Key issues for debate on autonomous weapons systems
Ahead of the CCW’s informal meeting of experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems, this paper suggests key areas for discussion and critical questions in efforts to address the concerns regarding autonomous weapons systems (AWS). The paper is an updated version of the paper ‘Structuring debate on autonomous weapons systems’ produced in November 2013.
In current practice, there is an expectation that human control is exercised over when, where and how weapons are used, and over their effects. This is implicit in existing international law governing the use of force. Increasingly autonomous weapons systems may erode what we have come to expect in terms of human control over weapons, and there is the possibility that weapons systems are developed that operate without meaningful human control. As a first principle for ad- dressing concerns regarding AWS, states should, therefore, formulate as an explicit legal requirement that there be meaningful human control over individual attacks.
The CCW meeting of experts offers an important opportunity for government delegations to:
* Reaffirm that meaningful (or sufficient or appropriate) human control must be exercised over the use of weapons, and express concern over future weapons that could operate without meaningful human control;
* Explain how human control is exercised over existing weapons systems, especially those termed ‘automatic’ or ‘semi-autonomous’, and, where applicable, explain how present practice informs states’ policy orientation toward autonomous weapons in the future;
* Where applicable, explain how ‘human control’, or its equivalent, is defined in relevant national policies;
* Support the development of an explicit prohibition, under international law, of weapons systems operating without meaningful human control over individual attacks.
The full version of this paper can be downloaded here.
Posted in: Autonomous weapons,