Prescription (LAW)


Prescription (law) is the method of sovereignty transfer of a territory through international law analogous to the common law doctrine of adverse possession for private real-estate. Prescription involves the open encroachment by the new sovereign upon the territory in question for a prolonged period of time, acting as the sovereign, without protest or other contest by the original sovereign. Basically, this doctrine legalizes de jure the de facto transfer of sovereignty caused in part by the original sovereign’s extended negligence and/or neglect of the area in question. Prescription can also be said to have occurred when, in the context of a territorial dispute, the situation has developed to such a degree that to restore sovereignty to the original "rightful" sovereign would disrupt the established order to such a degree as to be unfeasible; hence the transfer of sovereignty de jure to the new sovereign.

Acquiring a piece of movable or immovable property by prescription is known as "acquisitive prescription" while losing that same piece of property is known as extinctive prescription.