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1 (in land law) The physical possession and control of land. Under the Land Registration Act 2002 the proprietary rights of a person in actual occupation may be an overriding interest binding a purchaser of registered land, unless inquiry is made of that person and the rights are not disclosed or the occupation is not reasonably discoverable (Williams and Glyn's Bank Ltd v Boland [1981] AC 487 (HL). Under the Family Law Act 1996, spouses have rights of occupation in the matrimonial home by virtue of marriage, which may be capable of protection as land charges.

2 (in international law) The act of taking control of territory belonging either to no one (peaceful occupation) or to a foreign state in the course of a war ( belligerent occupation). Peaceful occupation is one of the methods of legally acquiring territory, provided the occupier can show a standard of control superior to that of any other claimant. Denmark acquired Greenland in this way, and the UK acquired Rockall. A belligerent occupant cannot acquire or annex the occupied territory during the course of the war. Certain provisions for the protection of enemy civilians in the Hague and Geneva Conventions are applied to those parts of the enemy territory that have been effectively occupied. A belligerent occupier must retain in force the ordinary penal laws and tribunals of the occupied power, but may alter them or impose new laws to ensure the security and orderly government of the occupying forces and administration. The government in exile is also regarded as continuing to represent the occupied state in international law without any special recognition being necessary. See also cession; succession.

Subjects: Law.

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