ICRC Observations on the Consultants’ Report: Protecting Essential Civilian Services on Earth from Disruption by Military Space Operations

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Outer space is becoming increasingly contested as a number of states view space as an operational domain, putting in place dedicated space defence strategies and commands, and engaging in the development, testing and deployment of kinetic or non-kinetic “counterspace” capabilities. At the same time, the dependency of essential civilian services on space systems is also rapidly increasing. Satellite services also contribute to every phase of the work of humanitarian organizations.

Thus if, during an armed conflict, states or non-state armed groups party to the conflict target the space systems used by their adversaries for military operations, essential civilian services on Earth may also be impacted, raising humanitarian concerns. To better understand these developments, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) commissioned a report by Gilles Doucet and Stuart Eves: Protecting Essential Civilian Services on Earth from Disruption by Military Space Operations.

Based on the findings of this report, and in line with its humanitarian mission and its mandate to promote and strengthen international humanitarian law, the ICRC has identified the following issues that deserve further attention and require action by states and other stakeholders, namely existing limits under international law on military operations in, or in relation to, outer space; strengthening the protection of critical space-based services to civilians and services that support humanitarian operations; minimizing the risk of civilian harm arising from kinetic and non-kinetic military operations against space systems; and addressing challenges arising from the military use of commercial space capabilities, including during armed conflicts.

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