AI and the Actual IHL Accountability Gap
AI and the Actual Accountability Gap, in THE ETHICS OF AUTOMATED WARFARE AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, CENTRE FOR INTERNATIONAL GOVERNANCE INNOVATION (2022)
8 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2022
Date Written: November 28, 2022
Article after article bemoans how new military technologies — including landmines, unmanned drones, cyberoperations, autonomous weapon systems and artificial intelligence (AI) — create new “accountability gaps” in armed conflict. Certainly, by introducing geographic, temporal and agency distance between a human’s decision and its effects, these technologies expand familiar sources of error and complicate causal analyses, making it more difficult to hold an individual or state accountable for unlawful harmful acts.
But in addition to raising these new accountability issues, novel military technologies are also making more salient the accountability chasm that already exists at the heart of international humanitarian law (IHL): the relative lack of legal accountability for unintended, “awful but lawful” civilian harm.
Technological developments often make older, infrequent or underreported problems more stark, pervasive or significant. While many proposals focus on regulating particular weapons technologies to address concerns about increased incidental harms or increased accidents, this is not a case of the law failing to keep up with technological development. Instead, technological developments have drawn attention to the accountability gap built into the structure of IHL. In doing so, AI and other new military technologies have highlighted the need for accountability mechanisms for all civilian harms.
Keywords: international humanitarian law, law of armed conflict, artificial intelligence, accountability, weapons, accidents
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