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GA6­ Aggression Topic

Aggression is a concept that has far reaching applications for the United Nations (UN) because now the UN has come to a crossroads where the individual has the power to commit crimes of aggression as well as the state. The concept of aggression has yet to be defined in a comprehensible manner. Aggression and how it relates to international politics is not new to the United Nations. The present twist on the concept is rather whether the United Nations has the jurisdiction to stop individuals—as opposed to states—from committing the crime of aggression. This question must first be answered in order to define aggression. We must look, however, to what the UN has done in the past to define and deal with aggression. We must, next, look at the difference between individuals and states in terms of crimes of aggression. Finally, we must examine what conclusions can be drawn regarding what the UN and the International Criminal Court can do to protect global peace and security from crimes of aggression.

The United Nations has dealt with crimes of aggression in the past but in a limited way. The Charter Article 39 of chapter seven states that “… the Security Council has the duty to determine the existence of any breach of peace or act of aggression and to take the necessary measures needed to maintain or restore international peace.” This effectually states that crimes of aggression by states are the primary responsibility of the Security Council, but it says nothing about what is to be done with cases of individuals who commit crimes of aggression. Another instance in which the United Nations dealt with aggression in a concrete way is in the General Assembly resolution from 1978, GARes 33/73, in which the UN calls on all states to cease wars of aggression and to cease propaganda for such wars. This resolution calls for a cease of aggression, but fails to define it in any set form. That a resolution has been written to cease wars of aggression between states, however, should mean that the UN has some idea of what aggression is.

Let us now examine the difference between the aggression of nations and of peoples. Aggression of states is the hostile, overt, and destructive wars that a nation may have. Aggression by individuals is one of two things: either terrorist acts not affiliated with government or natural revolutionary actions inside a country. Stephan Mathias, Assistant Legal for the UN Affairs, U.S Department of State says, “… the Security Council has the right to determine what is and isn’t aggression, rather than establishing every unlawful use of force as aggression.” Under the Rome Statute, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is also given jurisdiction over crimes of aggression. The Rome Statute is a document that establishes the ICC and also sets forth international law. The ruling on what is and is not aggression, then, is given to the ICC as well. Most past cases of aggression, however, pertain exclusively to States rather than individuals. Can the UN stop individuals and factions from committing these same crimes of aggression? Either the UN has jurisdiction over the individual as well as the nation, or individuals have only those rights that nations give. If the latter is true and individuals can rise up in either reasonable acts of revolution or unwarranted aggression, without the threat of UN involvement, then problems in regions like Tibet and Chechnya cannot be stopped by the United Nations. But if the former is true then uprisings can be stopped by peacekeepers.

What is being done to define aggression in the realm of international politics? Stephan Mathias says that “ the proposal [about the definition of aggression] as we understand it appears to merge two concepts- aggression on the one hand and the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of another State.” This presents a dichotomy between normal revolutionary acts and terrorism. If the ICC and the Security Council have the power to define acts of aggression, then definition is relative to the current Security Council members and ICC judges. This is dangerous. For relativism can lead to certain countries being picked on and singled out by others for petty disputes to which the UN may or may not dispatch troops. This fear of relativism is driving the United States to deny the legitimacy of the ICC, because it fears that American enemies will define the peace keeping efforts in Bosnia, Indonesia, and Somalia as crimes of aggression.

The burden of this year’s GA6 committee is to determine once and for all the difference between individuals’ acts of aggression and normal revolutionary efforts; and to determine whether it is the duty and the right of the UN or the countries in question to stop these acts. Only then can the countries of the UN follow international law and true war criminals be brought to justice in the ICC—with the full support of all.

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