At the first substantive session of the 2021-2025 UN Group of Governmental exports (UNGGE), Albania aligned itself with the EU’s statement that the existing corpus of international law, notably the UN Charter, international humanitarian law, and international human rights law, apply in cyberspace in its entirety. In particular, this includes the principle of state sovereignty, sovereign equality, the settlement of disputes by peaceful means, the provision of the use of force non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states, and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms as principles of international law that are applicable to states use of ICTs in cyberspace. [x
] Albania has also consistently aligned itself with the EU position in a number of key resolutions at the United Nations, including resolutions A/73/27
. A 2015 policy paper
notes that cybersecurity will only be “efficient” if it is “based on the fundamental human rights and freedoms, pursuant to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the universal values of the EU”. In the same vein, the 2020-2025 National Cybersecurity Strategy
includes “improving the legal framework providing norms and regulating cybersecurity in the country, and aligning this framework with European Union directives and regulation” as a stated objective.
The UK views
international law as “a critical tool for ensuring stability and security in cyberspace”. In accordance with the 2013, 2015 and 2021 UNGGE reports as well the 2021 OEWG report, the UK has affirmed
that international law, including the UN Charter in its entirety, applies in cyberspace; a position paper notably states
that “we do not consider it is for States to pick and choose which international law instruments are applicable”. This includes the prohibition of the use of force (Article 2(4)), the peaceful settlement of disputes (Article 33) and the inherent right of states to act in self-defence in response to an armed attack (Article 51). The law of state responsibility applies to cyber operations in peacetime, including the doctrine of countermeasures in response to internationally wrongful acts. Meanwhile, the country has professed
a strong commitment to the respect of human rights law in cyberspace, co-sponsoring the 2012
UN Human Rights Council resolutions on the protection, promotion and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet. Likewise, the UK believes
in the application of international humanitarian law (IHL) to cyber operations in armed conflict. In response to concerns expressed by other states that this might lead to an undue ‘militarisation’ of cyberspace, the UK has responded
that the application of IHL does not encourage armed conflict but only serves to limit humanitarian consequences in the event of such conflict. In addition, the country has stated
and that there are ways for cyber capabilities to be developed in a manner “consistent with international law” and called on states to be transparent about the existence of their own capabilities. Those statements do not entirely dismiss the idea of cyberspace as a new military domain, with the British position at the OEWG being
that “the use of ICTs in military contexts may be preferable to use of kinetic weapons and can be de-escalatory”. The UK is against the establishment of new, binding international instruments to regulate state behaviour in cyberspace, arguing
that “pursuing […] the development of new treaties is only likely to entrench existing divides in this area and will progress us no further on the question of how International Law applies”.
The US believes
that international law is applicable in cyberspace. As part of the ‘like-minded’ coalition, the US recognises a need to acknowledge the full breadth of relevant international law, including international humanitarian law (IHL), human rights law, customary international law on the responsibilities of states for internationally wrongful acts. The general applicability of IHL in cyberspace is not to be misconstrued as a tacit endorsement of aggression in the cyber domain; instead, it only serves to remind states of the responsibility to respect and protect civilians in the event of armed conflict.
In the context of multilateral fora, US diplomats have specifically emphasised
the applicability of the right to self-defence under Art. 51 of the UN Charter, noting that a State may lawfully take cyber-based or non-cyber-based countermeasures in response to internationally wrongful cyber activities attributable to another State, but only subject to the requirements of the doctrine under international law and the principles of necessity and proportionality.