The Woomera Manual follows in the footsteps of, inter alia, the Oxford Manual, the San Remo Manual, the Harvard Manual and the Tallinn Manuals. Importantly, in the tradition of these manuals, it will maintain a strict focus on the law as it is (lex lata), not on the law as we might wish it to be (lex ferenda). The latter is more appropriate for official, intergovernmental efforts in drafting new international instruments. Yet, it is unlikely that the diverse interests of States in the current geo-political environment will coalesce around any new international instruments on space security. For that reason, we consider a strict focus on lex lata to be essential.
The Woomera Manual gathers together legal experts specialised in the fields of international space law, international law on the use of force and the law of armed conflict, together with technical experts. Experts contribute in a personal capacity on the basis of their own conclusions as to the state of the law, independent of the official position or preference of any State or organisation.
The Rules set forth in The Woomera Manual are succinct statements of international law in a military space context. A Commentary accompanying each Rule expands on its interpretation, discusses difficult issues of application, and provides examples or scenarios as a means of clarification. Experts will come together in a series of workshops over the next several years to agree upon the Rules and Commentary on the basis of non-attribution and consensus (where possible). However, most of the work will take place between workshops, when the experts draft the proposed Rules and Commentary to be considered at the workshops.
The full set of draft Rules and associated Commentary will undergo a process of State consultation and engagement, which is scheduled to occur in 2020. Known as the Soesterberg Process, this State engagement with the Woomera Manual will be conducted at the invitation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, hosted by the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
The Soesterberg Process will include both face-to-face workshops at which representatives of States may comment on draft rules and commentary, and an opportunity for States to make written comments. The Rules and associated Commentary will then be revised to ensure that the Woomera Manual reflects all reasonable views held by States. The Soesterberg process will ensure that the Woomera Manual provides a robust analysis of all key issues relating to military space operations, and that it articulates and clarifies the existing applicable international law and the various interpretations thereof.
The Board of Directors will also seek other opportunities for State engagement while the Rules and Commentary are being drafted. Other international law and space operations experts around the world will carefully scrutinise the draft text in a robust ‘peer review’ process. The Board welcomes proposals by States to host and contribute to State engagement events.