Introducing the fifth battlefield : cyber warfare and applicability of IHL therein
Mohsen Abdollahi, Parastou Esmailzadeh Molabashi
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AALCO journal of international law, Vol. 3, issue 2, 2014, p. 95-118
The rules applicable to cyber warfare and cyber attacks have become a main concern in international plane. International humanitarian law (IHL) and the law of armed conflicts as governing body of law to any armed conflicts do not explicitly contain any treaty or custom regulating the cyber attacks or any provision which outlaw them. Fundamental principles of IHL provide that an armed conflict occurs when an attack results in injury, death, damages or destruction. A cyber attack does not always lead to an armed conflict. However according to the effect-based approach which is also reflected in Tallinn Manual, it is logically concluded and deduced that a cyber attack may constitute an armed conflict if an attack results in physical injury to a person, death or damages to objects. Due to the elasticity of IHL, some cyber attacks can be adjusted to these rules, although some argue that the principle of proportionality and distinction are challenged in this respect. About the Stuxnet virus as a case study, since the virus has been disabled, it did not reach the threshold of an armed attack. Nevertheless, the charter and the customary international law about prohibition on the use of force have been violated.