This past year, the international judicial community has made huge strides in combatting terrorism and aggression of nations by finally agreeing to definitions for these terms. The difficulty and significance of nations agreeing to definitions for terrorism and aggression should not be underestimated.
These definitions, in no uncertain terms, were agreed upon by states from a variety of cultural, political and economic backgrounds, and bind the conduct of their states to definitions they agreed upon. These definitions will create more opportunities for nations to be held accountable for crimes that fall within the agreed-upon definition of these terms. I applaud the diplomats involved.
So, what are these definitions? Let’s take a look!
- Aggression, which was defined at the Rome Conference in July 2010 that reviewed the work of the International Criminal Court, is the following: the use of armed force by one State against another State without the justification of self-defense or authorization by the Security Council. The definition of the act of aggression, as well as the actions qualifying as acts of aggression contained in the amendments (for example invasion by armed forces, bombardment and blockade), are influenced by the UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 (XXIX) of 14 December 1974.
- Terrorism, which was defined clearly for the first time in a recent decision by the Appeals Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, is: the perpetration of a criminal act (such as murder, kidnapping, hostage-taking, arson, and so on), or threatening such an act; (ii) the intent to spread fear among the population (which would generally entail the creation of public danger) or directly or indirectly coerce a national or international authority to take some action, or to refrain from taking it; (iii) when the act involves a transnational element.
To be fair, definitions have not always worked in the past. Genocide is the clear example, they don’t always provide an impetus for action (Sudan) or the word becomes so associated with necessary action that there is an extreme avoidance of using the word despite the fact that it is the only term to describe a given situation (Rwanda).
The benefit of these terms, however, is that it gives those who draft international covenants, conventions, treaties, and all the rest of that documentation, a clear framework for addressing key issues in international law and politics.