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Sovereignty in Cyberspace: Lex Lata Vel Non?

  • Michael N. Schmitt (a1) and Liis Vihul (a2)

Extract

Globalization has not conquered sovereignty. Instead, the notion of sovereignty occupies center stage in discussions concerning the normative architecture of cyberspace. On the diplomatic level, the term is generally employed in its broadest sense, one that signifies freedom from external control and influence. For instance, when Western states raise the issue of human rights in cyberspace, those on the opposite side of the negotiating table fall back on sovereignty-based arguments. Mention of sovereignty in consensus documents is consequently often the price that liberal democracies pay to advance their policy priorities, such as individual freedoms and the availability of self-help measures in response to hostile cyber operations.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

References

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1 Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Operations 17–27 (Michael N. Schmitt gen. ed., 2017) [hereinafter Tallinn Manual 2.0].

2 Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security, 2013 Report, para. 19, UN Doc. A/68/98* (June 24, 2013) [hereinafter UN GGE 2013 Report]; Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security, 2015 Report, paras. 26, 28(b), UN Doc. A/70/174 (July 22, 2015) [hereinafter UN GGE 2015 Report].

3 See the cautious approach taken in UN GGE 2013 Report, supra note 2, at paras. 20, 27.

4 Gary P. Corn & Robert Taylor, Sovereignty in the Age of Cyber, 111 AJIL Unbound 207, 208–209 (2017).

5 Id. at 209.

6 Michael N. Schmitt & Liis Vihul, Respect for Sovereignty in Cyberspace, 95 Tex. L. Rev. 1639 (2017).

7 Corn & Taylor, supra note 4, at 210.

8 Id. at 210.

9 Id. at 210 n. 14.

10 Statute of the International Court of Justice, art. 38(1), June 26, 1945, 33 UNTS 993.

11 Corfu Channel (U.K. v. Alb.), Merits, 1949 ICJ Rep. 4, 35 (Apr. 9).

12 Certain Activities Carried Out by Nicaragua in the Border Area (Costa Rica v. Nicar.) and Construction of a Road in Costa Rica along the San Juan River (Costa Rica v. Nicar.), para. 229 (Dec. 16, 2015).

13 Indeed, in the case between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the Court decided not to assess the use of force issue, noting, the “relevant conduct of Nicaragua has already been addressed in the context of the Court's examination of the violation of Costa Rica's territorial sovereignty.” Id. at paras. 96–97.

14 Tallinn Manual 2.0, supra note 1, rule 4, cmt. para. 10.

15 Id., rule 4, cmt. para. 11.

16 Id. at paras. 13–14.

17 Schmitt & Vihul, supra note 6.

18 Tallinn Manual 2.0, supra note 1, rule 4, cmt. paras. 10, 15–20.

19 Island of Palmas (Neth. v. U.S.), 2 R.I.A.A 829, 838 (Perm. Ct. Arb. 1928).

20 The cyber operation targeting Sony “resulted in the destruction of about three-quarters of the computers and servers at the studio's main operations.” David E. Sanger & Michael S. Schmidt, More Sanctions on North Korea After Sony Case, N.Y. Times (Jan. 2, 2015).

21 Tallinn Manual 2.0, supra note 1, rule 4, cmt. para. 16.

22 Corn & Taylor, supra note 4, at 211.

23 Id. at 210, 212.

24 Zunyou Zhou, China's Comprehensive Counter-Terrorism Law, The Diplomat (Jan. 23, 2016).

25 Corn & Taylor, supra note 4, at 211.

26 Quincy Wright, Espionage and the Doctrine of Non-Intervention in International Affairs, in Essays on Espionage and International Law 3, 17 (Roland J. Stanger ed., 1962).

28 See, e.g., China, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Strategy of Cooperation on Cyberspace (Mar. 1, 2017) (English translation). The strategy lists sovereignty as one of the four basic principles of international cooperation in cyberspace.

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AJIL Unbound
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 2398-7723
  • URL: /core/journals/american-journal-of-international-law
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