The Digitalization of Armed Conflict

Started in September 2020

Context

New military technologies are transforming the nature of modern warfare, raising a legitimate concern that existing laws and regulations will be ‘outpaced’ by technological advancement, widening the scope for rights abuses and impunity.

Objectives

Under the leadership of our new Swiss IHL Chair, Professor Marco Roscini, our research aims to identify specific humanitarian threats and legal lacunae resulting from new military technologies and develop pragmatic law and policy responses.

The joint initiative on humanitarian impact and protection, carried out with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), assesses the continued relevance of IHL in a digitalization context in order to develop law and policy recommendations aimed at mitigating the identified risks and addressing new protection needs. 

Parallel research on disruptive military technologies assesses the impact – and related protection needs – of new military technologies that shape the future digital battlefield in relation to cyberwarfare, cybersecurity and emerging military applications of AI.

NEWS AND UPCOMING EVENTS

Military use of AI Drone News

New Report on Artificial Intelligence and Related Technologies in Military Decision-Making on the Use of Force in Armed Conflicts

13 May 2024

This report examines themes that arose during two expert workshops on the role of AI-based decision support systems in decision-making on the use of force in armed conflicts.

Read more >

Panelists at the expert meeting News

Rising Civilian Involvement in Cyber Warfare: Legal Implications and Solutions Explored during Expert Meeting

20 October 2023

Our recent expert meeting, conducted in collaboration with the ICRC, addressed the growing involvement of civilians in cyber and digital operations during armed conflicts.

Read more >

Glasses before a computerm screen News

Mapping the Societal Risks and Potential Humanitarian Impact of Cyber Operations

27 June 2022

Our new Working Paper Societal Risks and Potential Humanitarian Impact of Cyber Operations provides an up-to-date assessment of existing risks and protection needs in light of contemporary and future military cyber capabilities.

Read more >

RESEARCHERS

Picture of Marco Roscini

Marco Roscini

Swiss IHL Chair and Professor of International Law at the University of Westminster

Professor Roscini's research areas include the international law of armed conflict, the use of force in international law, international cyber security law, nuclear non-proliferation law, and the history of international law.

Portrait of Anna Rosalie Greipl

Anna Rosalie Greipl

Researcher

Her areas of expertise include international humanitarian law, international criminal law, international human rights law, and the challenges raised by new technologies – in particular artificial intelligence – in these fields of international law.

OUTPUT

Assessing the Societal Risks and Humanitarian Impact of Cyber Operations

Our working paper Societal Risks and Potential Humanitarian Impact of Cyber Operations provides an up-to-date assessment of existing risks and protection needs in light of contemporary and future military cyber capabilities. Based on two expert workshops and four other consultations with individual experts held in 2021, the paper identifies the risks, humanitarian consequences and protection needs for conflict-affected populations during cyber operations, assesses whether IHL adequately addresses these and formulates specific legal and policy recommendations to mitigate risks and address protection needs.

Assessing the Implication of the ‘Future Digital Battlefield’ for Humanitarian Protection

Our working paper The Future Digital Battlefield and Challenges for Humanitarian Protection: A Primer provides an overview of the various novel technologies that together form part of the ‘future digital battlefield’ and assesses some of the implications for humanitarian protection in armed conflict. Based on an expert workshop conducted in 2021, the paper identifies areas that need further attention – thus framing the future research of the project – and hints at possible legal solutions.

Mapping Contentious Issues Related to the Application of International Law to Military Cyber Operations

Three working papers published in 2021 map the contentious issues related to the application of IHL to military cyber operations in relation to the protection of societies, the protection of the global information space and the protection of data. By identifying the applicable law and challenges, they lay the groundwork for future research in these areas. The main findings and key points developed in these papers have been presented by the authors in leading international law journals and blogs.

Hearing from the Younger Generation

An undergraduate student essay competition co-organized with the ICRC on the technical, policy and legal measures that states should put in place to avoid, or at least reduce, the risk of civilian harm from military cyber operations during armed conflicts enabled the younger generation to contribute ideas on ensuring the continued relevance of IHL in these contexts. The winning essay, ‘Digital Safe Havens: Sheltering Civilians from Military Cyber Operations’ – written by Isabelle Peart – adapts the little-known concept of demilitarized zones to the cyber context and makes a compelling argument for the establishment of international digital safe havens.

Publications

Cover of Report

Artificial Intelligence And Related Technologies In Military Decision-Making On The Use Of Force In Armed Conflicts: Current Developments And Potential Implications

May 2024

Anna Rosalie Greipl, Neil Davison, Georgia Hinds

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, ICRC

Download >

Cover of the publication

Societal Risks and Potential Humanitarian Impact of Cyber Operations

June 2022

Pia Hüsch and Henning Lahmann

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download >

Cover of the Publication

The Future Digital Battlefield and Challenges for Humanitarian Protection: A Primer

April 2022

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download >

cover of the publication

PROTECTING SOCIETIES: ANCHORING A NEW PROTECTION DIMENSION IN INTERNATIONAL LAW IN TIMES OF INCREASED CYBER THREATS

February 2021

Robin Geiss and Henning Lahmann

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download >

cover of the publication

Protection of Data in Armed Conflict

February 2021

Robin Geiss and Henning Lahmann

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download >

cover of the publication

Protecting the global information space in times of armed conflict

February 2021

Robin Geiß and Henning Lahmann

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download >

Past Events

Towards Greater Accountability with Open-Source Information

14 December 2022, 18:30-20:00

Read more >

Cyber Operations, Armed Conflicts and International Law

23 June 2022, 17:30-18:30

Read more >

Launch Event: Joint Initiative on the Digitalization of Conflict

29 October 2020, 10:00-12:00

Read more >

ESIL Lecture: Disruptive Military Technologies

26 February 2020, 14:00-16:00

Read more >

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

LLM Students News

LLM Students Address IHL Issues Arising from the 2008 Armed Conflict in South Ossetia

16 May 2024

Students from our LLM in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights took part in a pleading exercise on the 2008 South Ossetia armed conflict between Russia and Georgia.

Read more

Panel panel ‘(Dis)respecting International Humanitarian Law in today’s armed conflicts: monitoring and reporting’ at the 2024 European Humanitarian Forum News

IHL in Focus Featured at the 2024 European Humanitarian Forum

25 March 2024

Our new research project IHL in Focus – launched at the beginning of the year – has been presented and discussed at the 2024 European Humanitarian Forum, a major yearly event convened by the European Union focusing on prominent humanitarian issues and challenges.

Read more

Iraq, Mosul. View of the west bank after the war. Project

IHL in Focus

Started in January 2024

As a yearly publication, it keeps decision-makers, practitioners and scholars up-to-date with the latest trends and challenges in IHL implementation in over 100 armed conflicts worldwide – both international and non-international.

Read more

A session of the UN Human Rights Council Project

IHL Expert Pool

Started in January 2022

The IHL-EP works to strengthen the capacity of human rights mechanisms to incorporate IHL into their work in an efficacious and comprehensive manner. By so doing, it aims to address the normative and practical challenges that human rights bodies encounter when dealing with cases in which IHL applies.

Read more

Cover of the 2023 Geneva Academy Annual Report Publication

Annual Report 2023

published on July 2024

Read more