Applicability of the Additional Protocols to Computer Network Attacks

19-11-2004by Knut Dörmann

The purpose of this contribution is to explore whether international humanitarian law (IHL) in general applies to computer network attacks (CNA) and what specific prohibitions or limitations on the use of computer network attacks follow from international humanitarian law, in particular from the Additional Protocols - International Expert Conference on Computer Network Attacks and the Applicability of International Humanitarian Law, Stockholm, 17-19.11.2004


Dr. Knut Dörmann
is Deputy Head of the Legal Division, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Geneva.  



  • 1. Introductory remarks

  • 2. Do the rules giving effect to the principle of distinction apply to CNA and how should they be applied?

- The prohibition of indiscriminate attacks

- Does CNA allow the targeting of a broader range of objects?

- Precautions in attack

  • 3. What prohibitions or limitations to CNA follow from rules giving special protection to certain objects?

  • 4. What activities of civilians relating to CNA constitute direct participation in hostilities and cause them to lose their protection against direct attack?

  • 5. Must the defender fulfil specific requirements in order to comply with its obli gation to take precautions against attacks?

  • 6. Do specific prohibitions of methods of warfare, such as the prohibition of perfidy or of improper use of protected emblems, signs and signals, apply to CNA and, if so, in which way?

  • 7. Conclusions

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