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Definition of "Aggressor" at the League of Nations Conference

SOVIET PROPOSAL

Definition of "Aggressor" at the League of Nations Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments On the 6th February 1933

On the 6th February 1933 the then Foreign Commissar of the Soviet Union, Litvinov submitted to the League of Nations Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments the following definition of "Aggressor":

Considering that, in the interest of general security and in order to facilitate the attainment of an agreement for the maximum reduction of armaments, it is necessary, with the utmost precision, to define aggression, in order to remove any possibility of its justification; Recognising the principle of equal right of all States to independence, security and self-defence;

Animated by the desire of ensuring to each nation, in the interest of general peace, the right of free development according to its own choice and at the rate that suits it best, and of safeguarding the security, independence and complete territorial inviolability of each State and its right to self-defence against attack or invasion from outside but only within its own frontiers; and

Anxious to provide the necessary guidance to the international organs which may be called upon to define the aggressor:

Declares:

  1. The aggressor in an international conflict shall be considered that State which is the first to take any of the following actions:

(a) Declaration of war against another State;
(b) The invasion by its armed forces of the territory of another State without declaration of war;
(c) Bombarding the territory of another State by its land, naval or air forces or knowingly attacking the naval or air forces of another State;
(d) The landing in, or introduction within the frontiers of, another State of land, naval or air forces without the permission of the Government of such a State, or the infringement of the conditions of such permission particularly as regards the duration of sojourn or extension of area;
(e) The establishment of a naval blockade of the coast or ports of another State.

  1. No considerations whatsoever of a political, strategical or economic nature, including the desire to exploit natural riches or to obtain any sort of advantages or privileges on the territory of another State, no references to considerable capital investments or other special interests in a given State, or to the alleged absence of certain attributes of State organisation in the case of a given country, shall be accepted as justification of aggression as defined in Clause 1. in particular, justification for attack cannot be based upon:

A. The internal situation in a given State, as, for instance:
(a) Political, economic or cultural backwardness of a given country;
(b) Alleged maladministration;
(c) Possible danger to life or property of foreign residents;
(d) Revolutionary or counter-revolutionary movements, civil war, disorders or strikes;
(e) The establishment or maintenance in any State of any political, economic or social order.

B. Any acts, laws or regulations of a given State, as for instance:
(a) The infringement of international agreements;
(b) The infringement of the commercial, concessional or other economic rights or interests of a given State or its citizens;
(c) The rupture of diplomatic or economic relations;
(d) Economic or financial boycott;
(e) Repudiation of debts;
(f) Non-admission or limitation of immigration, or restriction of rights or privileges of foreign residents;
(g) The infringement of the privileges of official representatives of other States;
(h) The refusal to allow armed forces transit to the territory of a third State;
(i) Religious or anti-religious measures;
(k) Frontier incidents.

  1. In the case of the mobilisation or concentration of armed forces to a considerable extent in the vicinity of the frontiers, the State which such activities threaten may have recourse to diplomatic or other means for the peaceful solution of international controversies. it may at the same time take steps of a military nature, analogous to those described above, without, however, crossing the frontier."

    The General Commission decided to embody the above principles in the Convention on security and disarmament, or in a special agreement to form an integral part of the said Convention.

Following the Soviet proposals the Committee on Security Questions drew up, on instructions by the Political Committee of March 10, 1933, a draft Act relating to the Definition of the Aggressor. This Act in general, reproduced the substance of the Soviet proposals, adding in the inculpating acts that of supporting armed bands, and omitting the Soviet paragraph 1 (d) dealing with the landing or introduction of forces into the territory of another State. The added sub-paragraph designated as aggression:

Source:
League of Nations Records of the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments, Ser. B. Minutes of the Cen. Com.Vol. 1, Geneva, 1932, pp. 237-38. Cité p.16 dans Security and Non-aggression, Baltic States and USSR Treaties on Non-aggression de E.Krepp, édité par Estonian Inforamtion Centre & Latvian National Foundation, Stockholm 1973

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AND

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AGREED CONVENTION
Article I.

Each of the High Contracting Parties undertakes to accept in its relations with each of the other Parties, from the date of the entry into force of the present Convention, the definition of aggression as explained in the report dated May 24th, 1933, of the Committee on Security Questions (Politis report) to the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments, which report was made in consequence of the proposal of the Soviet delegation.

Article II.

Accordingly, the aggressor in an international conflict shall, subject to the agreements in force between the parties to the dispute, be considered to be that State which is the first to commit any of the following actions:

(1) Declaration of war upon another State;
(2) Invasion by its armed forces, with or without a declaration of war, of the territory of another State;
(3) Attack by its land, naval or air forces, with or without a declaration of war, on the territory, vessels or aircraft of another State;
(4) Naval blockade of the coasts or ports of another State;
(5) Provision of support to armed bands formed in its territory which have invaded the territory of another State, or refusal, notwithstanding the request of the invaded State, to take, in its own territory, all the measures in its power to deprive those bands of all assistance or protection.

Article III.

No political, military, economic or other considerations may serve as an excuse or justification for the aggression referred to in Article II. (For examples, see Annex.)

Article IV.

The present Convention shall be ratified by each of the High Contracting Parties in accordance with its laws.

The instruments of ratification shall be deposited by each of the High Contracting Parties with the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

As soon as the instruments of ratification have been deposited by two of the High Contracting Parties, the present Convention shall come into force as between those two Parties. The Convention shall come into force as regards each of the other High Contracting Parties when it deposits its instruments of ratification.

Each deposit of instruments of ratification shall immediately be notified by the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to all the signatories of the present Convention.

Article V.

The present Convention has been signed in eight copies, of which each of the High Contracting Parties has received one.

In faith whereof the above-named Plenipotentiaries have signed the present Convention and have thereto affixed their seals.

Done in London, July 3rd, 1933.

ANNEX
TO ARTICLE III OF THE CONVENTION RELATING TO THE DEFINITION OF AGGRESSION.

The High Contracting Parties signatories of the Convention relating to the definition of aggression,

Desiring, subject to the express reservation that the absolute validity of the rule laid down in Article III of that Convention shall be in no way restricted, to furnish certain indications for determining the aggressor,

Declare that no act of aggression within the meaning of Article II of that Convention can be justified on either of the following grounds, among others

A. The internal condition of a State :

E.g., its political, economic or social structure ; alleged defects in its administration; disturbances due to strikes, revolutions, counter-revolutions, or civil war.

B. The international conduct of a State :

E.g., the violation or threatened violation of the material or moral rights or interests of a foreign State or its nationals; the rupture of diplomatic or economic relations ; economic or financial boycotts; disputes relating to economic, financial or other obligations towards foreign States ; frontier incidents not forming any of the cases of aggression specified in Article II.

The High Contracting Parties further agree to recognise that the present Convention can never legitimate any violations of international law that may be implied in the circumstances comprised in the above list.

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