occupation[edit]

To understand why military occupation takes place, one must know the justifications for the illegal seizure of land. Reasons behind carrying out an occupation from the more tame reason of preventing an (actual) ethnic cleansing and/or genocide to imposing a foreign culture and religion on a native population.[4] Sometimes countries will just invent reasons to invade and occupy a territory. An example of this was when Russia seized the Autonomous Republic of Crimea from Ukraine and created separatist entities in the Donbas region in Ukraine. Specifically, the reason given was to "protect Russian people from genocide"; all without evidence.[5]

Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907[edit]

The Hague Conventions are the foundation for the rules of war. The first Hague Convention states that militaries may not engage in extensive expansion and reduces the number of how many armaments a military may have. The first convention failed to be ratified. Despite the failure of the convention, it gave a foundation for the rules of war. The second convention, proposed by US President Theodore Roosevelt and officially convinced by Emperor Nicholas II of Russia. In the second convention, the limitations the quantity of armaments was not accepted. However, the rights of neutral parties and civilians was agreed upon.[6]

Occupations in the past[edit]

Human civilization has had a long history of military occupations. During the Roman Empire, Emperor Claudius launched a successful invasion of Britain. The invasion took place over a period of 45 years. The motivation behind the invasion was the belief that the Romans had the right to "civilize" indigenous people and force them to worship their gods.[7] When European colonists arrived in North America they had engaged in violent conflicts with the indigenous peoples of the region and took over their land; under modern terminology this would be an example of both military occupation and settler colonialism.[8]

For instances of military occupations in the more recent past, Israel occupied Southern Lebanon between 1985 to 2000 in response to Palestinian militancy launched from the region.[9] One notable war crime that took place during this period, the Sabra and Shatila massacre,Wikipedia was committed by Israeli proxy forces during this occupation with support from the IDF.[10][11][12][13] Hezbollah also initially formed, with funding from Iran, to resist the Israeli occupation.[14][15]

Current and ongoing military occupations[edit]

Polisario's Sahrawi People's Liberation Army fighting against Moroccan occupation forces

Currently, there are still multiple ongoing military occupations. These include:

  • The Ukrainian territories of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Donetsk Oblast, Luhansk Oblast, Kherson Oblast and Zaporizhzhia Oblast by Russia.
  • The Palestinian territories of the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the West Bank by Israel. Palestinian Arabs live under a brutal apartheid regime where many living under occupation are dependent on foreign aid. [16][17]
  • The Syrian territory of the Golan Heights by Israel.[18]
  • Western Sahara is a Non-Self Governing Territory that is listed as de jure colonized by Morocco by the United Nations.[19] After Spain unilaterally withdrawn from the territory Morocco invaded and annexed the territory as the Southern Provinces. The Sahawari people proclaimed the "Sahawari Arab Democratic Republic" in exile. Despite being an occupied territory, the UN doesn't recognize either territorial claim. To add to the mess a UN peacekeeping team meant to set the conditions for an independence referendum but they are essentially powerless.[20]

Use of proxies in an occupation[edit]

In the Russo-Georgian War of 2008, the Russian military had used the relatively new concept of proxy warfare. Specifically the Russian military had backed the separatist enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This resulted in a Russian victory.[22]

The tactic of using proxies was used in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War. After the Revolution of Dignity (a.k.a., Maidan Revolution), the Russian government sowed unrest in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and eastern Ukraine by exploiting grievances of the population. Russian forces invaded Crimea using regular forces, unmarked soldiers and pro-Russian militants. They staged an illegal referendum on declaring independence and the unification with Russia. Not long after Russia annexed Crimea and set up the separatist entities of the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics.[23]

Effects of a military occupation[edit]

The effects of an occupation be very serious on education, civil rights, economy, infrastructure and communication. In a country whose territory is being controlled by another country, schools are often used by hostile militaries as a base of operations. This is illegal under international law. Students and teachers in these schools are often victims sexual violence, physical violence and recruitment. Parents often keep their kids home from school due to this risk.[24] Occupation by an invading army often leads to human rights abuses. During the ongoing Russian invasion and occupation of Ukrainian territories, many human rights violations occurred. These range from the use of cluster munitions to intentionally attacking civilian areas (the latter, a war crime).[25] Another example from the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian War is the Filtration Camps which are passed off as "checkpoints" (the name is as ominous as it sounds). These camps are located in schools, churches, sports venues and other buildings in occupied territories. People who went through the "filtration process" undergone biometric scans, hours of questioning, beatings, sexual abuse, starvation and their children being kidnapped. Many were coerced into admitting to having ties to the Ukrainian military or nationalists groups; all of this is considered crimes against humanity. [26] [27]


  1. Doctor's Without Borders, Retrieved on November 22, 2023.
  2. European Parliament, Retrieved on November 22, 2023.
  3. ICRC, Retrieved on November 29, 2023.
  4. Encyclopedia, Retrieved on November 23, 2023.
  5. European Union, Retrieved on November 23, 2023.
  6. Britannica, Retrieved on November 23, 2023.
  7. English Heritage, Retrieved on November 22, 2023.
  8. Retrieved on November 22, 2023, additional text.
  9. Salhani, Justin (October 17, 2023). "Beyond Hezbollah: The history of tensions between Lebanon and Israel". Al Jazeera. 
  10. Robert Fisk,Wikipedia Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War, Oxford University Press 2001 pp. 382–383.
  11. William B. Quandt,Wikipedia Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict Since 1967, University of California Press p. 266
  12. Yossi Alpher,Wikipedia Periphery: Israel’s Search for Middle East Allies, Rowman & Littlefield, 2015 p. 48
  13. Nathan Gonzalez,Wikipedia The Sunni-Shia Conflict: Understanding Sectarian Violence in the Middle East, Nortia Media Ltd, 2013 p. 113.
  14. Hezbollah's manifesto
  15. "Who are Hezbollah" - BBC
  16. UCHA, Retrieved on November 26, 2023.
  17. Israel's Apartheid Against Palestinians (February 1, 2022) Amnesty International.
  18. Foundation to Defend Democracies, Retrieved on November 22, 2023.
  19. The world’s last colony: Morocco continues occupation of Western Sahara, in defiance of UN by Nizar Visram (13 April 2017) Open Democracy.
  20. Arab Center, Retrieved on November 26, 2023.
  21. OSCE, Retrieved on February 2, 2024 .
  22. War on the Rocks, Retrieved on November 23, 2023.
  23. Just Security, Retrieved on November 23, 2023.
  24. Relief Web, Retrieved on November 23, 2023.
  25. HRW, Retrieved on November 29, 2023.
  26. The Guardian, Retrieved on December 3, 2023.
  27. Human Rights Watch, Retrieved on December 3, 2023.