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Title To Territory Notes

Law Notes > Public International Law (Detailed Version) Notes

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5. Title to Territory Modes of Acquisition Definition of Territory

It is the fixed portion of the surface of the earth inhabited by the people of the state. It must be permanent and indicated with precision because jurisdiction is determined on the basis of such. It must also be big enough to provide for the needs of the population, but must not be so extensive as to be difficult to administer or defend from external aggression. How is territory acquired or lost?

* Acquired by: discovery and occupation, prescription, cession, subjugation, accretion.

* Lost by: abandonment or dereliction, cession, subjugation, prescription, erosion, revolution, natural cause
*> Abandonment refers to a situation where a State is held to have surrendered its title, converting the territory to res nullius, before another State establishes its own title by way of lawful allocation or effective occupation.
- The rule of derelicto requires an intention to abandon: Clipperton Island Case

Components of Territory

The terrestrial domain

* Refers to land mass which may be integrated or dismembered or partly bounded by water, or consist of one whole island. The maritime and fluvial domain

* Consists of bodies of water within the land mass and the waters adjacent to the coasts of the state up to a specified limit.

* Includes internal waters in the land-locked lakes, rivers, man-made canals within the land mass, and certain bays, gulfs, and straits, as well as external waters in the territorial sea. The aerial domain

* The airspace above the terrestrial domain and the maritime and fluvial domain of the state to an unlimited altitude but not including outer space.

* Every state has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory. (customary international law) Discovery & Occupation

Discovery vs Occupation

* Discovery alone is not sufficient to constitute occupation. Discovery only creates an inchoate title, which cannot prevail over a definite title founded on continuous and peaceful display of sovereignty at the time of the critical date: Island of Palmas case Continuous and peaceful display of sovereignty

* Sovereignty based on peaceful and continuous display of state authority over a territory prevails over a title of acquisition of sovereignty not followed by actual display of state authority: Island of Palmas case
*> Elements of a peaceful and continuous display of State authority: Eastern Greenland case
- The intention and will to act as sovereign; and: Eastern Greenland Case

* Estoppel and acquiescence may help to determine the sovereignty: Eastern Greenland Case

* Whether the alleged State has treated its discovery as possession or merely protection: Western Sahara Case
- Some actual exercise or display of such authority.
Actual exercise or display of a territorial sovereignty involves: Island of Palmas case
- the exclusive right to display the activities of a State, and

* See more in Minquiers and Ecrehos Case
- the corollary obligation to protect within the territory,
- the rights of other States, in particular their right to integrity and inviolability, together with
- the rights each State may claim for its nationals in foreign territory 1

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