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.
In his latest report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the UN Secretary-General refers to our Guidelines on Investigating Violation of IHL, co-published with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Patricia Ötvös is a lawyer with over 15 years of experience as a litigator, legal counsel and human rights advisor. In this interview, she tells about the programme and what it brought to her career.
This project, initiated in 2014 by the Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law, Professor Noam Lubell, intends to identify, via expert meetings and research, a set of best practices that states should apply when they investigate or examine alleged violations or misconduct in situations of armed conflict.
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’.