Since the launch of the MILAMOS Project in May 2016, tremendous progress has been made by the dozens of experts and contributors involved in the Project. Below is an overview of the major milestones in this three-year manual-drafting process.
More than 50 legal experts, technical experts, researchers and others came together in Adelaide over the period 20 – 22 February 2017 for the first MILAMOS Workshop. Following the preliminary coordination Workshop in October 2016 in Montreal, this was the first of a set of nine Workshops to reach consensus on draft Rules and Commentaries for the prospective Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Uses of Outer Space.
The MILAMOS members who were gathered together in Adelaide tackled several of the most foundational Rules (and their associated Commentary), as well as complex issues at the intersection of International Space Law, International Humanitarian Law and International Law on the Use of Force. In particular, the participants considered Rules on the following topics:
· Application of international law to outer space, especially in the context of military uses of outer space
· The prohibition on the threat or use of force in International Law on the Use of Force as it applies to outer space
· The principle of non-intervention in International Law on the Use of Force as it applies to outer space
· Application of International Humanitarian Law to outer space
· The principle of distinction in International Humanitarian Law, as it applies to outer space
· Delimitation of outer space and airspace
· The meaning of ‘International Armed Conflict’ as it applies to outer space and how, as a matter of law, an armed conflict may be regarded as internationalised in the context of outer space
· Legal rules about perfidy and ruses in the context of armed conflict in outer space
· The principle of non-appropriation in International Space law, especially in the context of military uses of outer space
· A definition of ‘Military Space Activities’ to explain the scope of military uses of outer space that will be encompassed by the manual
While individual legal experts created each draft Rule and its associated Commentary, the discussion, in plenary sessions, of the draft Rules and Commentaries was on the basis of non-attribution. Furthermore, the Rules and Commentaries (expected to number between 150 and 250 on completion) will not be finalised until all Rules and Commentaries have been drafted and considered in plenary sessions and not until the process of State engagement has been completed. Nevertheless, the Management Board plans to publish, on this website and within a month, some limited further detail on the complex issues considered under each of the topics above.
The Management Board and editorial staff also considered, in detail, the most appropriate process for State engagement, with the intent of giving States a formal opportunity to contribute to the MILAMOS Project, even before a final draft of all Rules and Commentaries is collated. The Management Board intends to work with States to conduct events for the purpose of State engagement once there is a final draft (expected to occur in late 2019). It is important to note that the prospective Manual is not intended to be progressive in its articulation of Rules, but rather it is intended that it will be an authoritative statement of the application of existing law to military uses of outer space. To that end, participants in the MILAMOS Project contribute in a personal capacity, independent of any official positions or preferences of States or other organisations on what the law is or should be. Nevertheless, the Management Board believes there is significant value in engaging with States throughout the Project and welcomes initiatives by States to host and contribute to Workshops and engagement events, including financial contributions and sending representatives to engagement events.
The MILAMOS Project remains on track to publish the Manual in 2020. This Workshop was very successful and set a solid foundation for the following Workshops. The next MILAMOS Workshop is expected to be 20 – 23 June 2017 in India.
The Inaugural Plenary of the McGill Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Uses of Outer Space (MILAMOS) Project was held in Montreal on 3-5 October 2016. Officially launched at the end of May 2016, the Inaugural Plenary of the MILAMOS Project took months of preparation and planning and was the first ever meeting of the MILAMOS Group of Experts, which is composed of practitioners, academics, military officers, technical experts and institutional observers carefully selected by the Management Board of the Project. In the end, including the support staff and student rapporteurs, there were 45 participants present, hailing from 19 different countries around the world, of whom 31% were female. This broad representation of nationalities, diversity and genders is something that has never before been seen in a manual-drafting process, and a testament to the MILAMOS Project’s vision to be inclusionary and truly international and interdisciplinary.
The Inaugural Plenary was convened with the aim of allowing the Group of Experts to familiarise themselves with one another as well as with the processes and procedures of the MILAMOS Project. The Welcome Dinner on 2 October featured Dr. David Kendall, the current Chair of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS), as the special Guest Speaker. Dr. Kendall underlined the MILAMOS Project’s work will be important to complement the UN’s work in cementing the sustainable and peaceful uses of outer space.
Dean Robert Leckey of McGill’s Faculty of Law and (incoming) University of Adelaide Law School Dean Melissa de Zwart welcomed the participants in the MILAMOS Project with some inspiring remarks on the first day of the Plenary. The unique partnership between the two institutions was instrumental in bringing together a balanced and international group composed of acclaimed academics, seasoned military officers and experienced technical experts. This delicate balance, together with the institutional recognition and support of a growing number of influential stakeholders, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, will carry the Project forward in the coming three years.
The remaining days were filled with presentations by members of the Management Board to elaborate on the issues pertaining to, e.g., the collaborative drafting process and challenges of determining customary law in respect of space activities. Several members of the Group of Technical Experts gave MILAMOS participants crash-courses on the nature of the space domain and the methods and means of interference with space operations. Such informational sessions were much appreciated and will prove instrumental in informing discussions and the drafting of rules in the coming years to ensure that the resultant manual is properly contextualised in the space domain. Various opportunities were provided for the three Research Groups to meet and begin scoping issues and rules to be drafted in the coming years. The Plenary concluded with a visit to the Canadian Space Agency, which was an apt way to wrap up the first meeting of the Group of Experts and let them return home even more inspired by live images of a sunrise streaming directly from the International Space Station and motivated to begin work on the Manual.
In addition to the Experts who are involved in the MILAMOS Project, several State Observers were also present to observe the process and gain first-hand insight into discussions and deliberations at the Plenary. The presence of such Observers was welcomed as a means to transparency and to facilitate the State engagement process later on, particularly as the Manual aims to be utilised as a practical reference by space operators throughout the world.
As the MILAMOS Project progresses, the next three years will no doubt encounter challenges and disagreements that need to be resolved. The group of Experts, under the direction of the Editor-in-Chief and Group Editors, will have the tremendous task of identifying and clarifying rules that will apply to military activities in space, a domain that hitherto has not seen outright conflict, but may inevitably become a theatre of warfare. The progress and results of the MILAMOS Project, with its Group of Experts who are reflective of a variety of perspectives and gender balance, will be a great endeavour to be followed closely in the three years to come. The Inaugural Plenary in Montreal in October 2016 was just the beginning of this long journey.
In April 2016, the Professor Ram Jakhu presented the MILAMOS Project to a group of academics and students at Université Paris 1: Panthéon Sorbonne. Further, Professor Jakhu gave the inaugural address of a Conference on space security and diplomacy organised by the Conseil Supérieur de la Formation et de la Recherche Stratégique (csfrs.fr) and La Fondation pour la recherche stratégique (frstrategie.org) held at the École militaire in Paris, France. In his address before a gathering of government officials, military strategists and policy makers, Professor Jakhu promoted the need for a manual to clarify the rule of law and cement peace and security in the outer space frontier. Both events were well-attended and sparked great interest in the MILAMOS Project amongst stakeholders and also the general public.
In March 2016, the MILAMOS Project was presented to a group of around 50 government officials, military personnel, academics and members of the public in New Delhi, India.
The event was part of the Symposium on “Global Space Issues and Indian Perspective” co-organised by the Institute of Air and Space Law, the International Foundation for Aviation, Aerospace & Development, India Chapter (iffaadindia.org) and the India International Centre.
The presentation, which outlined the importance and rationale behind manuals in general, and the timeliness and need for such a manual to regulate military activities in outer space, was well-received.
In September 2015, a Group of Experts met for the first time at McGill University, in Montreal, Canada. It was the first gathering of its kind to discuss an ambitious undertaking such as the MILAMOS Project.
The meeting was attended by numerous interested parties from across the world, including experts in international humanitarian law, military space operations, governmental space policy and space law from different States. The attendance of subject-matter experts, policy-makers and representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross underlines the significant international interest in and originality of this project.
The discussions from the meeting made clear this project is timely, necessary and critical. There was a clear consensus on the urgent need to clarify the rules of international law applicable outer space activities — particularly the prohibition on the use of force and the application international humanitarian law, and how these well-established norms would apply in the space domain.
In order to reduce conflict and constrain State behaviour in the case of a conflict in or through outer space, it was commonly agreed that a neutral document, in the form of a manual clarifying the rules of international law applicable to military and security activities in outer space, is essential. The Group of Experts agreed that a collective of international scholars and experts acting in their individual capacity is necessary to ensure the widespread participation, neutrality and legal objectivity of such a manual, and that steps must be put in place to move the project forward.
The event was made possible with the support of the Government of Canada and the Erin J.C. Arsenault Fund at McGill University.