Debellatio (Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 "defeating, or the act of conquering or subduing", literally "warring (the enemy) down", from Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 bellum "war") designates the end of a war caused by complete destruction of a hostile state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...


In some cases debellation ends with a complete dissolution and annexation
Annexation is the de jure incorporation of some territory into another geo-political entity . Usually, it is implied that the territory and population being annexed is the smaller, more peripheral, and weaker of the two merging entities, barring physical size...

 of the defeated state into the victor's national territory, as happened at the end of the Third Punic War
Third Punic War
The Third Punic War was the third and last of the Punic Wars fought between the former Phoenician colony of Carthage, and the Roman Republic...

 with the defeat of Carthage by Rome in the 2nd century BC
Anno Domini
and Before Christ are designations used to label or number years used with the Julian and Gregorian calendars....


In practical terms, the end of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 could be described as debellation, in that the attempt to establish the Confederate States of America
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 as an independent state was completely defeated, and the area and people involved were taken back into the Union
Union (American Civil War)
During the American Civil War, the Union was a name used to refer to the federal government of the United States, which was supported by the twenty free states and five border slave states. It was opposed by 11 southern slave states that had declared a secession to join together to form the...

. Another case from the same era is Prussia's annexation of the Kingdom of Hannover as a result of the Austro-Prussian War in 1866.

The unconditional surrender
Unconditional surrender
Unconditional surrender is a surrender without conditions, in which no guarantees are given to the surrendering party. In modern times unconditional surrenders most often include guarantees provided by international law. Announcing that only unconditional surrender is acceptable puts psychological...

 of the Third Reich
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

—in the strict sense only the German Armed Forces (Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

)—at the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 was at the time accepted by most authorities as a case of debellatio as it ended with the complete breakup of the German Reich, including all offices, and two German states being created in its stead (Federal Republic of Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

 and the German Democratic Republic
German Democratic Republic
The German Democratic Republic , informally called East Germany by West Germany and other countries, was a socialist state established in 1949 in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany, including East Berlin of the Allied-occupied capital city...

Other authorities have argued against that, as most of the territory that made up Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 before the Anschluss
The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

 was not annexed, and the population still existed, the vestiges of the German state continued to exist even though the Allied Control Council
Allied Control Council
The Allied Control Council or Allied Control Authority, known in the German language as the Alliierter Kontrollrat and also referred to as the Four Powers , was a military occupation governing body of the Allied Occupation Zones in Germany after the end of World War II in Europe...

 governed the territory; and that eventually a fully sovereign German government resumed over a state that never ceased to exist.

Further reading

  • Anne Armstrong. "Unconditional Surrender: The Impact of the Casablanca Policy upon World War II", Greenwood Pub Group 1974, ISBN 0-8371-7042-7
  • Brett H. McGurk A Lawyer in Baghdad(PDF) Footnote I on Page 3: argues that "The unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan supported the application of debellatio, a concept that is discredited in the international legal community and would not easily transfer to Iraq. No Coalition member, in any event, argued that debellatio applied in Iraq."
  • Max Rheinstein. The Legal Status of Occupied Germany Michigan Law Review, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Nov., 1948), pp. 23–40 doi:10.2307/1284507
  • Gerry Everding U.S. rules Iraq under international law doctrine of 'debellatio' and will until stable government is formed reprints an article by Victor T. Le Vine in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Sunday, February 22, 2003.
  • Sir Robert Jennings presiding over a public sitting held on 22 June 1993 in the International Court of Justice
    International Court of Justice
    The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands...

     for the case Territorial Dispute (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya/Chad) Professor Bowett speaking for Libya
    Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

     states "debellatio — the end of hostilities brought about by the complete subjugation of the enemy"
  • ICRC
    International Committee of the Red Cross
    The International Committee of the Red Cross is a private humanitarian institution based in Geneva, Switzerland. States parties to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005, have given the ICRC a mandate to protect the victims of international and...

     Commentary on Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I
    Protocol I
    Protocol I is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts. It reaffirms the international laws of the original Geneva Conventions of 1949, but adds clarifications and new provisions to accommodate developments in modern...

    ), 8 June 1977. Commenting on the term "The general close of military operations" in Article 3.b of Protocol I the ICRC states in their commentary in footnote 5 "Some of the literature refers to this situation ['The general close of military operations' when the occupation of the whole territory of a Party is completed, accompanied by the effective cessation of all hostilities, without the necessity of a legal instrument of any kind] as 'debellatio', but this is a narrower interpretation of the term than other publicists ascribe to it. On the concept of 'debellatio' and the various definitions of this term, cf. K.U. Meyn, 'Debellatio', in R. Bernhardt (ed.) [Encyclopaedia of Public International Law], Instalment 3, p. 145;"
  • Melissa Patterson. Who’s Got the Title? or, The Remnants of Debellatio in Post-Invasion Iraq, Harvard International Law Journal
    Harvard International Law Journal
    The Harvard International Law Journal is the oldest and most-cited academic journal of international law in the United States. It is run and edited by students at Harvard Law School, but relies on input from peer reviewers...

     Volume 47, Number 2, Summer 2006
  • Adam Roberts. Transformative military occupation: applying the laws of war and human rights, 100 The American Journal of International Law. vol 100 pp. 580–622 (2006)
  • Ruth Wedgwood. Judicial Overreach(PDF) Wall Street Journal November 16, 2004
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