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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 July 2022

Douglas Guilfoyle
Professor, University of New South Wales (Canberra),
Tamsin Phillipa Paige
Senior Lecturer, Deakin Law School,
Rob McLaughlin
Professor, Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security,


Cyberspace is now acknowledged not only as the newest domain of warfare, but also as a space vital to economic, educational and cultural development for all States. This thin consensus ignores the fundamental fact that the backbone of cyber infrastructure—submarine telecommunication cables—is not (for the large part) located within sovereign territorial jurisdiction. The radically increased reliance of States upon submarine data cables emphasises their vulnerability to damage by malicious acts, accidents, or natural phenomena. Faced with these problems, legal analysis has tended to identify gaps or deficiencies in the law, and propose the creation of new legal instruments. The contribution of this article is twofold. First, it expands the frame of analysis to include deliberate damage to cables not only in peacetime but under the law of armed conflict. Second, rather than treating the legal framework as inherently deficient, it considers the extent to which existing rules and principles can be progressively developed, interpreted, or creatively applied to close perceived gaps. This article surveys the existing law specific to the protection of submarine cables and assesses how general principles of the law of the sea, State responsibility, the law on the use of force, and the law of armed conflict apply to this problem. It thus considers in turn the applicable ‘law of peace’, the jus ad bellum and the jus in bello.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press for the British Institute of International and Comparative Law

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The authors would like to acknowledge the helpful comments of Fleur Johns, participants in the Australian and New Zealand Society of International Law Oceans and International Environmental Law Interest Group, and the anonymous reviewers, which greatly assisted in the finalisation of this article.


1 Noting, however, that the UN Group of Governmental Experts in 2017 did not achieve consensus on its report; this represented (to some extent) an attempt by some States to wind back previously agreed positions in relation to ‘recommendations on the implementation of norms, rules and principles for the responsible behaviour of States’, and ‘application of international law to the use of information and communications technologies’: ‘Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security: Report of the Secretary-General’ UN Doc A/72/327 (14 August 2017) <>. The renewed dual track Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) – Group of Government Experts (GGE) process (2019–2021) has attempted to revive this process. See <>.

2 See, for example, The Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP (UK Attorney-General), ‘Cyber and International Law in the 21st Century’ (Speech at Chatham House, 23 May 2018) <>: ‘Sovereignty is of course fundamental to the international rules-based system. But I am not persuaded that we can currently extrapolate from that general principle a specific rule or additional prohibition for cyber activity beyond that of a prohibited intervention.’ See also M Schmitt, ‘In Defense of Sovereignty in Cyberspace’ (Just Security, 8 May 2018) <>; M Pomerleau, ‘What Is “Sovereignty” in Cyberspace? Depends Who You Ask’ (Fifth Domain, 21 November 2019) <>.

3 Through use of SMART (Science Monitoring And Reliable Telecommunications) cables which integrate environmental sensors directly into cable design to capture ocean bottom temperature, pressure, and seismic data: BM Howe et al., ‘SMART Subsea Cables for Observing the Earth and Ocean, Mitigating Environmental Hazards, and Supporting the Blue Economy’ (Frontiers in Earth Sciences, 7 February 2022) <>.

4 ‘Using Submarine Cables for Climate Monitoring and Disaster Warning: Opportunities and Legal Challenges’ (International Telecommunication Union 2012) <> 20–5.

5 Non-criminal damage to two cables in the Mediterranean in 2008 reduced Internet capacity in Egypt 80 per cent and disrupted 75 per cent of communications between the Middle East/Asia and the rest of the world, with significant economic and social consequences; the rerouting required then caused further slowdowns and disruptions to Internet services globally: see inter alia, B Johnson, ‘How One Clumsy Ship Cut off the Web for 75 Million People’ The Guardian (London, 1 February 2008) <>; B Coffin, ‘The First Cut Is the Deepest’ (2008) 55 Risk Management 26.

6 P Morcos and C Wall, ‘Invisible and Vital: Undersea Cables and Transatlantic Security’ (Center for Strategic & International Studies, 11 June 2021) <>.

7 A Blum and C Baraka, ‘Sea Change’ (Rest of World, 10 May 2022) <>.

8 B Koley, ‘Hola, South America! Announcing the Firmina Subsea Cable’ (Google Cloud, 9 June 2021) <>.

9 Hantover, LL, ‘The Cloud and the Deep Sea: How Cloud Storage Raises the Stakes for Undersea Cable Security and Liability’ (2013) 19 Ocean & Coastal Law Journal 1, 2Google Scholar.

10 Morcos and Wall (n 6).

12 ‘Submarine Cable Map 2019’ (undated) <>.

13 J Hibbard and P McCann, ‘Pacific Submarine Cables: ‘‘The economic highway of the future will be made with glass not bitumen’’’ (International Telecommunication Union 2017) <>.

14 E Seselja and R Ewart, ‘Tonga Reconnects with Outside World after Data Cable Cut off by Volcanic Eruption, Tsunami Repaired’ (ABC News, 22 February 2022) <>.

15 See K Corcoran, ‘The Undersea Cables That Keep the Internet Alive – and Security Services Are Worried Russia Could Cut Them’ The Independent (London, 28 January 2018) <>; A Gray, ‘This Map Shows How Undersea Cables Move Internet Traffic around the World’ (World Economic Forum, 24 November 2016) <>.

16 Dominey-Howes, D and Goff, J, ‘Hanging on the Line – on the Need to Assess the Risk to Global Submarine Telecommunications Infrastructure – An Example of the Hawaiian “Bottleneck” and Australia’ (2009) 9 Natural Hazards and Earth System Science 605, 606–7Google Scholar. See also Shepherd, B, ‘Cutting Submarine Cables: The Legality of the Use of Force in Self-Defense’ (2020) 31 Duke Journal of International and Comparative Law 199, 208Google Scholar; Davenport, T, ‘Submarine Cables, Cybersecurity and International Law: An Intersectional Analysis’ (2015) 24 Catholic University Journal of Law and Technology 57, 80Google Scholar.

17 W Qiu, ‘Terrestrial Cables’ (Submarine Cable Networks, undated) <>.

18 Liao, X, ‘Protection of Submarine Cables against Acts of Terrorism’ (2019) 33 Ocean Yearbook 456, 458Google Scholar. See also Burnett, DR, ‘Submarine Cable Security and International Law’ (2021) 97 International Law Studies 1659, 1675Google Scholar. Arguing the contrary (on the basis of private ownership and civilian character): Shepherd (n 16) 216.

19 Austin, G, ‘Restraint and Governance in Cyberspace’ in Burke, A and Parker, R (eds), Global Insecurity: Futures of Global Chaos and Governance (Palgrave Macmillan 2017) 216–34Google Scholar.

20 Bueger, C and Liebetrau, T, ‘Protecting hidden infrastructure: The Security Politics of the Global Submarine Data Cable Network’ (2021) 42 Contemporary Security Policy 391, 398Google Scholar. See eg Matley, HEClosing the Gaps in the Regulation of Submarine Cables: Lessons from the Australian Experience’ (2019) 11(3) Australian Journal of Maritime & Ocean Affairs 165–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Burnett (n 18); Liao (n 18); and Shepherd (n 16). There is presently an International Law Committee examining the regime of submarine cables: ‘Proposal for Establishment of a New ILA Committee on Submarine Cables and Pipelines under International Law’, paras 5–10; ‘International Law Association: Submarine Cables and Pipelines under International Law – Interim Report 2020’ both available at <>. Its work does not yet cover the law of armed conflict, though it may examine that question in the future.

21 Scanlon, Z, ‘Addressing the Pitfalls of Exclusive Flag State Jurisdiction: Improving the Legal Regime for the Protection of Submarine Cables’ (2017) 48(3) Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce 297, 333Google Scholar.

22 DR Burnett, RC Beckman and TM Davenport, Submarine Cables: The Handbook of Law and Policy (Martinus Nijhoff 2017) 297; T Davenport, ‘Submarine Communications Cables and Law of the Sea: Problems in Law and Practice’ (2012) 43(3) Ocean Development & International Law 201, 221.

23 Bueger and Liebetrau (n 20) 398; Davenport (n 22) 221.

24 See Davenport (n 16).

25 Liao (n 18) 457.

26 DP O'Connell, The International Law of the Sea (Oxford University Press 1984) vol 2, 820.

27 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1833 UNTS 3 (1982) arts 21(1)(c) and 79(4) (hereafter, UNCLOS).

28 S Kaye, The Protection of Platforms, Pipelines and Submarine Cables under Australian and New Zealand Law in N Klein, J Mossop and D Rothwell (eds), Maritime Security: International Law and Policy Perspectives from Australia and New Zealand (Routledge 2010) 186–201, 189.

29 Convention for the Protection of Submarine Telegraph Cables 1884 (adopted in Paris on 14 March 1884; entered into force 1 May 1888), 24 Stat. 989; US Treaty Series 380.

30 ibid, art XV: ‘It is understood that the stipulations of the present Convention do not in any way restrict the freedom of action of belligerents.’

31 O'Connell (n 26) 821.

32 ibid.

33 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ‘Submarine Cables: International Framework’ (1 March 2019) <>.

34 Liao (n 18) 461.

35 Kaye (n 28) 190.

36 Liao (n 18) 462.

37 (1956) 2 Yearbook of the International Law Commission 12.

38 ibid.

39 Liao (n 18) 465.

40 UNCLOS art 62(4) (setting out regulatory powers in a lengthy but non-exhaustive list).

41 Kaye (n 28) 192.

42 See Kaye (n 28) 200; Submarine Cables and Pipelines Protection Act 1996 (New Zealand) sections 4, 12–13.

43 Telecommunications Act 1997 (Australia), Schedule 3A, cl. 10–11.

44 ibid, cl. 36–39.

45 Kaye (n 28) 199–200.

46 Telecommunications Act 1997 (Australia) sections 317ZC and 317ZE.

47 ibid, Schedule 3A, cl. 83A.

48 Request for an Advisory Opinion Submitted by the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission (SRFC) (No. 21), Case No. 21, Advisory Opinion of 2 April 2015, ITLOS <https://www.itlos.orgltfileadminlitlosldocuments/cases/caseno.21/advisory-opinion/C21-AdvOp-02.04.pdf>; Responsibilities and Obligations of States Sponsoring Persons and Entities with Respect to Activities in the Area (No. 17), Case No. 17, Advisory Opinion of 1 February 2011, 10 ITLOS REP. 7, 10.

49 Trail Smelter case (United States, Canada), III Rep Int Arbitr Awards 1905, 1965 (1938).

50 Pulp Mills on the River Uruguay (Argentina v. Uruguay), Judgment, ICJ Rep (2010) 14, 56, para 101.

51 UNCLOS, arts 92 and 94.

52 ibid

53 S.S. Lotus (Fr v Turk), 1927 PCIJ (ser. A) No. 10 (Sept 7), 23.

54 Pulp Mills (n 50) para 101.

55 Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its Thirty-third session, 4 May–24 July 1981, Official Records of the General Assembly, Thirty-sixth session, Supplement No.10, 147 (1981).

56 ibid 148.

57 Request for an Advisory Opinion (n 48). See also Scanlon (n 21) 318–21.

58 Responsibilities and Obligations of States Sponsoring Persons and Entities with Respect to Activities in the Area, paras 141–150.

59 Request for an Advisory Opinion Submitted by the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission, para 106.

60 ibid, para 124.

61 Pulp Mills 79, para 197.

62 ibid.

63 Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its Forty-fourth session, 4 May–24 July 1992, Official Records of the General Assembly, Forty-seventh session, Supplement No.10, 42–51 (1992).

64 Restatement (Second), Foreign Relations Law of the United States (American Law Institute 1965), 55.

65 Restatement (Third), Foreign Relations Law of the United States (American Law Institute 1987), 239.

66 Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its Forty-fourth session, 4 May–24 July 1992, Official Records of the General Assembly, Forty-seventh session, Supplement No.10, 44.

67 A Pearce Higgins and CJ Colombos, The International Law of the Sea (Longmans, Green & Co 1943) 253.

68 LR Wrathall, ‘The Vulnerability of Subsea Infrastructure to Underwater Attack: Legal Shortcomings and the Way Forward’ (2010) 12 San Diego International Law Journal 223, 256 (original emphasis).

69 For a discussion of how piracy jurisdiction is different from true universal jurisdiction see: TP Paige, ‘Piracy and Universal Jurisdiction’ (2013) 12 Macquarie Law Journal 131, 149–151.

70 DR Burnett and MP Green, ‘Security of International Submarine Cable Infrastructure: Time to Rethink?’ in MH Nordquist, R Long and R Wolfrum (eds), Legal Challenges in Maritime Security (Martinus Nijhoff 2008) 557, 575–80.

71 UNCLOS, art 102; D Guilfoyle, ‘Article 102’ in A Proelss (ed), United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: A Commentary (Beck/Hart/Nomos 2017) 744–6.

72 Liao (n 18) 472.

73 D Guilfoyle, ‘Article 101’ in A Proelss (ed), United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: A Commentary (Beck/Hart/Nomos, 2017) 737–44, 742.

74 ILC, Report of the International Law Commission: Commentaries to the Articles Concerning the Law of the Sea, UN Doc A/3159 (1956), GAOR 11th Sess. Suppl. 9, 12, 28 (art 39).

75 ibid.

76 UNCLOS art 137(1).

77 A Boyle, ‘Further Development of the Law of the Sea Convention: Mechanisms for Change’ (2005) 54 ICLQ 563, 568.

78 Burnett and Green (n 70) 581; S Kaye, ‘International Measures to Protect Oil Platforms, Pipelines, and Submarine Cables from Attack’ (2007) 31 TulMarLJ 377, 415.

79 Guilfoyle (n 73) 740–1.

80 ibid 740.

81 Quoted in JW Bingham, ‘Codification of International Law: Part IV: Piracy’ (1932) 26 AJIL Suppl. 739, 775, 808.

82 Guilfoyle (n 73) 740–2.

83 D Guilfoyle, Shipping Interdiction and the Law of the Sea (CUP 2009) 42; see also United States v Hutchings, 26 F.Cas. 440 (1817).

84 D Guilfoyle, ‘Piracy off Somalia: UN Security Council Resolution 1816 and IMO Regional Counter-Piracy Efforts’ (2008) 57 ICLQ 690, 699.

85 See Castle John and Nederlandse Stichting Sirius v. NV Mabeco and NV Parfin, Court of Cassation of Belgium, ILR 77 (1988), 537, 540; Institute of Cetacean Research v. Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, US Court of Appeals (9th Circuit), 725 F 3d 940 (2013), 944.

86 Guilfoyle (n 83) 49.

87 UNCLOS art 97 and Geneva Convention art 11 were the result of a campaign by seafarers to overturn the rule in Lotus that both flag States involved in a negligent collision could assert criminal jurisdiction: D Guilfoyle, ‘Article 97’ in A Proelss (ed), United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: A Commentary (Beck/Hart/Nomos, 2017) 721, 722-–3.

88 ILC, Report of the International Law Commission: Commentaries to the Articles Concerning the Law of the Sea, UN Doc A/3159 (1956), GAOR 11th Sess. Suppl. 9, 12, 27 (art 35).

89 Guilfoyle (n 87) 723.

90 Contra this argument: The ‘Enrica Lexie’ Incident (Italy v. India), Provisional Measures, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Case No. 24, Written Submissions of Italy (July 21, 2015), para 35(b). The argument was, however, rejected: The ‘Enrica Lexie’ Incident (Italy v. India), Permanent Court of Arbitration case 2015-28, Award, 21 May 2020, paras 642–650.

91 R Geiss and A Petrig, Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea: The Legal Framework for Counter-Piracy Operations in Somalia and the Gulf of Aden (Oxford University Press 2011) 142. A 2011 survey of national laws by the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) also revealed considerable variation: DOALOS, ‘National Legislation on Piracy’ (26 October 2011) <>.

92 Criminal Code Act 1995, Australia, section 100.1(1).

93 Terrorism Act 2000 (c. 11), United Kingdom, section 1(2)(e).

94 Criminal Code Act 1995, Australia, section 100.1(2)(f).

95 ibid, section 100.4(5)(j) and (k).

96 ibid, section 101.1(2) referring to section 15.4 (‘extended geographic jurisdiction’).

97 Albeit that prosecution of a de facto universal jurisdiction offence requires the approval of the Attorney General: ibid, section 16.1.

98 W Heintschel von Heinegg, ‘Protecting Critical Submarine Cyber Infrastructure: Legal Status and Protection of Submarine Communications Cables under International Law’ in K Ziolkowski (ed), Peacetime Regime for State Activities in Cyberspace: International Law, International Relations and Diplomacy (NATO CCD COE Publication, Tallinn 2013) 291, 313.

99 Criminal Code Act 1995, Australia, sections 82.1 and 82.3.

100 ibid 82.2(1)(e).

101 Liao (n 18) 467.

102 From a wide literature see recently: S Haataja, Cyber Attacks and International Law on the Use of Force: The Turn to Information Ethics (2019) Ch 4; MN Schmitt and DE Johnson, ‘Responding to Hostile Cyber Operations: The “In-Kind” Option’ (2021) 97 International Law Studies 96, 103–7.

103 I Österdahl, Threat to the Peace: The Interpretation by the Security Council of Article 39 of the UN Charter (1998) 103.

104 J Welsh, C Thielking and SN MacFarlane, ‘The Responsibility to Protect: Assessing the Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty’ (2002) 57 International Journal 489, 502.

105 CJ Le Mon and RS Taylor, ‘Security Council Action in the Name of Human Rights: From Rhodesia to the Congo’ (2004) 10 UC Davis Journal of International Law & Policy 197, 1198.

106 AA Eckert, ‘The Non-Intervention Principle and International Humanitarian Interventions’ (2001) 7 International Legal Theory 49, 56.

107 ND White, Keeping the Peace: The United Nations and the Maintenance of International Peace and Security (Manchester University Press 1993) 44.

108 Prosecutor v. Dusko Tadic a/k/a “Dule” (Decision on the Defence Motion for Interlocutory Appeal on Jurisdiction) Int. Crim. Trib. Former Yugosl. Appeals Chamb. 29 (1995); The Prosecutor v Joseph Kanyabashi (Decision on the Defence Motion on Jurisdiction), Int. Crim. Trib. Rwanda, 20 (1997).

109 TP Paige, Petulant and Contrary: Approaches by the Permanent Five Members of the UN Security Council to the Concept of “Threat to the Peace” under Article 39 of the UN Charter (Brill 2019).

110 Österdahl (n 103) 98.

111 Paige (n 109) 277–87.

112 Dag Hammarskjöld Library, Security Council – Veto List (2018) <>.

113 See discussion and references at (n 5 – n 16). [Change]

114 Oceans and the law of the sea UNGA Res 76/72 (9 December 2021) UN Doc A/RES/75/72 (adopted by 131 votes to 1 with 4 abstentions) (emphasis added).

115 United Nations, ‘Press Release: “Explosive” Growth of Digital Technologies Creating New Potential for Conflict, Disarmament Chief Tells Security Council in First-Ever Debate on Cyberthreats’ (29 June 2021) UN Doc SC/14563. Statements given in the debate are recorded in UN Doc S/2021/621 (1 July 2021).

116 Paige (n 109) 238–60.

117 C Howell and DM West, ‘The Internet as a Human Right’ (Brookings 2016) <>.

118 Paige (n 109) 260–76.

119 See eg ibid 177–82 and 204–15.

120 Case Concerning Oil Platforms (Islamic Republic of Iran v. United States of America) (2003).

121 ibid 51; Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America) 192 (1986).

122 ibid 51–64.

123 OA Hathaway et al., The Law of Cyber-Attack (2012) 100 California Law Review 817, 847–8.

124 ibid.

125 Bueger and Liebetrau (n 20) 391, 394, 403 and 405.

126 ibid 402.

127 See, inter alia, F Rose, ‘Emerging Threats: Outer Space, Cyberspace, and Undersea Cables’ (2017) 47(1) Arms Control Today 52; R Sunak, ‘Undersea Cables: Indispensable, Insecure’, Policy Exchange, 2017 <>; Davenport (n 16); R Martinage, ‘Under the Sea: The Vulnerability of the Commons’ (2015) 94 Foreign Affairs 117; M Ross, ‘Understanding Interconnectivity of the Global Undersea Cable Communications Infrastructure and Is Implications for International Cyber Security’ (2014) 34 SAIS Review of International Affairs 141; L Loong Hantover (n 9); M Mattis, The Protection of Undersea Cables: A Global Security Threat (US Army War College, 7 March 2012) <>; Wrathall (n 68); T Damico, ‘A Vulnerable Network: Undersea Internet Cable Attacks’ (2009) 1:11 Inquiries Journal 1.

128 For a view that the risks to cables have been ‘inflated’ see Bueger and Liebetrau (n 20) 391–413.

129 Kennedy, ‘Imperial Cable Communications and Strategy, 1870–1914’ (1971) 86(341) The English Historical Review 740.

130 G Corera, ‘How Britain Pioneered Cable-cutting in World War One’, BBC, 15 December 2017: ‘The combination of cutting German cables and forcing communications on to British lines provided an intelligence windfall. Among the messages that Britain intercepted in World War One was the so-called Zimmermann Telegram which revealed a German plan to offer US territory to Mexico and which, in turn, was used to help draw the US on to Britain's side in the war.’ <>; J Bellamy, ‘The Zimmermann Telegram and Other Events Leading to America's Entry into World War I’ (2016) 48(4) Prologue Magazine <>; E Hecht, ‘Underwater Internet Cable Cutting: A Neglected Aspect of Cyber Warfare’, The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, 18 April 2013 <>; cables were cut during the Second World War also: ‘Cutting Cables’ <>.

131 A Jose, The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, Vol. IX (The Royal Australian Navy, Australian War Memorial, Canberra 1928, UQ Press edn, 1987) 33 – such as at the cable station on Fanning Island 200 miles NW of Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean. Germany also redirected and rerouted some cables – see, for example, A Pearce Higgins, ‘Submarine Cables and International Law’ (1921–1922) 2 BYBIL 27, 29.

132 F-S Gady, ‘Undersea Cables: How Russia Targets the West's Soft Underbelly: Washington Is Worried about Moscow's Ability to Disrupt Global Internet Communications’ (The Diplomat, 27 October 2015) <>; S Weintz, ‘The Stupidly Easy Way to Win World War III: “Cut the Cables”’ (National Interest, 29 July 2018) <>; S Weintz, ‘How to Win World War III: Cutting the Internet, From Undersea’, National Interest, 20 January 2020 <>; D Tsuruoka, ‘Undersea Cables the Achilles’ Heel in Lead-up to New Cold War: Hostile acts against submerged Internet cables would put critical communications, trillions of dollars in transactions and the world economy at risk’, Asia Times, 6 January 2018 <>.

133 K Houser, Russian Sub That Caught Fire Possibly Sent to Cut Internet Cables (Futurism blog, 7 April 2019) <>; see also D Riechmann, ‘Could Enemies Target Undersea Cables That Link the World?’, AP News, 30 March 2018 <>.

134 M Wendorf, ‘Both the U.S. and Russia Are Stalking the World's Undersea Cables: The U.S. and Russian submarines are playing a game of cat and mouse above the undersea cables that carry the world's telecommunications and Internet data’ (Interesting Engineering, 16 August 2019) <>; ‘New Nuclear Sub Is Said to Have Special Eavesdropping Ability’, New York Times, 20 February 2005 <>.

135 D Riechmann, ‘Could Enemies Target Undersea Cables That Link the World?’, AP News, 30 March 2018 <>; see also, inter alia, B Johnson, ‘How One Clumsy Ship Cut off the Web for 75 Million People’, The Guardian, 1 February 2008 <>; Coffin (n 5).

136 Heintschel von Heinegg (n 98) 295.

137 Convention for the Protection of Submarine Telegraph Cables 1884, arts 2, 5–6, 8–10 text available at <>.

138 Institute for International Law, Câbles sous-marins en temps de guerre, Resolution, 23 September 1902, Brussels Session <>.

139 See eg ‘Imperial Cable Communications and Strategy, 1870–1914’ (1971) 86(341) The English Historical Review 728, 729; ‘International Law Situations: 1900 US Naval Code – Section I – Hostilities’ (1903) 3 International Law Studies 13, 28–9; Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Cable Communications, reported to Parliament on 26 March 1902 (Cd. 1056).

140 ‘International Law Situations with Solutions and Notes: Situation I – Submarine Telegraphic Cables in Time of War’ (1902) 2 International Law Studies 7, 10.

141 ibid 11.

142 ibid 11–15, 19.

143 ibid 16–19.

144 ibid 35 (emphasis added).

145 US Department of Defense, Law of War Manual, 2016 update, para, with the following note: ‘James Brown Scott, The Proceedings of the Hague Peace Conferences: III The Conference of 1907 13 (1921) (“Mr Louis Renault observes that this amendment has reference only to what takes place on land, without touching the question of seizure or destruction of submarine cables in the open sea. The President thanks him for having given the text an interpretation that leaves no room for doubt.”)’. See also Pearce Higgins (n 131) 30.

146 Oxford Manual of the Laws of Naval War, 9 August 1913, art 54 (the sub-paragraphs and italics have been added by the authors for ease of reference) <>.

147 JA Hall, The Law of Naval Warfare (Chapman and Hall 1914) 64.

148 Its view prior to entry into the war may have been different. See ‘Memorandum by the Counselor for the Department of State (Lansing) on Professor Hugo Münsterberg's Letter to President Wilson of November 19, 1914’, in Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States (The Lansing Papers) 1914–1920 (Volume I), US Government Printing Office, Washington, 1939, 166–79.

149 Instructions for the Navy of the United States Governing Maritime Warfare, 30 June 1917, art 40 (emphasis added).

150 Pearce Higgins (n 131).

151 Treaty of Peace with Germany (Treaty of Versailles), 28 June 1919.

152 CJ Colombos, The International Law of the Sea (6th edn, Longman 1967) 535ff.

153 G Hinck, ‘Cutting the Cord: The Legal Regime Protecting Undersea Cables’, Lawfare, 21 November 2017 <>.

154 See International Cable Protection Committee, ‘ICPC Recommendations’ (8 December 2021) <>.

155 The ITU does deal with submarine cable issues – see, for example the workshops on Enhancing access to submarine cables for Pacific Islands Countries <>; a summary of the outcomes of the meeting is at <>; however, ITU sponsored guidance on the security implications and security-focussed regulation of submarine cables is scant—see, for example, the ITU-led publication Guide to Developing a National Cybersecurity Strategy: Strategic Engagement in Cybersecurity (2018), which does not refer to the undersea cable network <>. By comparison, there are several international agreements that cover registration, jurisdiction, cooperation, and offences in relation to space-based data assets such as the satellites regime for the 2100 satellites in near earth orbits: treaties, a UN Office of Outer Space Affairs, regular meetings on regulatory issues, and so on. There are also dedicated projects—such as the Woomera Manual—devoted to ascertaining how this body of law interacts with, inter alia, LOAC. Nothing of the same scope exists in relation to undersea data cables.

156 Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Seabed and the Ocean Floor and in the Subsoil Thereof 955 UNTS 115 (1971), art I(1): ‘The States Parties to this Treaty undertake not to emplant or emplace on the seabed and the ocean floor and in the subsoil thereof beyond the outer limit of a seabed zone, as defined in article II, any nuclear weapons or any other types of weapons of mass destruction as well as structures, launching installations or any other facilities specifically designed for storing, testing or using such weapons.’ See also J Kraska, Maritime Power and the Law of the Sea: Expeditionary Operations in World Politics (Oxford University Press 2011) 279.

157 L Doswald-Beck et al. (eds), San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea (CUP/International Institute of Humanitarian Law 1995) rule 37.

158 ibid 111 (emphasis added).

159 W Heintschel von Heinegg, ‘The San Remo Manual – History, Methodology and Future Application’ in D Stephens and M Stubbs (eds), The Law of Naval Warfare (LexisNexis Butterworths 2019) 11, 23 para 2.39.

160 San Remo Manual (n 160) Rule 60(a).

161 The Joint Service Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict (UK Ministry of Defence 2004) para 11.81; compare New Zealand Defence Force Manual of Armed Forces Law - Vol 4: Law of Armed Conflict (2021), para 10.3.17, citing San Remo Manual rule 37.

162 M Schmitt (ed), Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare 2.0 (Cambridge University Press 2017), 510—Rule 129, para 3; and 551—Rule 149, para 10 (Tallinn Manual 2.0).

163 ibid, 556— Rule 150, para 5.

164 J Kraska, ‘The Law of Maritime Neutrality and Submarine Cables’ (EJIL:Talk! Blog, 29 July 2020) <>.

165 Tallinn Manual 2.0 (n 165) 556—Rule 150, para 5.

166 Kraska (n 164).

167 For a more detailed survey of the relevant historical material, see R McLaughlin, TP Paige and D Guilfoyle, ‘Submarine Communication Cables and the Law of Armed Conflict: Some Enduring Uncertainties, and Some Proposals, as to Characterization’ (2022) Journal of Conflict & Security Law (forthcoming).

168 1907 Hague (XIII) Concerning the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers in Naval War, art 2.

169 See eg 1856 Paris Declaration, art 4; San Remo Manual, Rule 95.

170 See below on Latifi's use of this analogy in 1909.

171 See below on, inter alia, Stockton's use of this analogy.

172 San Remo Manual, Rule 67.

173 Pearce Higgins (n 131) 34–5.

174 T Holland (ed), A Manual of Naval Prize Law (HMSO 1888) para 108.

175 J Winkler, ‘Information Warfare in World War I’ (2009) 73 Journal of Military History 845–849.

176 Proclamation, The London Gazette, 4 August 1914, at 6161 <>.

177 Order in Council, 4 August 1914, The London Gazette, 5 August 1914, at 6162 <>.

178 Privy Council, Order in Council, 20 August 1914, para 4: ‘The existence of a blockade shall be presumed to be known: (a) to all ships which sailed from or touched at an enemy port a sufficient time after the notification of the blockade to the local authorities to have enabled the enemy Government to make known the existence of the blockade, (b) to all ships which sailed from or touched at a British or allied port after the publication of the declaration of blockade…’: Supplement To The London Gazette, 22 August, 1914, 6673–74 <>; see also P Drew, The Law of Maritime Blockade: Past, Present, and Future (OUP 2017) 46–8; and Holland (n 174) paras 108–114.

179 Winkler (n 175) 856.

180 A MacFie, ‘The Straits Question in the First World War, 1914–18’ (1983) 19(1) Middle Eastern Studies 43.

181 Pearce Higgins (n 131) 31.

182 ‘Seismology: A Light Shaking’, The Economist, 16 June 2018, at 64; Joint ITU/WMO/UNESCO IOC Task Force to investigate the use of submarine telecommunications cables for ocean and climate monitoring and disaster warning <>.

183 K Bressie, ‘Using Submarine Cables for Climate Monitoring and Disaster Warning: Opportunities and Legal Challenges’ (ITU 2012) <>.

184 ‘If Drones Ruled the Waves: Avast, Me Hearties’, The Economist: The World If (Science and Technology), 7 July 2018, 13–14.

185 Ross (n 127).

186 1977 Additional Protocol I art 52(2); San Remo Manual, Rule 40.

187 C Stockton, ‘Submarine Telegraph Cables in Time of War’, Proceedings of U.S. Navy Inst., Vol. XXIV (1898) 453

188 A Latifi, Effects of War on Property (1909 Macmillan & Co) 114.

189 Pearce Higgins (n 131) 34.

190 For example, the NATO targeting of Serbia RTS station because it was used to transmit orders to Serb forces – ICTY, ‘Final Report to the Prosecutor by the Committee Established to Review the NATO Bombing Campaign Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’ (2000), para 76 <>.

191 GA Res 65/37, para 121 (7 December 2010)

192 Sunak (n 127) 5.

193 B Clark, ‘Undersea cables and the future of submarine competition’ (2016) 72(4) Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 234–37.

194 M Matis, ‘The Protection of Undersea Cables: A Global Security Threat’, Thesis, US Army War College, 7 March 2012, 1–2.

195 See (nn 6–10) and accompanying text.

196 A ransomware attack in 2017 on the UK National Health Service, for example, resulted in loss of access to patient records and caused cancelled appointments and surgeries: R Collier, ‘NHS Ransomware Attack Spreads Worldwide’ (2017) 189(22) Canadian Medical Association Journal 786–7 <>.

197 Hantover (n 9) 7.

198 ibid 47.

199 J Cariolle, ‘Optical Fiber Submarine Cable Deployment and Digital Vulnerability in Sub-Saharan Africa’, CESifo Working Papers (Ludwigs-Maximilians University's Center for Economic Studies and the Ifo Institute, 2018) 2–3.

200 See for example: Eritrea v Ethiopia (Partial Award: Western Front, Aerial Bombardment and Related Claims), Eritrea–Ethiopia Claims Commission, 19 December 2005, 27 UNRIAA 291, paras 98–105, 117–121 and separate Opinion of Arbitrator van Houtte (holding the destruction of the Hirgigo power station was unlawful due to widespread civilian impacts given the availability of alternative military means to achieve the same objective); and WJ Fenrick, ‘Targeting and Proportionality during the NATO Bombing Campaign against Yugoslavia’ (2001) 12(3) EJIL 489, 498–501.

201 Martinage (n 127) 124.

202 See 1977 Additional Protocol I, art 57(2); Commentary on the Additional Protocols of 1977, ICRC, Geneva, 1987, paras 2204–2219.

203 1977 Additional Protocol I, art 49(3): ‘The provisions of this Section apply … to all attacks from the sea or from the air against objectives on land …’; AP I Commentary para 1898: ‘The provision of this paragraph has the advantage of clearly establishing the fact that attacks from the sea or from the air against objectives on land are subject to the restrictions and conditions imposed by the Protocol.’

204 Inter alia, San Remo Manual, rules 39–41, 46.

205 Heintschel von Heinegg (n 98) 292 n 6; Assertions of a higher threshold than simple proportionality are not foreign to LOAC—permission for targeting a specially protected vessel such as a hospital ship (eg San Remo Manual, Rules 49-51) can require the application of a second level of additional tests beyond the proportionality test alone.

206 Hantover (n 9) 2–3.

207 For example: Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, 1023 UNTS 15 (1974), and the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space (

208 See, inter alia: Rose (n 127); Sunak (n 127); Davenport (n 16); R Martinage (n 127); Ross (n 127); Hantover (n 9); Wrathall (n 127); Damico (n 127).

209 UNCLOS, at inter alia arts 19, 21, 58, 87, 112–115.

210 Convention for the Protection of Submarine Telegraph Cables 1884, arts 2, 5–6, 8–10.

212 For example, ITU, Capacity Building Workshop on Guidelines on Access to Submarine Cables, Kigali, Rwanda, 7–8 May 2012 <>.