Conflicts in space : international humanitarian law and its application to space warfare
by Dale Stephens and Cassandra Steer
Host item entries:
Annals of air and space law, Vol. XL, 2015, p. 1-32
This article discusses the ways in which international humanitarian law (IHL) applies to the domain of outer space. IHL is applicable as a matter of international law, yet outer space poses some challenges when it comes to specific principles and rules. A brief outline is given of some of the kinds of weapons that have been and might be used in space, as well as the ways in which space assets are used with respect to conflicts on Earth. This is followed by an in depth analysis of the core principles of IHL and how they apply: the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack. While it is imperative that States recognise that IHL is applicable to all their activities in space that involve conflicts on Earth and/or in space, care must be taken in weighing up the traditional principles and their application to this new domain. As the technology that increases war-fighting capability advances, so does the imperative to understand the applicable legal framework for the use of such technology.