Chicago Journal of International Law

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International law prohibits the acquisition of territory by force. Even so, states have struggled to identify a judicial or arbitral procedure to protect their rights following an unlawful attempted acquisition. With reference to the annexation of Crimea, but with a view to the wider possibilities for judicial or arbitral settlement of territorial questions, the present Article considers three mechanisms--the European Convention on Human Rights (European Convention), the Statute of the International Court of Justice (ICJ Statute), and bilateral investment treaties. Recent decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) suggest that its inter-state procedure holds some promise in such a situation. By comparison, attempts by a state to protect its territorial rights before the ICJ--for example, by Georgia against Russia--have encountered serious obstacles. This Article starts by considering the ECHR. It then turns to the ICJ, the jurisdiction of which has extended to territorial questions in some of its best-known cases but, in others, may be of limited use to a state seeking to defend its territorial rights directly. The Article then turns to investment treaties and asks, though they have not been used to address territorial disputes so far, what role they might play.