Winning Essay Discusses Digital Safe Havens to Protecting Civilians from Military Cyber Operations

Which measures – technical, policy, and legal – should states put in place to avoid or at least reduce the risk of civilian harm from military cyber operations during armed conflicts?

We asked undergraduate students to explore the subject in an essay competition organized as part of our joint research project with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the digitalization of armed conflict.

International Digital Safe Havens

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.

The author, who pursues a Bachelor of Economics/Laws Degree at the University of Queensland in Australia, demonstrated a clear understanding of international humanitarian law, adapted the little-known concept of demilitarized zones to the cyber context, and – on that basis – made a compelling argument for the establishment of international digital safe havens.

This paper will be published in the ICRC Humanitarian Law & Policy Blog this summer, as part of a series on avoiding civilian harm during military cyber operations.

Tatjana Grote from the University of Leipzig arrived second, and the third place is shared by Ju Zhao from the George Washington University and Zahbea Zahra from the Kinnaird College for Women in Pakistan.

‘Even though a competition can only have one winner, I would like to congratulate all participants who took the time and effort to do research and share with us their thoughts on this important subject. At the ICRC, we hope they will maintain their interest in this important field as they continue their studies and beyond. We have learned a lot from the creative and innovative ideas expressed by the students and I am sure many of them will inspire our work in the future’ says Laurent Gisel, co-chair of the international expert jury and Head of the Arms and Conduct of Hostilities Unit at the ICRC.

Hearing from Undergraduate Students

 ‘Reducing the risk of civilian harm from military cyber operations is at the forefront of current protection questions during armed conflicts. Hearing from the young generation – who can look at this issue with fresh eyes and propose out of the box solutions – is therefore key to ensure the continued relevance of international humanitarian law in these contexts. This is why the essay competition specifically targeted undergraduate students from various backgrounds’ underlines Professor Gloria Gaggioli, Director of the Geneva Academy.

In total, 62 entries were received from 29 different countries.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Students during their orientation week News

88 Students Start their Learning Journey in Geneva

28 September 2021

The 88 students enrolled in our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights and MAS in Transitional Justice, Human Rights and the Rule of Law started their respective programmes last week.

Read more

World Map News

Three Papers Map Contentious Issues Related to the Application of International Law to Military Cyber Operations

22 June 2021

Three new Working Papers – researched by the Geneva Academy in the context of our joint project with the ICRC on the digitalization of armed conflict – address some of the main issues of contention concerning the application of international law to military cyber operations.

Read more

Destroyed buildings in Harasta, Syria Event

2021 Current Issues in Armed Conflict Conference

19 November 2021, 14:00-17:30

The 2021 edition will address two contemporary challenges and issues related to armed conflict: the classification of non-international armed conflicts in which a myriad of armed non-state actors are involved; and cyber conflicts.

Read more

Short Course

The Law of Non-International Armed Conflicts

17 March - 8 April 2022

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.

Read more

An aerial view of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), which have appeared following latest attacks by M23 rebels and other armed groups in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Short Course

International Refugee Law

9 March - 13 April 2022

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, analyses the main international and regional norms governing the international protection of refugees. It notably examines the sources of international refugee law, including the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and their interaction with human rights law and international humanitarian law.

Read more

Central African Republic, Ouham province, village of Ouogo. International Humanitarian Law dissemination session to members of the Peoples' Army for the Restoration of Democracy. Project

From Words to Deeds: A Study of Armed Non-State Actors’ Practice and Interpretation of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Norms

Started in January 2017

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’.

Read more

A session of the UN Human Rights Committtee at Palais Wilson Project

Implementing International Humanitarian Law Through Human Rights Mechanisms

Started in April 2019

Resulting from traditional legal research and informal interviews with experts, the project aims at examining how – if at all possible – IHL could be more systematically, appropriately and correctly dealt with by the human rights mechanisms emanating from the Charter of the United Nations, as well from universal and regional treaties.

Read more

Cover of the publication Publication

The UN Security Council and Common Article 1: Understanding the Role of Peacekeeping Operations in Ensuring Respect for IHL

published on October 2021

Émilie Max

Read more