ICRC Humanitarian Law and Policy Blog

ICRC Law and Policy

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Humanitarian Law & Policy blog is a unique space for timely analysis and debate on international humanitarian law (IHL) issues and the policies that shape humanitarian action. read less
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Protecting civilians against digital threats: 4 worrying trends and recommendations to address them
18-10-2023
Protecting civilians against digital threats: 4 worrying trends and recommendations to address them
In situations of armed conflict, access to digital technology can save lives. But the use of cyber, information, and other digital operations by belligerents during armed conflict also brings new threats and risks for civilians. Think about cyber operations disrupting civilian infrastructure and services, information operations inciting violence against civilian populations, and digital operations undermining humanitarian relief efforts. In ever-more interdependent digital and physical environments, civilians and civilian infrastructure are increasingly drawn upon to support military operations and, as a result, face real risks of being targeted. As digital technologies permeate our lives and societies, cyber and information operations are no longer abstract or “only online”. They can, directly or indirectly, have serious online and ‘offline’ consequences and harm people. Between 2021 and 2023, the International Committee of the Red Cross’ (ICRC) President convened a Global Advisory Board of high-level experts from the legal, military, policy, technological, and security fields to advise the organization on digital threats and to develop concrete recommendations to protect civilians against such threats. Today, this Board released its report entitled ‘Protecting Civilians against Digital Threats During Armed Conflict’. In this post, Cordula Droege (chief legal officer and head of the legal division of the ICRC), Laurent Gisel (Head of the Arms and Conduct of Hostilities Unit of the ICRC), Tilman Rodenhäuser (Legal Adviser at the ICRC) and Joelle Rizk (Digital Risks Adviser at the ICRC) present four worrying trends the Board identified, and examples of the Board’s recommendations to address one of them, namely the growing civilian involvement in digital military operations. Read the full blog post here: https://blogs.icrc.org/law-and-policy/
Foghorns of war: IHL and information operations during armed conflict
11-10-2023
Foghorns of war: IHL and information operations during armed conflict
“In war, truth is the first casualty” is perhaps one of the best known aphorisms about armed conflict. Information operations have long been conducted to influence or mislead military adversaries or civilian populations during war. However, the instantaneous transmission of information from any distance – through social media platforms and messaging apps – has changed the scale, speed, and reach of information operations. Today, generative artificial intelligence provides seemingly infinite possibilities to create misleading or dangerous content. In light of these developments, states (para. 33 and 57), humanitarians and human rights advocates have voiced concern that spreading harmful information risks inciting violence, causing distress, increasing vulnerabilities, denying access to essential services, and may also undermine or disrupt humanitarian operations. Worryingly, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Expression has found that in today’s armed conflicts, disinformation and hate speech are “increasing[ly] focus[ed] on civilian populations rather than military personnel”. In light of this reality, we must recall that there is a red line between an information operation that complies with international humanitarian law and one that violates it. In this post, ICRC Legal Advisers Tilman Rodenhäuser and Samit D’Cunha explain some of the legal boundaries of information operations under international humanitarian law (IHL) through four examples. Limits on information operations under public international law as applicable outside armed conflict, or under human rights law during armed conflict, are not examined in this post. Read the full blog post here: https://blogs.icrc.org/law-and-policy/