International Law Studies


In this article the revolution in fiber optic submarine cable communications is placed in context with the world’s growing dependence upon critical submarine cable infrastructure. Emphasis is placed on the development of international law designed to protect submarine cables and in particular those articles in the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention that foster and safeguard the freedom to lay and repair submarine cables. Special focus is applied to the status of international submarine telecommunication cables in cases of intentional actions that damage or destroy them and the State practice and customary international law that generally classifies submarine cables as legitimate military targets by belligerents. The article highlights the importance of increasing submarine route diversity and amending the SUA conventions to provide protection to international submarine cable systems. The concept and need of allowing cable ships to be exempt from belligerent attack in wartime is also analyzed.