Say one day Country A attacked Country B, and this began a full blown war between the two countries.

During this war, Country B seized some of Country A's territory along their mutual border, and Country B ended up winning the war.

Now that the war has ended, is Country B required by some international law or law of war to return the seized land to Country A?

Does it matter that Country A started the war, not Country B?

1 Answer 1


Country A and country B must do whatever they agree in the settlement of the conflict between themselves - returning or ceding of territory being one of these. Or they can disagree about these laying the seeds for further conflict.

The most recent example of this is Russia's seizure of the Crimea from Ukraine; which they legitimised by a plebiscite. AFAIK, Ukraine and the international community has not accepted this but neither are they doing anything about it - legally Crimea is still part of Ukraine, practically it is part of Russia.

  • So, if country A were to want the land back from country B, would country B be obliged by any law to return it?
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 23:00
  • 4
    Yes - but the practical question of how (you and what army) remains. Lots of things happen in the world that are not legal.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 23:01
  • Oh. Could you please point me to a specific law that requires the land be returned?
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 23:02
  • 1
    The UN charter - it guarantees (more or less) the territorial integrity of its members.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 23:03
  • 2
    Two willing countries can legally transfer territory. If Spain keeps the territory they are acting illegally. However, if France doesn't have the military power to stop Spain and no other country will intervene and this situation continues for long enough then at some indeterminate point that land will be Spanish and no longer French as and when the international community accepts the status quo as the new normal. Put it another way: if I steal your bike and you are not strong enough to take it back and the police will not help you then it is de facto my bike even if de jure it's still yours.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 23:23

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