Fully Autonomous Weapons Systems and the Principles of International Humanitarian Law
5th International Conference of Phd Students and Young Researchers How Deep Is Your Law? Brexit. Technologies. Modern Conflicts Conference Papers 27 – 28 April 2017, Vilnius University Faculty of Law, Vilnius, Lithuania, pp. 298-309
19 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2017
Date Written: July 20, 2017
The development of military technology during the 20th Century is increasing the capabilities of the machines and computers while downgrading the number and complexity of tasks conducted by the personnel of the armed forces. However, the autonomy delegated to the machines was never involving the making of lethal-decision. With the arrival of the highly advanced systems like Aegis Anti-Missle Ship Defense System, the introduction of the aerial, land and maritime systems is likely to significantly reshaped the current battlefield. However, this futuristic weaponry would certainly become a major challenge for the existing framework of the international humanitarian law.
The concept called 'dehumanization of warfare' is not a novelty in history. Since the deployment of the arrows and crossbows the distance between the operator and weapon is constantly increasing. However, one crucial element of targeting process remains intact – the decision whenever to fire or not still require human activity (with the unique exception of the naval contact mines). This phenomenon remains active with the introduction of the artillery, aviation and unnamed military machines. Contemporary, the UCAV (Unnamed Combat Aerial Vehicles) like the most commonly used by the USAF and RAF Predator and Reaper drones are operating in the manned system, where the operator is remotely controlling movement and targeting. However, the introduction of the artificial intelligence (AI) will likely completely exclude the human factor in the process of targeting and will likely indicate an possible breakthrough both on legal and non-legal backgrounds. The aim of the article is to analyze the possible deployment of the Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) from the perspective of international humanitarian law (IHL). The Part I will presented the definition of the existing autonomous war machines. Part II will present historical experiences arsing from the existence of automation in context of maritime warfare. Part III, IV, V will examine the legality of LAWS from the perspective of IHL. Finally, the paper will present the emerging idea of meaningful human control as a contrary response to the 'dehumanization' of autonomous weapons.
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