ICJ: International Court of Justice


Topic A: Indus Water Dispute (Pakistan v. India)

The partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 created a border running right through the Indus River system, and sparked serious tensions between the two states over access to water. India controls the rivers’ upstream sources, in Kashmir, but Pakistan’s large agricultural sector (which provides half of the country’s jobs) is dependent on the system for irrigation purposes. Both countries struggle with water stress, which exacerbates the issue — and climate change will make matters worse. Moreover, sovereignty over Kashmir itself is disputed between China, India, and Pakistan.

However, in 1960, the World Bank helped broker the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), resulting in an uneasy stability that still lasts today. In broad strokes, the IWT granted use of the three eastern rivers to India and of the three western rivers to Pakistan. Further, because India is the upper riparian (the upstream country), the Treaty further imposed certain responsibilities on it. Though India is allowed to build infrastructure on the rivers, it must ensure a guaranteed level of water flow to the lower riparian, Pakistan. Though the IWT remains in place, the conflict is not settled. Pakistan claims that some of India’s construction projects are in breach of the Treaty, and the Pakistani Senate and other officials have called for revisiting the Treaty itself in light of changing circumstances such as climate change.

Currently, several Indian construction projects, mainly hydroelectric dams, are the primary source of conflict. The IWT does give India the ability to use the western rivers for certain “non-consumptive,” “agricultural,” and hydro-electric purposes, but Pakistan interprets these clauses differently from India and argues that India’s activities constitute “water aggression” and unduly restrict the water from “[how] it would flow naturally.” In fact, a specific project (the Kishenganga Dam) was recently taken to the Permanent Court of Arbitration. However, the issues extend well beyond the Kishenganga Dam and hence there is much for the ICJ to consider.

Topic B: Legal Status of Cyber Warfare in International Law (Advisory Opinion)

Over the past few decades, computers and the Internet have featured in an unprecedented technological revolution, affecting almost every aspect of human existence in one way or another. In addition to general and commercial growth, computer networks have become exponentially more important to the military, opening “a fifth domain of war-fighting next to the traditionally recognized domains of land, sea, air, and outer space.” This fifth domain, also known as cyber warfare, indicates politically motivated attacks on information and technical systems. This includes disrupting governmental services, disabling or altering official websites and/or classified data, and interfering with financial systems.

Cyber warfare is in its infancy, but already takes many different forms. More often than not, cyber warfare is international, perpetrated in order to get information from or simply cause harm to another state. In 2008, for example, the Russian government led several service and cybervandalism attacks against Georgia, filling their network with anti-Georgian propaganda. In 2009, the United States reported foreign cyber-tampering with national servers and large power grids. It is thought that multiple incredibly sophisticated malware programs discovered in the last several years, such as Stuxnet and Flame, were state-sponsored sabotage operations on Middle Eastern countries.

As new technology is developed, international law must evolve with it. Certainly, much of the established law of war — whether codified or customary — can apply to aspects of cyber warfare, but where and how is an unsettled question. The international legal community has only just begun to address cyber warfare. In April of 2013, NATO published the Tallinn Manual, a document created by multinational experts that agreed that the law of armed conflict applied to cyber warfare and examined the “threshold for when a cyber-attack violates the United Nations prohibition on the use of force.” The ICJ will examine the established jus ad bellum (international law regarding when it is legal to go to war or otherwise use force in international relations) and jus in bello (which governs acceptable conduct during wartime) for guidance, but may also have to wade into technological territory for which there is no pre-technology analog.

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