Autonomous Weapon Systems under International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law

Completed in May 2017

Would the use of weapon systems that can detect, select and fire at targets without human intervention comply with international legal standards for the protection of the human person, and if so, under what circumstances? This is one of the key questions in the current debate about autonomous weapon systems (AWS), also called ‘killer robots’, weapon systems that by some definitions don’t yet exist.

This project examined the legal requirements that the use of AWS would need to comply with in a number of scenarios envisaged by proponents of increasing autonomy in weapon systems.

It looked beyond compliance with the international humanitarian law (IHL) rules on targeting and also examines other rules of IHL and international human rights law, including standards on the use of force for law enforcement purposes.

Drawing on case law dealing with other weapon technologies and autonomous systems, it asks in particular: Who or what may force be directed at? Where and when may AWS be used? What are the procedural legal requirements in terms of the planning, conduct and aftermath of AWS use?

 

RESEARCHER

Picture of Maya Brehm

Maya Brehm

OUTPUT

Defending the Boundary: Constraints and Requirements on the Use of Autonomous Weapon Systems under International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law

Academy Briefing No.9 Defending the Boundary analyzes the constraints and requirements on the use of autonomous weapon systems (AWS), also called ‘killer robots’, under international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL). Drawing on case law dealing with other weapon technologies and autonomous systems, it asks where and when AWS may be used, and what the procedural legal requirements are in terms of the planning, conduct and aftermath of AWS use.

A Research Brief for Policy Makers and Advocacy Groups

A Research Brief of Academy Briefing No.9 provides policy makers and advocacy groups with a summary of key findings.

Publications

Cover of Briefing N°9: Defending the boundary

Briefing N°9: Defending the boundary

May 2017

Maya Brehm

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download >

Cover of the Research Brief: Defending the Boundary

Research Brief: Defending the Boundary

May 2017

Maya Brehm

The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download >

Cover of the Briefing No8: Autonomous Weapons Systems Under International Law

Briefing N°8: Autonomous Weapons Systems Under International Law

November 2014

Milena Costas Trascasas, Nathalie Weizmann

Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

Download >

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

News

Autonomous Weapon Systems: Legality under International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

May 2017

Our new publication Defending the Boundary analyses the constraints and requirements on the use of autonomous weapon systems (AWS), also called ‘killer robots’, under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

Read more

Coverpage of the 2016 Annual Report News

2016 Annual Report

June 2017

Our 2016 Annual Report is out! It provides an overview of our activities and achievements.

Read more

Rafah, 2009. The ICRC provides the farmers located in the buffer zones with wheat seeds Training

12th Advanced Seminar in International Humanitarian Law for University Lecturers and Researchers

25- September 2017

Organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Geneva Academy, the 12th edition of this advanced seminar aims to enhance the capacity of lecturers and researchers to teach and research international humanitarian law (IHL) contemporary issues, addressing both substantive and pedagogical aspects.

Read more

doption of the Arms Trade Treaty by the UN General Assembly, 2 April 2013 Project

The Arms Trade Treaty

Completed in January 2013

The Geneva Academy team followed the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) negotiations and provided key information on the negotiations, notably via a daily blog.

Read more

Central African Republic, Ouham province, village of Ouogo. International Humanitarian Law dissemination session to members of the Peoples' Army for the Restoration of Democracy. Project

From Words to Deeds: Exploring the Practice of Armed Non-State Actors and its Impact on the Implementation of International Law

Started in January 2017

This project aims to understand and study the practice and views of armed non-state actors on key norms of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Read more