The Place of Aggression in the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine
R. Barnes and V. Tzevelekos (eds.), Beyond Responsibility to Protect: Generating Change in International Law, Intersentia, 2016
20 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2017 Last revised: 14 Jul 2017
Date Written: 2016
The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine is concerned with the protection of civilian populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. What these international crimes have in common is that they are usually perpetrated by governments or non-State actors against their own populations. The crime of aggression is excluded from R2P’s scope. This seems to be explained by the fact that the threat posed to a population is external, as the crime is perpetrated by a foreign State. However, the inherent gravity of this crime makes it necessary to consider whether aggression ought to find a place in the doctrine.
The aim of the paper is to discuss de lege ferenda the scenario of a broadened R2P doctrine that would encompass aggression. Two main points are made in this respect. First, it is argued that the protective purpose of R2P supports its extension to the crime of aggression. Second, that R2P may offer a useful framework for coordinating decentralised State reaction against acts of aggression. The main argument is that this doctrine may assist in coordinating decentralised State reaction to acts of aggression.
The analysis’ assumption is that what marks the relationship between R2P and international law is interaction: each enacts changes upon and is changed by the other, in a relation of mutual influence. Including the crime of aggression within R2P would mean significantly broadening and modifying the original scope of the doctrine, thereby extending the protection of civilian populations. This, in turn, would allow coordination and improved application of the law of State responsibility and collective self-defence when the crime of aggression is committed. R2P is understood to have a transformative power in that it may cause major changes to the effectiveness of decentralised State reaction to acts of aggression.
Keywords: Aggression; Crime of Aggression; Responsibility to Protect; R2P; International Crimes; Mass atrocities; State Responsibility
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