Aerial View of the Persian Gulf / NASA
17 December 2019
Our new War Report article The United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran: an International Armed Conflict of Low-Intensity analyses the June 2019 shooting down by Iran of a United States (US) military drone and the alleged US counter cyber-attack.
Written by Miloš Hrnjaz, Assistant Professor of International Law at the University of Belgrade and former Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy, the article details the recent incidents between the US and Iran in the Persian Gulf that culminated in June 2019 and provides a solid background to the overall US-Iran relationship since the beginning of the 20th century.
The article then discusses whether the shooting down by Iran of a US military drone and the subsequent alleged US counter cyber-attack can be classified as an IAC, and concludes that an IAC of low intensity took place between the two countries in June 2019, triggering the application of international humanitarian law (IHL) during that short time.
‘The author raises a series of interesting questions and challenges related to the classification of armed conflicts, including whether a single attack on an unarmed drone is enough to trigger the existence of an IAC’ underlines Dr Annyssa Bellal, Strategic Adviser on IHL and Senior Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.
‘The article also highlights that cyber-attacks pose a serious classification challenge as states are reluctant to comment on their cyber operations, as shown in this specific case. While there is no doubt that cyber activities carried out by one state against another in conjunction with or in support of more classical military operations amount to an IAC, the key challenge is the usual lack of information concerning this kind of attacks and the official policies of many states to not disclose them’ she adds.
Our Senior Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser on IHL Dr Annyssa Bellal travelled this summer to North-East Syria with colleagues from Geneva Call – Ezequiel Heffes and Pascal Bongard – as part of the research project she leads that examines the practice and interpretation of ANSAs on core IHL norms.
NASA on Unsplash
In her winning essay Digital Safe Havens: Sheltering Civilians From Military Cyber Operations, Isabelle Peart brings forward novel suggestions on how to reduce the risk of harm to civilians posed by military cyber operations.
In this online book launch – part of our IHL Talk series – Professor René Provost will discuss with leading scholars in IHL and human rights the legal and practical challenges related to the administration of justice by armed groups.
This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, discusses the protection offered by international humanitarian law (IHL) in non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) and addresses some problems and controversies specific to IHL of NIACs, including the difficulty to ensure the respect of IHL by armed non-state actors.
This research aims at building a common understanding and vision as to how states and the relevant parts of the UN system can provide a concrete and practical framework to address human rights responsibilities of armed non-state actors.
This project aims at compiling and analysing the practice and interpretation of selected international humanitarian law and human rights norms by armed non-state actors (ANSAs). It has a pragmatic double objective: first, to offer a comparative analysis of IHL and human rights norms from the perspective of ANSAs, and second, to inform strategies of humanitarian engagement with ANSAs, in particular the content of a possible ‘Model Code of Conduct’.