Military government may be broadly characterized as the administration or supervision of territory after invasion, conquest, or otherwise being brought under the control of foreign armed forces -- a condition which is called military occupation. It is alternately defined as the form of administration by which an occupying power exercises governmental authority over occupied territory. Military government is distinguished from martial law, which is the temporary rule by domestic armed forces over disturbed areas.
The rules of military government are delineated in various international agreements, primarily the Hague Conventions of 1907, the Geneva Conventions of 1949, as well as established state practice. The relevant international conventions, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Commentaries, and other treatises by military scholars provide guidelines on such topics as rights and duties of the occupying power, protection of civilians, treatment of prisoners of war, coordination of relief efforts, issuance of travel documents, property rights of the populace, handling of cultural and art objects, management of refugees, and other concerns which are very important both before and after the cessation of hostilities. A country that establishes a military government and violates internationally agreed upon norms runs the risk of censure, criticism, or condemnation. In the current era, the practices of military government have largely become a part of customary international law, and form a part of the laws of war.
The Hague Conventions of 1907 specify that "territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.". The form of administration by which an occupying power exercises government authority over occupied territory is called "military government." Neither the Hague Conventions nor the Geneva Conventions specifically define or distinguish an act of "invasion." The terminology of "occupation" is used exclusively.
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