Mass atrocities—genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity—constitute a particularly unacceptable assault on ‘the moral conscience of mankind’. Such acts are certainly not unique to the twenty-first century, but what is unique now is the pervasiveness and sophistication of cyberspace. Cyberspace has had an unprecedented effect on how society functions, especially as a tool for fomenting division and organizing violence. The increasing focus on the politics and ethics of cyber operations has occurred alongside recognition of the need to protect vulnerable populations from mass atrocity crimes. In an effort to move away from the ‘right’ to intervene militarily, at the United Nations' 2005 World Summit states unanimously agreed to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) norm. According to R2P, states have duties to safeguard their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity (Pillar I). The international community has a duty to aid states in fulfilling these duties (Pillar II) and has a responsibility to act in a ‘timely and decisive manner’ in cases where a state is ‘manifestly failing’ to protect its population—including, if necessary, via armed humanitarian interventions, subject to UN Security Council (UNSC) authorization (Pillar III).
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