Delegitimising Aggression: First Steps and False Starts after the First World War
Kirsten Sellars, 'Delegitimising Aggression: First Steps and False Starts after the First World War', Journal of International Criminal Justice 10 (2012), 7-40.
40 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2011 Last revised: 28 May 2019
Date Written: August 21, 2011
The interwar years marked the movement in international law towards the prohibition of aggressive war. Yet a notable feature of the 1920s and 1930s, despite suggestions to the contrary at the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals, was the absence of legal milestones marking the advance towards the criminalisation of aggression. Lloyd George’s proposal to arraign the ex-Kaiser for starting the First World War came to nothing. Resolutions mentioning the ‘international crime’ of aggression, such as the draft Treaty for Mutual Assistance and the Geneva Protocol, were never ratified. And the Kellogg-Briand Pact, while renouncing war ‘as an instrument of national policy’, made no mention at all of aggression, much less individual responsibility for it. Not until the closing stages of the Second World War, with defeat of the Axis powers within sight, did politicians and jurists reconsider the problem of how to deal with enemy leaders, and contemplate the role that a charge of aggression might play in this process.
Keywords: Aggressive War, Definition of Aggression, International Law, League of Nations Covenant. Draft Treaty of Mutual Assistance, Geneva Protocol, Kellogg-Briand Pact, Disarmament Conference
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation