Defining International Aggression
The Search for World Peace



(1) The Opening Wedge (1946-1951)

"In faith and trust we hand our Charter down to the future." So said the old veteran of two wars, Jan Christian Smuts, when the United Nations was formed. "We expect that those who come after us will also show no less goodwill and good faith on their part in the great job of peace." |1| Now began the task of trying to translate the high hopes into reality. The Charter, like the Covenant before it, was only a tool, to be used or allowed to rust, by the people it was designed to serve. If it was to achieve its potential for peace, cooperation among the powerful nations was indispensible, but the alliances formed out of the necessities of war were already feeling the strain of conflicting interests arising from competing social systems.

At its first session the General Assembly, by unanimous resolution, affirmed "the principles of international law recognized by the Charter of the Nuernberg Tribunal and the judgment of the Tribunal." |2| It also directed the newly created Committee on the Codification of International Law to formulate the Nuernberg principles in the context of a codification of offences against the peace and security of mankind, or of an International Criminal Code. The Committee in turn recommended the establishment of an International Law Commission, consisting of 15 members, to deal with the problem. |3|

During the next few years, as tensions between the Soviet Union and its war time allies began to mount, very little progress could be recorded in the movement toward the formulation of law as a weapon of peace. In 1948 the Czech government appealed to the Security Council for help on the grounds that it was being threatened by subversion. A veto by the Soviet Union prevented any action by the United Nations. The Soviet blockade of Berlin met a similar fate. In June 1950 hostilities erupted in Korea when Northern forces invaded the South over the post-war partition line which had been established at the 38th Parallel. The Security Council, with the USSR absent, determined that the armed attack was a breach of the peace, and called for a withdrawal of the North Korean troops.

The USSR declared that it was South Korea which had launched an unprovoked attack, and accused the United States of aggression. The question of determining the aggressor was once more before the Council of Nations. |4|

Yugoslavia requested that "Duties of States in the event of Outbreak of Hostilities" be considered by the General Assembly. The Assembly referred the question to the First (Political and Security) Committee, |5| where Yugoslavia proposed that within 24 hours of the outbreak of hostilities every state so engaged must either declare a cease-fire and readiness to withdraw, or be considered an aggressor, and held responsible for the breach of the peace. |6| The United States, the United Kingdom and France were among those in opposition, arguing that such automatic criteria would not be realistic or effective. |7|

The USSR proposed instead that there be an agreement on a definition of aggression in order to eliminate any pretext which might be used to justify it. (DOCUMENT 1) The definition submitted by the USSR was based on their 1933 text, which had been accepted by the Committee on Security Questions of the Disarmament Conference after World War 1. |8| The United States, France, and Canada led the protest against any fixed definition, maintaining that the determination of the aggressor should be left to the discretion of the Security Council. The United States also noted the absence in the proposed definition of any reference to indirect aggression, such as subversion or fomenting of civil strife. The Canadian delegate, recalling the economic blocade of Berlin by Soviet troops in 1948, objected that the Soviet definition failed to designate land blockade as an act of aggression. |9|

Syria proposed that the draft definition of aggression could better be examined in conjunction with matters being considered by the International Law Commission. It was accordingly decided to water down the Yugoslavian resolution so that the entire conduct of the States concerned would have to be taken into account before deciding whether there was an act of aggression. (DOCUMENT 2)

The Soviet resolution was referred to the International Law Commission for further consideration. |10|

The International Law Commission already hact its hands full. It was formulating the Nuernberg principles, including those dealing with aggressive war, and it was trying to reconcile many conflicting views on the possibility or desirability of an international criminal jurisdiction, as well as the nature and content of a draft code of offences against the peace and security of mankind. |11| On the day that the subject was shunted to the International Law Commission, the General Assembly solemnly reaffirmed that:

    "Whatever the weapons used, any aggression, whether committed openly, or by fomenting civil strife inthe interest of a foreign Power, or otherwise, is the gravest of all crimes against peace and security throughout the world." |12|

By 1951 the International Law Commission had stimulated a wide variety of views on the question of defining aggression. (DOCUMENT 3) The Committee took as the basis for discussion a proposed definition submitted by Mr. Alfaro of Panama, It stated:

    Aggression is the threat or use of force by one State or group of States, or by any government or group of governments, against the territory and people of other States or governments, in any manner, by any methods, for any reasons and for any purposes, except individual or collective self-defence against armed attack or coercive action by the United Nations.

The Proposal was defeated.

The Special Rapporteur of the Draft Code of Offences, Mr. J. Spiropoulos, concluded in his report that the concept of aggression was a natural one, which was not susceptible of definition. After exploring many alternatives the Commission recommended that the draft code provide:

    The following acts are offences against the peace and security of mankind:

    (1) Any act of aggression, including the employment by the authorities of a State of armed force against another State for any purpose other than national or collective self-defence or in pursuance of a decision or recommendation by a competent organ of the United Nations.

    (2) Any threat by the authorities of a State to resort to an act of aggression against any other State.

The commentary to the draft code made it clear that acts other than those described could also constitute aggression, and nine additional offences other than aggression, were also listed as violations against the peace and security of mankind.

The International Law Commission's Report was referred to the Sixth (Legal) Committee, which debated a number of alternative resolutions. The Greek representative, supported by the United States, the United Kingdom and others, proposed that aggression should not be defined, but should be left to the complete discretion of the Security Council. The Soviets put forth their own draft definition. Some sought to postpone the debate, but many of the smaller States, felt that it was important to press forward for a definition. The conclusion reached by the Sixth Committee, and approved by the Assembly, was to consider the entire subject, including the draft code, in further detail the next year, since it was considered "possible and desirable" to define aggression "by reference to the elements which constitute it." (DOCUMENT 4).

(2) The Fifteen-Member First Special Committee on the Question of Defining Aggression 1952-1954

When the Assembly met in 1952 it had before it the comments received from governments on the draft code of offences and the definition of aggression, (DOCUMENT 5) a very comprehensive and excellent historical and analytical report prepared by Mr. Chafic Malek and Emile Giraud, of the Secretariat, |13| various draft resolutions, |14| and the Report of the Sixth Committee. |15| All of the many complexities and differences of view concerning the definition of aggression which had been debated were spread on the record. It was enough to overwhelm the most courageous heart. The only

decision which could be reached was to establish a Special Committee, of 15 members, to study the problems the following year and submit a draft definition, or statements of the notion of aggression, two years later. |16|

When the Special Committee of 15 submitted its Report in September 1953, it was able to summarize many of the problems, even if it was unable to reconcile many of the differences. (DOCUMENT 6) |17| The advisability of various types of definitions were considered — whether general, enumerative or mixed. The United States suggestion that the Security Council be given a list of factors to be taken into account when deciding a given case was also considered. |18| The Committee explored the various forms of aggression, and the effect which a definition might have on the maintenance of peace. The impact of the Code of Offences Against Peace and an International Criminal Court were also discussed. The arguments came to focus on specific resolutions submitted by the USSR, China, Mexico and Bolivia. |19|

The new Soviet definition included a reference to acts of "indirect aggression", by which was meant subversive activity. It covered "economic aggression' 1, such as threatening another State's economic life, exploiting its natural riches, or imposing an economic blockade. "Ideological aggression", such as war propaganda or promoting hatred for other peoples, was also condemned. A long list of possible excuses were specifically excluded as justification for any form of aggression. |20|

The Chinese proposal permitted the use of force in defense against an armed attack, pending action by the U.N., or in accordance with a decision or recommendation of a competent U.N. organization.

"Unarmed force" could be met by comparable reprisals. |21|

Mexico wanted the notion of aggression restricted to cases involving the use of force, |22| whereas Bolivia would include as aggression "unilateral action whereby a State is deprived of economic resources ... or its basic economy is endangered so that its security is affected ..." |23| The Special Committee Report merely transmitted the various texts and comments to the Assembly without any proposed resolution.

While the diplomats at the U.N. were busy talking, a brutal colonial war, which had been going on in South East Asia, seemed to be coming to an end. |24| The Geneva Accords of 1954 brought a cessation of hostilities in Vietnam, a temporary partition between North and South, and the expectation of free elections. It was not then anticipated that the area would become the scene of even greater devastation and the source of violent accusations of aggression. |25|

The Sixth Committee meeting at the close of 1954, considered the comments received from various governments regarding the Report of the Special Committee, discussed various new resolutions, and issued its Report. (DOCUMENT 7) Once more there was a wide divergence of opinion on whether it was possible or desirable to define aggression, and what the form and content of any such definition might be. Argentina and Denmark expressed their opposition. |26| The United Kingdom expressed its doubts. |27| The French conveyed their general support, |28| and the Soviet bloc maintained its position in favor of the detailed expose set forth in various USSR proposals. |29|

Some States favored a brief general definition, but the majority seemed to support a mixture of a description in general terms coupled with a list of definite acts of aggression which would illustrate,

but not restrict, the general description. In the absence of any possibility of reaching agreement it was decided by the Assembly, on the recommendation of the Sixth Committee, that an enlarged Special Committee should be created, consisting of 19 rather than 15 members, to meet and report back in two years.

In the meanwhile, the committee which had been appointed in 1952 to consider the question of International Criminal Jurisdiction was also encountering difficulties. Canada, France and the Netherlands favored the establishment of an international criminal court, the Soviet Union and other socialist States were opposed, and the United Kingdom saw no use for it. |30| The International Law Commission was continuing to refine the Draft Code of Offences against the Peace and Security of Mankind. |31| The Assembly, considering the connection between the Draft Code and the question of an international criminal jurisdiction and the question of defining aggression, which had just been postponed, decided to defer any further consideration of either the international criminal court or the draft code of offences until the new Special Committee to define aggression had submitted its report. |32|

(3) The Nineteen-Member Second Special Committee (1954-1957)

Two years later the Special Committee of 19 submitted its report. (DOCUMENT 8) It was a comprehensive document which reviewed the background of the question and surveyed the ideas expressed in previous sessions regarding the possibility and desirability of a definition, its functions, the kinds of activity covered by a definition, the various types of definitions, and the views expressed regarding the many drafts before the committee. Some considered a definition essential to prevent atomic war, |33| and others, such as the Netherlands, considered a definition, if intended as a guide for United Nations organs, to be "useless, dangerous and impossible." |34|

The debate on aggression appeared rather academic in 1956 when Soviet tanks, joined by the armed forces of other satellite states, invaded Hungary for the stated purpose of suppressing a revolt against the Hungarian Communist government. The invasion, justified as aid to a threatened ally, became a fait accompli before the U.N. could take any effective action. War erupted in the Middle East with Israel and Egypt accusing each other of aggression. France and the U.K. intervened to protect their interests in the Suez canal. The U.S. and the USSR joined in demanding a cease-fire and the dispatch of U.N. Emergency Forces to police the armistice. |35| At the other side of the globe the United States was getting increasingly involved in trying to prevent a take-over of all of Vietnam by the Communist forces of North Vietnam. Under the circumstances, the Assembly decided to defer consideration of the definition of aggression, as well as the question of an international criminal court and a code of offences against the peace and security of mankind for yet another year. |36|

By the end of 1957 very little progress had been made. The Sixth Committee debated the report which had been prepared by the Special Committee, |37| and the divisions of opinion previously expressed were only reaffirmed. (DOCUMENT 9) To some members it appeared that the growing international tensions and the increasing armaments race required a clear definition of aggression more than ever before. Others, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, China and Canada argued that a definition might make peace more difficult by providing a false sense of security and restricting the flexibility of the United Nations. |38|

Most members favored postponing the question, and the United States proposed that it be postponed indefinitely. |39| As a compromise, the Sixth Committee recommended that the question be referred to the Assembly's General Committee which would be asked to report back to the Secretary General when it considered that the time was appropriate to take up the subject again. The Assembly did not wish to hear of it for at least two years, but appointed the recommended committee under General Assembly Res. 1181 (XII) of 29 Nov. 1957. |40| In the meanwhile, the views of the 22 new States which had recently joined the U.N. would be solicited. Having again postponed the question of defining aggression, the Assembly decided to also postpone the related questions of the draft Code of Offences Against the Peace and Security of Mankind, and the establishment of an International Criminal Court, until the definition of aggression might once more be considered. |41|

(4) The Twenty-One-Member Third Special Committee (1959-1967)

The prescribed two year waiting period passed before the new Committee, enlarged to 21 members, could meet again. Its study of the 14 comments received from governments convinced it that there had been no change in attitude, and there was no reason to think that the appropriate time had come for the Assembly to again consider the question of defining aggression. The Committee, therefore, resolved, over Soviet protest, to adjourn any further consideration until April 1962, unless an absolute majority requested the Secretary General to have the members convene sooner. (DOCUMENT 10).

Tensions throughout the world were mounting and not easing. Cuba complained to the Security Council in 1960 and 1961 that the United States was committing aggression against it. The Council, recognizing the power of the United States veto, made no attempt at effective action. In 1962 the "Cuban Missile crisis" evoked a major confrontation between the United States and the USSR. The Council was doubly paralyzed. |42|

When April 1962 came around, there had still been no visible inclination to define aggression, and the committee of 21 once more resolved to adjourn, this time to April 1965, unless the majority called for an earlier session. (DOCUMENT 11).

In the meanwhile a Special Committee on Principles of International Law governing Friendly Relations and Cooperation Among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations began to wrestle with some of the problems which were also vexing the Aggression Committee. Relations among States were far from friendly or cooperative.

In 1963 violence erupted in Cyprus, and the dispute between the Turkish minority and the Greek majority was to occupy the U.N. agenda for many years. |43| The Soviets brought the U.N. to a stand-still by refusing to contribute to the support of U.N. peacekeeping operations in Cyprus, or the Congo, where another battle was raging. |44| In 1964 Cambodia complained of aggression by the United States. The United States, escalating its military involvement, was also accused of aggression in Vietnam, while the United States in turn accused Hanoi of aggression against the Republic of Vietnam. |45|

In April 1965, the United Kingdom urged that the Special Committee on Aggression adjourn indefinitely, unless the majority called for them to reconvene. Chile would have adjourned to 1968, and five Powers preferred 1966. The compromise was an agreement to adjourn until April 1967. In the interim, further views of governments would be solicited. (DOCUMENT 12).

During the first half of 1965, India and Pakistan accused each other of aggression. The USSR accused the United States of aggression in the Dominican Republic, and in Vietnam. |46| By 1967, the situation in the middle east was nearing explosion as Egypt threatened the annihilation of Israel, ordered the eviction of U.N. Peace-keeping forces, and blockaded vital Israeli ports. In June hostilities erupted in what Israel called a defensive strike against those poised for her destruction. Egypt argued that it was not legitimate defense since there had been no armed attack on Israel territory. The USSR and allied states lined up to support the Arab bloc, as the United States and the United Kingdom voiced their support for the Israel position. Within a few days Israel succeeded in occupying large areas of the United Arab Republic, Syria and Jordan, and captured substantial amounts of Soviet-made heavy weapons. In the United Nations it became a war of competing resolutions. |47| With the Soviets threatening intervention against Israel, the Security Council finally arranged a cease-fire. The word "aggression" was on everyone's lips, but there was no agreement on what it meant.

When the Special Committee met again to define aggression in 1967, ten years had passed since it had first been designated, and it was still debating whether the time was appropriate for further Assembly action. Finding itself stalled in Committee, the USSR called for the Assembly to act to define aggression. (DOCUMENT 13) Some suspected that it was simply a propaganda move to divert attention from the debacle in the Middle East. In plenary debates, 17 states took the floor to support the new Soviet initiative. |48| In the Sixth Committee, to which the question was referred, most of those who spoke agreed that a definition of aggression was both possible and desirable. An intense debate developed and various draft resolutions were put forth by various combinations of states. |49|

The conclusion finally reached was to establish still another Special Committee, this one consisting of 35 members, "taking into consideration the principle of equitable geographical representation and the necessity that the principal legal systems of the world should be represented." The Committee was to consider all aspects of the question so that an adequate definition of aggression might be prepared, and to report all the views to the Assembly. |50|

At a time when there would have been good reason to conclude that they were chasing rainbows, the members of the United Nations were not ready to surrender. It was once more a manifestation of that indomitable determination to go on in the face of all adversity, in the continuing hope and belief that one day, if one tried hard enough and long enough, the doorway to peace would finally be found. Faced with the choice of hope or despair, there was really no choice.

(5) The Thirty-Five-Member Fourth Special Committee (1967-1974)

In the summer of 1968 the new Special Committee began what was to become a series of annual five-week sessions alternating between New York and Geneva. Its first session was full of political recrimination, particularly between the Soviet Union and the United States and their respective allies. (DOCUMENT 14) The general debate challenged the utility of a definition in the light of all of the aggressions which had occurred while the nations were debating the definition. |51| The form and content of any definition, its relationship to other U.N. instruments and agencies, and its impact on the notion of self-defense were all explored. Four distinct draft proposals were put forward by various combinations of states. |52| After more than a month of debate there was agreement on practically nothing.

The Soviet proposal that the Committee try again the next year met with a mixed reception. |53| Among the 8 nations abstaining were Australia, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, all of which were later to join in a definitional alliance of their own.

During the summer of 1968, Czechoslovakia was suddenly invaded by Soviet tanks and troops, and encircled by the massed armed forces of its other Socialist neighbors. When the matter was brought before the Security Council the USSR maintained that what had occurred was not an act of aggression but an act of collective self-defense to aid the Czechoslovak government to maintain internal peace and security. It was argued that it was an internal affair of the Socialist bloc. It was a sad reminder of the 1956 action in Hungary, and brought forth a verbal confrontation between the North Atlantic Treaty nations of the West on the one hand, and the Warsaw Pact states of the East on the other. The Security Council resolution condemning the intervention was vetoed by the USSR. |54|

As might have been expected, when the Special Committee's report on the definition of aggression came up for debate at the Sixth Committee there were many who argued that the effort to define aggression should be abandoned. (DOCUMENT 15) What was needed was not a definition, but the political will and the power to enforce decisions. Despite the pessimistic outlook, the Sixth Committee accepted the recommendation that the Special Committee should continue its work, and the Assembly agreed. |55|

The next year the four drafts before the Special Committee were merged into three. The Soviet Union maintained its own definition, another draft was put forth by thirteen Powers (Columbia, Cyprus, Ecuador, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Iran, Madagascar, Mexico, Spain, Uganda, Uruguay and Yugoslavia), and for the first time, the six states which had abstained from voting for continuance of the Committee's work, and which were exceedingly skeptical about the whole thing, submitted a draft of their own. (DOCUMENT 16).

As the drafts were compared and debated, the major areas of difference began to emerge. Some of the principle problems were: Whether the definition applied to political entities which were not recognized as states; what acts should be listed as aggressive, the role of aggressive intent, what actions could not be considered aggressive, and what would be the legal consequences of aggression. Not being able to conclude their work, all of the members agreed to recommend that they be allowed to continue in 1970. |56| The Sixth Committee reconsidered the problems raised and agreed with the recommendation. (DOCUMENT 17).

When the Special Committee reconvened in Geneva in the summer of 1970 the efficient Secretariat staff had prepared a comparative chart setting forth in visual detail all of the differences and similarities of the three drafts under consideration. |57| It was clear that the thirteen-Power draft had much in common with the Soviet proposal. In contrast, the six-Power draft contained some new and thorny problems of its own.

A Working Group, composed of representatives supporting each of the different drafts, began to move toward agreement on some of the points of difference. (DOCUMENT 18) At the close of the session it was unanimously concluded that some progress had been made and that the work should be continued. |58| Once again the Sixth Committee debated the Special Committee Report, (DOCUMENT 19) and the Assembly accepted its recommendation that the Special Committee resume its work in 1971. |59|

In the meanwhile, there was growing disenchantment among the American public, and particularly its youth, about the U.S. role in Southeast Asia. Protests became widespread and were soon to have a major impact on America's political leaders.

The 1971 session of the Special Committee produced a number of alternative texts on about half-a-dozen of the principal points of disagreement. (DOCUMENT 20) The United States, which had appeared to be the principal opponent to the Soviet proposals, came forth with new suggestions which seemed to be leaning toward an accomodation. The U.S. was trying to balance the weight to be given to the intent of the parties as compared with the significance of the fact that one party had been the first to use armed force. |60|

By the time the session ended it had generally been accepted that there should be a definition of aggression, and there was no visible disagreement about the format. All concurred that there should be a preamble, restating certain basic principles, a generic definition of aggression, an enumeration of specific acts which clearly indicated aggression, a reaffirmation that the Security Council could determine that other acts were also aggressive, and an explanation of when the use of force would be permissible.

The general content of the preamble was also clear, but there was some quibbling about the formulation of the general definition, and some disagreement about what should be included in the list of aggressive acts. It was recognized that whether or not there was a declaration of war was no longer significant. Invasion, attack, bombardment and blockade were acknowledged indicators of aggression, but the more subtle breaches of the peace, such as subversion and fomenting civil strife, continued to present difficulties.

The thirteen-Power group still insisted that nothing short of an armed attack could lawfully evoke a legitimate response of self-defense. The six Powers wanted greater flexibility and looked to the purposes of the action, while the Soviets still concentrated on which party was the first to use armed might. The Arab states, seeing parts of their land under Israel occupation, were determined to condemn any military occupation or annexation as acts of continuing aggression. Arab and African states argued that any means could lawfully be used in pursuit of the right to self-determination. Once more the conclusion was unanimously reached that the Special Committee should keep trying. |61| The Sixth Committee encouraged the Special Committee to go forward. (DOCUMENT 21).

In terms of additional accomplishment; 1972 was a relatively lean year for the Special Committee. Five separate proposals, largely restating previous positions, were made by various delegations. The Working Group had no time to consider the report of its Negotiating Group, and the Special Committee had no time to consider the report of its Working Group. All the alternatives were simply noted in the draft report, which concluded that the work should be resumed in 1973. (DOCUMENT 22) The Sixth Committee Report contained a concise summary showing the debate on eight distinct parts of the proposed definition. (DOCUMENT 23) With the picture now coming so clearly into focus the Committee joined in the recommendation that the work be resumed. |62| Despite all the differences, and the fact that progress had slowed to a snail's pace, the outlines of compromise were unmistakable, and the hope began to be expressed that a definition by consensus would soon be possible. |63| The Assembly, considering the "desirability of achieving the definition of aggression as soon as possible" resolved that the Special Committee should take up its task again in Geneva the following year. |64|

The United States was now embarked on a program of de-escalating the war in Vietnam, and moved toward possible new accommodations not only with the Soviet Union, but also with the Chinese Peoples Republic which had been admitted to the UN in 1971, and which was visited by President Nixon in 1972. The word "detente" began to be heard as often as one had previously heard the word "aggression".

As the committee met in the calm atmosphere of Geneva in 1973, there were times when the delegates expressed confidence that they were finally on the verge of reaching an agreement which had eluded statesmen and scholars for over half a century. |65| For the first time the plethora of drafts had been consolidated into a single document which allowed the few major points of difference to be isolated and exposed. The consensus definition was in sight.

The doubts about the usefulness of a definition were no longer expressed. There was recognition that it was most desirable that the definition be accepted by consensus. There was considerable harmony regarding the principles to be contained in a definition, but some differences about wording and sequence still remained. Agreement had already been reached that only the Security Council should have authority and discretion to decide about aggression. The list of enumerated acts was almost closed, and there was an understanding that minor incidents would be excluded. It was accepted that both the first use of armed force and the intent of the parties would have to be taken into account, and that certain forms of indirect aggression would have to be included in a list of aggressive acts.

The principle that defensive response would have to be proportionate to the aggressive attack, was no longer being discussed. It had been dropped in deference to the strong Soviet opposition. The circumstances under which force could lawfully be employed in self-defense was also eliminated as a problem by relying on a general reference to the Charter.

Although there were some reservations regarding some words in the preamble and the generic definition, the major disagreement hinged around less than half a dozen points. How to allocate the relative weight to be given to the fact that one party had struck the first blow, or that another had lawful intentions, still presented a problem. Some expressed doubts about whether attacks on marine and air fleets should be enumerated among the aggressive acts, and there was some uncertainty about how to deal with armed forces overstaying their welcome in another state, or using foreign territory for unlawful activities. There was strong disagreement about whether armed force could lawfully be used as part of a struggle for self-determination, and even the description of the legal consequences of aggression was not free from dispute. |66|

When the Special Committee concluded its work in May 1973 it was able to submit for further deliberation a single consolidated draft defining aggression. It consisted of a preamble and seven articles. Relatively few counter-proposals were submitted for consideration by only 10 of the 35 members of the committee. (DOCUMENT 24) The Committee noted with satisfaction that the progress had been such that it might be possible to prepare a generally acceptable draft definition at its next session. |67| The Sixth Commit-tee commented on each article of the draft and unanimously concluded that the Special Committee should meet early in 1974 "with a view to completing its task" for the next session of the Assembly. (DOCUMENT 25) The Assembly agreed. |68| If what was conceived in Geneva in 1973 could be carried forward to New York in 1974, a consensus definition of aggression was about to be born.


1. 1 UNCIO 711, 26 June 1945. [Back]

2. Res. 95(I), GAOR, First Sess., Plenary 55, at 1144, Dec. 11, 1946. [Back]

3. Doc. A/504, GAOR, 2nd Sess., Item No. 117, Nov. 21, 1947. [Back]

4. See GAOR, Fifth Sess., Supp. 1 (A/1287), Annual Report of the Sec. Gen., 1 July 1949-30 June 1950, at 21-23. [Back]

5. GAOR, Fifth Sess. Meetings of the First Comm., (A/1501), 4 Nov.-9 Nov. 1950. [Back]

6. Doc. A/C.1/604. [Back]

7. See note 5 supra. [Back]

8. Vol. I, DOCUMENT 9 at 237-238. [Back]

9. See note 5 supra. [Back]

10. DOCUMENT 2, Res. 378(V)B., 17 Nov. 1950. [Back]

11. GAOR, Fifth Sess., Supp. 12 (A/1316), Report of the ILC, 5 June-29 June 1950, at 11-17. The Chairman of the ILC, Prof. Georges Scelle of France, had for many years beenconvinced that every use of armed force, even for a just cause, would constitute the crime of aggression. His views were shared by Prof. V.V. Pella of Bucharest, and Mr. Ricardo J. Alfaro of Panama, all of whom were to become outstanding champions of the idea of an international criminal court and a definition of aggression. For a contrary view and citations to some of their writings see Stone, J., Aggression and World Order (1958); see also Vol. I herein, Note 1 supra. [Back]

12. DOCUMENT 2, Res. 380 (V), 17 Nov. 1950. [Back]

13. DOCUMENT 5, (A/2211) at 17-81. [Back]

14. See Id. at 81-86. See also Johnson, "The Draft Code of Offenses Against the Peace and Security of Mankind", 4 Int. and Comp. Law Qtrly 445 (1955). [Back]

15. DOCUMENT 5 at 86-91. [Back]

16. Res. 688 (VII) DOCUMENT 5 at 91, 20 Dec. 1952. [Back]

17. See also Memo of the Secretariat, Some Aspects of the Definition of Aggression, A/AC.66/1, 5 Aug. 1953. [Back]

18. DOCUMENT 6 at 5. [Back]

19. See DOCUMENT 6, Annex, for texts submitted to the Committee. [Back]

20. DOCUMENT 6 at 13-14. [Back]

21. Id. at 14. [Back]

22. Id. [Back]

23. Id. at 15. [Back]

24. See Fall, B.B., Hell in a Very Small Place (1966). [Back]

25. See Falk, R.A., Ed. The Vietnam War and International Law, 3 Vols. (1968-1972): Ferencz, B.B. "War Crimes Law and the Vietnam War," 17 American Univ. Law Rev. 403 (1968). [Back]

26. DOCUMENT 7 at 2. [Back]

27. Id. at 6. [Back]

28. Id. at 2. [Back]

29. Id. at 2, 3, 5. [Back]

30. GAOR, Ninth Sess., Supp. 12, (A/2645), Committee on Intern. Criminal Jurisdiction. 27 July-20 Aug. 1953. [Back]

31. GAOR, Ninth Sess., Supp. No. 9 (A/2693), 3 June-28 July 1954. [Back]

32. Res. 898(IX), as recommended by the Sixth Committee in itsReport A/2827 and Corr. 1, and adopted by the General Assembly on 14 Dec. 1954. [Back]

33. DOCUMENT 8 at 6. [Back]

34. Id. at 6, 24. [Back]

35. See GAOR, Twelfth Sess., Supp. 1, (A/3594), Annual Report of the Sec. Gen., 16 June 1956-15 June 1957, at 1-25. [Back]

36. DOCUMENT 8 at iii. [Back]

37. A/3574, DOCUMENT 8 supra. [Back]

38. A/3576, DOCUMENT 9 at 2-5.At the end of 1957 Prof. Stone was completing his very critical book "Aggression and World Order" (1958) His pessimism was not universally shared. See Sohn, L.B.,"The Definition of Aggression" 45 Virg. Law Rev. 697 (1959):Wright, Q., "The Prevention of Aggression", 50 AJIL 514 (1956), Brownlie, I., International Law and the Use of Force by States (1963). [Back]

39. Doc. A/C.6/L 402, DOCUMENT 9 supra at 1. [Back]

40. The text of the resolution appears in DOCUMENT 10 infra. at 1. [Back]

41. Resolutions 1186, 1187 (XII) 11 Dec. 1957. Prof. Quincy Wrightconsidered a definition of aggression to be vital to the objective of eliminating war. See The Role of International Law in the Elimination of War (1961) at 59. [Back]

42. The Council met from Oct. 23 to 25 on request of the U.S., Cuba and the USSR. The U.S. considered the emplacement of Soviet-made long-range missiles in Cuba to be a threat to the peace. Cuba accused the U.S. of aggression when it placed a naval blockade around Cuba. The U.S. called it a "quarantine". The USSR arguedthat its missiles were for defense only. [Back]

43. See GAOR, Seventeenth Sess. Supp. 1, (A/5201), Ann. Report of the Sec. Gen. June 1961-June 1962. [Back]

44. See GAOR, Eighteenth Sess., Suppl I (A/5501/Add.1), Ann. Report of the Sec. Gen., June 1962-June 1963. [Back]

45. See GAOR, Nineteenth Sess. Supp. 1, (A/5801/Add. 1), Ann. Report of the Sec. Gen., June 1963-June 1964; and GAOR Twentieth Sess., Supp.IA (A/6001/Add.1), June 1964-June 1965. [Back]

46. See GAOR, Twenty-first Sess. Supp. I (A/6301),Ann. Report of the Sec. Gen., June 1965-June 1966. [Back]

47. See GAOR, Twenty-second Sess., Supp. 1 (A/6701) Ann. Report of the Sec. Gen., June 1966-June 1967. [Back]

48. GAOR, Twenty-second, Plenary Meetings at 1572, 1611-1618, 1637-1638. (1967). [Back]

49. A/6988, DOCUMENT 13 at 4-8. [Back]

50. Res. 2330 (XXII), 18 Dec. 1967, Text in A/7185, DOCUMENT 14 infra. at 1-2. See Hazard, J.N., Ed. Comment "Why Try Again to Define Aggression?" 62 AJIL 701 (1968). [Back]

51. A/7185, DOCUMENT 14 at 13-19. [Back]

52. Id. at 25-32. [Back]

53. Id. at 34. [Back]

54. See GAOR, Twenty-fourth Sess. Supp. 1 (A/7601) Ann. Report ofthe Sec. Gen., at 54-56, 23 Aug. 1968. [Back]

55. Res. 2420 (XXIII) text reproduced in A/7620, DOCUMENT 16 infra at 1. A U.S. Adviser described the search for a definition as"absolute nonsense', and explained that "you can't beat something with nothing" so a U.S. draft was prepared, and then the U.S. was committed to going along with the exercise. See N.Y. Times, Dec. 9,1971 at 14. The Soviet representative co-authored an article sharply critical of the U.S. position. See Chkhikvadzg and Bogdanov, "Who is Hindering Progress in the Definition of Aggression?", 10 Int'l Affairs 22 (1971). [Back]

56. DOCUMENT 16 at 32. [Back]

57. Doc. A/AC.134/L.22, 24 July 1970. [Back]

58. A/8019, DOCUMENT 18 at 53. [Back]

59. Res. 2644 (XXV); text reproduced in A/8419, DOCUMENT 20 infra at 1. [Back]

60. A/8419, DOCUMENT 20 at 29. [Back]

61. A/8419, DOCUMENT 20 at 21. Prof. Schwarzenberger described the work of the Special Committee as "a comic-opera seeking to create the illusion that a solution is round the corner – never to be turned". See International Law and Order (1971) at 21 [Back]

62. A/8719, DOCUMENT 22 at 6. [Back]

63. See Ferencz, B.B. "Defining Aggression: Where it Stands and Where It's Going", 66 A.J.I.L. 491-508, July 1972; Ferencz, B.B.,"A Proposed Definition of Aggression: By Compromise and Consensus", 22 Int'l and Comp. Law Qtrly, 407-433, July 1973, issued as a pre-print with an introduction by Prof. Erik Suy, by the International Commission of Jurists, Geneva, Mar. 1973. [Back]

64. Res. 2967 (XXVII) text reproduced in A/9019, DOCUMENT 24 infra at 1. [Back]

65. See U.N. Doc. A/AC.134/SR. 108,109 (1973). In Philadelphia the Bar Association proposed the enactment of a Uniform Reciprocal Peace Act making aggressive war a crime under domestic law; See remarks of Senator Hugh Scott, Cong. Rec. July 12, 1973. [Back]

66. For an analysis of the points of agreement and disagreement at the close of the 1973 session see Ferencz, B.B. "Defining Aggression, The Last Mile", 12 Columbia Jour. of Transnational Law 430-463 (1973). [Back]

67. A/9019, DOCUMENT 24 at 5. [Back]

68. Res. 3105 (XXVIII) text reproduced in A/9619, DOCUMENT 26 infra at 1. [Back]

Editorial Note: This document corresponds to Part III of "Defining International Aggression - The Search for World Peace", Vol. 2, by Benjamin B. Ferencz.

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