– At war: what exactly defines a region as “occupied”?


– At war: what exactly defines a region as “occupied”?

In: 3


When it goes from being in control of the side who owns the territory to being under the control of the invader. That’s it.

There’s no international body that will officially decide, but typically a region is considered “occupied” when the other claimants on that land are no longer actively militarily contesting the land in any organized fashion. There may still be pockets of disorganized insurgency for many years, but no large scale military efforts holding towns and infrastructure.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the larger war is over and it doesn’t mean the occupiers magically gain any legal status, it’s merely reflective of the facts on the ground.

This state of “occupation” may persist for just a few months or years like the German occupation of France in WWII, or it may persist indefinitely like the Maoist occupation of China.

Typically once a long enough period of time has passed without any further hostilities the war is over for any practical purposes, and the occupying government becomes the de facto official government.

There’s no single definition, it’s not a term of art. It depends on the circumstances and each and every conflict will be different. In the broadest sense, it’s a region in which the “rightful” owner does not have any effective control or administration, and some other country or group does. For example, during the Falklands War, Argentina occupied the Falkland Islands and had placed their own military units on the Island. The Falkland Islands were internationally recognized as being part of the United Kingdom, however the UK did not have any control or administration over the Islands because they were under Argentinian military control.

A country’s claim to land only extends to its ability to govern it and collect taxes from those in it. If they are unable to do those basic things, then that land is not in their control. If they cannot do those things because enemy forces are preventing them from doing it, then it is occupied.

If a military unit controls a region (especially a settlement) that was used to be controlled by another body that region is occupied.

But what exactly is “control”? In military settings we consider control as having an influence on the region and being able to keep that region somewhat safe. I’ll give two examples.

1. Let’s say we have a brigade in some flatlands. If this brigade can setup tents, kitchens, field hospitals and defense systems without a problem in that region they are controlling it.

2. Now we’re in a city. If the same brigade is effectively policing and running the city, if there aren’t any actual fighting going on, if the mayor is now the brigadier general of that brigade they are controlling that city and they have occupied it.