NATO's Targeting Process: Ensuring Human Control Over and Lawful Use of ‘Autonomous’ Weapons

Mark Roorda, NATO’s Targeting Process: Ensuring Human Control Over (and Lawful Use of) ‘Autonomous’ Weapons, in: Autonomous Systems: Issues for Defence Policymakers, eds. Andrew Williams and Paul Scharre, NATO Headquarters Supreme Allied Command Transformation

Amsterdam Center for International Law No. 2015-06

Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2015-13

19 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2015 Last revised: 9 Dec 2015

See all articles by Mark Roorda

Mark Roorda

University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam Center for International Law

Date Written: April 13, 2015

Abstract

The prospect of the use of so-called autonomous weapon systems has raised significant legal and moral concerns. This chapter contributes to the debate by providing an alternative perspective to the current dominant focus on the technological capabilities of future weapons. The author argues that machines do not have to be able to distinguish and make proportionality calculations. No rule in IHL requires weapons to do so. It is ‘merely’ the effects of attack decisions that need to be in accordance with relevant norms. Human judgment is required to decide under what circumstances to allow a particular system – with its specific abilities – to operate. NATO’s targeting process serves as an example how weapons may be used effectively and responsibly, partly by its incorporation of legal norms. The author concludes that weapons programmed to perform targeting tasks without direct human input may be lawfully used in many situations if the state employing the system would follow similar steps as described in NATO’s targeting doctrine and if humans continue to make the critical decisions about when and how to employ the system given the conditions ruling at the time.

Keywords: Law of armed conflict, Autonomous weapon system, targeting, NATO, meaningful human control

JEL Classification: K33, N40

Suggested Citation

Roorda, Mark, NATO's Targeting Process: Ensuring Human Control Over and Lawful Use of ‘Autonomous’ Weapons (April 13, 2015). Mark Roorda, NATO’s Targeting Process: Ensuring Human Control Over (and Lawful Use of) ‘Autonomous’ Weapons, in: Autonomous Systems: Issues for Defence Policymakers, eds. Andrew Williams and Paul Scharre, NATO Headquarters Supreme Allied Command Transformation; Amsterdam Center for International Law No. 2015-06; Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2015-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2593697

Mark Roorda (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam Center for International Law ( email )

P.O. Box 1030
Amsterdam, 1000 BA
Netherlands

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