Preliminary recommendations on possible norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours relating to threats by States to space systems
Working paper submitted by the International Committee of the Red Cross to the open-ended working group on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours
In line with its humanitarian mission and mandate, the ICRC submits through this working paper preliminary recommendations on "possible norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours relating to threats by States to space systems, including, as appropriate, how they would contribute to the negotiation of legally binding instruments, including on the prevention of an arms race in outer space" to the open-ended working group (OEWG) on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours, convened under United Nations (UN) General Assembly Resolution 76/231.
Military operations in, or in relation to, outer space – be it through kinetic or non-kinetic means - do not occur in a legal vacuum, but are constrained by existing international law. Reaffirming the protection afforded, and restrictions imposed, by existing international law including international humanitarian law is critical to fulfilling the mandate of the OEWG, because any recommendation on the normative development of responsible space behaviours must be consistent with and should build on and strengthen the existing legal framework.
The ICRC is concerned primarily with the potential human cost for civilians on earth of the use of weapons and other military operations in, or in relation to, outer space. Humanitarian considerations should be the cornerstone of any discussion on the normative development. To this end, the ICRC's preliminary recommendations focus on measures to minimize the risk of civilian harm posed by threats to space systems, which should already be implemented in peace time:
Recommendation 1: States should not conduct or support any military operation or other activity designed or expected to disrupt, damage, destroy or disable space systems necessary for the provision of essential civilian services and for the protection and functioning of persons and objects specifically protected under international law.
Recommendation 2: Whenever feasible, States should segregate the military use of space systems (including satellites, communication links and ground stations) from their civilian use, particularly with regard to systems necessary for the provision of essential civilian services and for the protection and functioning of persons and objects specifically protected under international law.
Recommendation 3: States should identify, register, mark, announce and/or otherwise indicate those space systems within their jurisdiction or control that are to be spared from the effects of military space operations.
Recommendation 4: States should not develop, test or use kinetic counter-space capabilities or conduct other harmful operations against space systems that are designed or expected to create space debris.
Recommendation 5: States should cooperate to increase the resilience of satellite services for humanitarian relief and emergency response in times of armed conflict and other emergencies.