Eight Blocs, Six Slots: The Legal Committee Rushes to Submit Working Papers on Cyber Warfare

BY LIAM DALTON, The Guardian and MATTHEW REIAD, Granma

As the deadline for working papers rapidly approaches, cracks are beginning to show in the Legal Committee as eight blocs emerge. But with only six working papers being accepted by the dais, the blocs must grapple with comprehensively defining cyber warfare, the degree of cyber-attacks, and the degree of response permitted to such attacks in a way that successfully addresses the issues before the committee.

The Delegations representing The United States and Qatar have designed a working paper which is currently supported by Australia, Belize, Egypt, Germany, Haiti, Israel, Italy, Philippines, and Macedonia. The most notable feature of this working paper is the design of a mathematical formula that claims to weigh various factors relating to a cyber-attack and objectively estimate its severity and therefore the right of the victim nation to respond. Modelled after the Schmitt analysis, it balances the following considerations to produce a severity ranking:

1.     Severity of the attack in scope, duration, and intensity

2.     Immediacy of the consequences of the cyber-attack

3.     Directness of the causal link between the attack and the consequences

4.     Invasiveness of the cyber-attack into the interests of that state

5.     Measurability of effects

6.     Military character of the state committing the attack

7.     State involvement in the cyber-attack

8.   Presumptive legality of international law; unless there is an express international treaty that prohibits the action, then it is presumed to be legal.

In an interview with the honorable delegate of Qatar, she emphasized the need for an impartial and quantifiable measurement of cyber-attack severity given the lack of precedent on the issue of cyber-warfare.

The second significant bloc forming was the United Kingdom and Canada, supported by Algeria and Sweden among other nations. The honorable delegate of Canada emphasized the definition of a cyber-attack was centered around the means by which the attack occurred, and the purpose for which it was committed, distinguishing attacks from that of cyber-espionage and traditional warfare of which the committee is not concerned. Canada further emphasized that their bloc supports a nation’s inherent right to armed responses to acts of warfare, of which cyber-warfare they argue is included, so long as the responses comply with the international principles of armed retaliation relating to proportionality.

Lastly, a more peaceful bloc is being driven by the Delegations of Peru, Japan, Portugal and Guatemala. They emphasize the distinction between cyber-attacks which are committed by non-state actors, and cyber-warfare, which is perpetrated by a state-actor. The honorable delegate of Peru and Japan emphasized their desire to restrict armed responses to the most extreme of circumstances, and reiterate the use of the International Criminal Court, dialogue, and economic sanctions to punish and deter cyber-warfare committed by state actors.

As the second committee session comes to a close, all eight working papers have been submitted, but which six papers succeed will be of great interest to the international community on the issue of cyber-warfare.

Cuban Progress in Cybersecurity

Although the delegates were tasked with defining the specificities regarding cyber-attacks and cybersecurity, they seemed reluctant to do so, opting to discuss possible United Nations funded organizations and committees that would combat, research and analyze possible cyber attacks attempts, and those that were carried out. Upon entering an unmoderated caucus, a representative of Granma, the official media wing of the Cuban government, proceeded to discuss potential solutions with the delegation of Cuba. The delegation of Cuba discussed interest in working with both fellow Caribbean nations as well as working with nations such as Russia in efforts to assure that the spread of falsehoods does not reach the shores of Cuba.

The delegation of Cuba as well as the delegation of Venezuela expressed frustration in the spread of western lies that undermined the democracies of both Cuba and Venezuela. When asked about the rise of Juan Guido, a Venezuelan president of parliament who declared himself president, the Venezuelan delegation replied simply, “We strongly support and represent the legitimate government of Nicolas Maduro, any other government within Venezuela is simply illegitimate.

The Cuban government stands with Venezuela in combating any illegitimate information from the western nations designed to undermine and destroy our fragile democracies. Any efforts to do so, will be met with severe and strict resistance and resilience from Cuba and its communist neighbors.

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