Autonomous Weapon Systems under International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law

Started in January 2015

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 examines 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 looks 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?

Research outputs will be published by the end of 2016.

PROJECT'S DOCUMENTS

RESEARCHER

Picture of Maya Brehm

Maya Brehm

Researcher

Maya Brehm's research focuses on the regulation of weapons under international law.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

Vover page of the In-Brief No.7 Human Rights Obligations of Armed Non-State Actors: An Exploration of the Practice of the UN Human Rights Council  News

How the UN Human Rights Council Addresses Armed Non-State Actors: Key Challenges and Way Forward

February 2017

Ten years after the establishment of the UN Human Rights Council, our new publication highlights the current challenges related to the Council’s approach to armed non-state actors and proposes recommendations to better address this phenomenon.

Read more

Homepage of the Rule of Law in Armed Conflict Portal News

A New Rule of Law in Armed Conflict Online Portal

February 2017

We are launching an updated version of our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) portal, an online database that identifies and classifies all situations of armed violence that amount to an armed conflict under international humanitarian law (IHL). The updated version includes all conflicts that have emerged over the last five years and are still ongoing.

Read more

Central African Republic, Ouham province. Member of the Central African Armed Forces. Training

Training on International Weapons Law

2017

The Geneva Academy offers professional training on weapons law, covering a wide range of subjects including the definition of weapons; Article 36’s weapons review; means and methods of warfare or new weapons technologies.

Read more

Syria, Old city of Aleppo. Destructed houses situated next to the frontline stand side by side alongside intact houses full of occupants just a few meters away from the frontline Short Course

The Classification of Armed Conflicts

27 April - June 2017

This course aims to study, in depth, an emblematic example of the complexity of international humanitarian law and the challenges it raises: the classification of armed conflicts.

Read more

South Sudan, Warrab. An ICRC information session on the Law of Armed Conflict with soldiers from Warrab State. Project

Armed Non-State Actors and the Human Rights Council

Completed in January 2015

Launched in 2016, this project aimed to identify whether, to what extent and under what circumstances armed non-state actors incur obligations under international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights (HR) law.

Read more

Colombia, Mountains in the Valle del Cauca region, between Santander de Quilichao et Popayan. FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) combattants are getting ready for the fightings. Project

Rules of Engagement

Completed in January 2009

This project looked at how to enhance compliance by armed non-state actors with international norms, taking into account the views both of the actors themselves and the experiences of those engaged in dialogue with them.

Read more