Cyber Sanctions: Exploring a Blind Spot in the Current Legal Debate
24 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2012
Date Written: May 1, 2011
This article aims to bring to attention the prospective use of a novel category of coercive methods, cyber sanctions. Whilst acknowledging their untapped potential as a means available to international institutions, in particular the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), for targeting and pressurizing (non-)state actors, we maintain that there are several legal concerns surrounding their utilization that deserve closer attention. As regards the UN Charter, we discuss the growing acknowledgment that cyberspace is an area of conflict warranting UNSC action, the appropriate legal basis for executing measures travelling through cyberspace, as well as the competences of regional organizations in this regard. Furthermore, we contemplate to what extent UNSC is bound by other norms if it chooses to utilize these digital methods. More precisely, we look into some possible normative constraints emanating from human rights law and international humanitarian law. Having addressed these various juridical aspects we conclude that whereas the law as it stands today appears able to partially accommodate cyber sanctions, as is often the case, new technology stretches old law, sometimes to the breaking point.
Keywords: Sanctions, cyber warfare, United Nations, Security Council, collective security, internet, human rights
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