Application of the Principle of Distinction under IHL in Outer Space

  •  Wenjun Yan    
  •  Haoyu Cui    


The principle of distinction can be applied to armed conflicts in outer space. Under the principle of distinction, combatants refer to armed personnel who directly participate in hostile actions in outer space, and military objects refer to those that have made actual contributions to military operations in outer space and can provide a definite military interest. All other personnel and objects are non-military targets that must not be attacked. Objects on which spaceflight participants depend for their survival, certain areas and cultural relics on celestial bodies, outer space, the natural environment of the earth, and space objects used for humanitarian relief are special protected objects. In order to implement the principle of distinction, the defender needs to effectively differentiate its own personnel and objects, and the attacker also needs to take feasible preventive measures.

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