Expert Roundtable on International Law Applicable to Military Activities in Outer Space

10-12 September 2015

Given the increase in the number of nations and non-State actors becoming active in space, and the increased reliance militaries have on space technologies, concerns have grown in recent years that there may be a risk of conflict taking place in space.

There is an urgent need to clarify the rules of international law applicable, especially the prohibition on the use of force and international humanitarian law. Given that no specific international legal instrument exists that effectively deals with this, McGill gathered scholars, government and space operations experts from seven different countries, including Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region, and members of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

There was a clear consensus on the urgent need to develop a Manual on international law applicable to security activities in outer space, in order to reduce the risk of conflict and constrain State behaviour in the case of a conflict.

Such an international Manual might be developed, under the leadership of  the CRASL,  by scholars and international experts in their individual capacity, free from official State positions, in order to ensure international participation, neutrality and legal objectivity. State engagement would be a part of the process at a later stage; however, clarification on international law cannot be dependent upon the politics of any given moment.

Hosting this Expert Roundtable, and working towards an international Manual on international law applicable to security activities in outer space, are in line with the commitment the McGill Institute of Air and Space Law has to uphold the core principles of the outer space treaty: that all outer space activities must occur in accordance with international law (including the UN Charter),  in the interests of international peace and security and for the benefit of all countries.

We look forward to the unfolding of this important project which will have global impact – and beyond.