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A Four-Fold Evil? The Crime of Aggression and the Case of Western Sahara

In: International Criminal Law Review
Author: J.J. Smith1
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In 2010 the international community codified the crime of aggression. But the jurisdiction of courts and definition of acts encompassed by the crime would remain incomplete. Western Sahara now appears to be the only situation where it is possible to prosecute aggression. The development of the crime is reviewed and the circumstances of aggression in Western Sahara are addressed starting with the territory’s invasion in 1975. The analysis moves to Spain’s 2014 adoption of the crime, its national criminal law jurisdiction and the limits to retroactivity in the case of Western Sahara. Occupation and annexation, as presumptive second and third acts of aggression in Western Sahara, are reviewed. A fourth act of aggression not explicitly defined in 2010 is examined, the intentional denial of a non-self-governing people’s right to self-determination. Defences to aggression in Western Sahara are evaluated. Lessons for future development and application of the crime are discussed.

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