24 May 2017

Guidance for space warfare examined

Celestial bodies and laws centred around the moon will come under scrutiny when lawyers from across the globe come together to draw up rules of engagement for space warfare.

Exeter Law school will host a unique conference where lawyers will set out legal parameters for military uses of outer space; providing legal guidance on issues from attacking satellites to firing lasers during times on war.

Scientists, government representatives and academics are joining with international lawyers from University of Exeter’s Law School to discuss and strengthen the rule of law in outer space.

The process is designed to set out a legal framework for war crimes in space. It will look at the alteration of satellite images (such as to suggest civilian objects are military targets), as well as the development of space-based weaponry and missile defence systems.

The document will be ‘future proofed’ to take into account developments in space exploration and travel.

It will also examine responsibility for cleaning up space debris caused by military action, and whether the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war would apply in space.

Exeter joins a consortium of founding institutions, including McGill University and the University of Adelaide, who are aiming to develop a Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Uses of Outer Space (MILAMOS). http://www.mcgill.ca/milamos/about

The manual is also expected to examine the legality of using weapons in space, and whether military astronauts would be governed by laws designed for terrestrial combatants.

The project has come about due to the rapid development of technology over the past few decades, which has led to an increasing reliance on space assets in times of international tensions and armed conflict.

With the laws around current hostilities centred around terrestrial conflicts, the project seeks to comprehensively address the resulting legal uncertainty. Experts will produce an authoritative statement of the law on military uses of outer space and indicate what limitations international law places on the threat or use of force in outer space.


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