A new paper co-authored by Dr. Matthew Bolton of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute, argues for a legally-binding instrument on lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS). There is a need both for a legally-binding prohibition of certain autonomous weapons and for strong positive obligations to ensure meaningful human control of the use of force rooted in International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law. The Alliance for Multilateralism has endorsed voluntary Guiding Principles on LAWS. Its Member States should now lead the Principles’ upgrade towards more robust international agreements. One venue for this could be an additional protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).
The paper, published by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, is available for download here.
Bonnie Docherty (left) of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic and Matthew Bolton (right), Director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute on a panel regarding positive obligations in the proposed nuclear weapons ban treaty at the UN in March 2017.
The case for the nuclear weapons ban treaty has been rooted in the traditions of international humanitarian law and humanitarian disarmament law, which bind states to acknowledging the suffering caused by war, establishing prohibitions on inhuman methods and means of warfare and taking positive harm-limiting measures.
The Geneva Conventions – the most well-known treaties forming the core of international humanitarian law – prohibit states from targeting civilians, wounded soldiers, prisoners of war, the shipwrecked and relief workers. But they also commit states to a positive “duty to ensure respect” for the conventions (Common Article 1). And they mandate the International Committee of the Red Cross and the National Societies to provide relief and to raise awareness of humanitarian norms.
Side event on killer robots at the UN, 18 October 2016. Photo courtesy of UNODA.
Director of Pace University’s International Disarmament Institute Matthew Bolton chaired a side event on autonomous weapons systems — “killer robots” — during the UN General Assembly First Committee 18 October 2016.
The event featured Ambassador Tehmina Janjua of Pakistan, chair of the upcoming Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW); Mary Wareham, coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots; Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley; and Steve Goose, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Arms Division.
Panelists raised concerns about the security, humanitarian and human rights implications of growing autonomy in weapons systems.
To learn more about the event, read the write-up by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs or this flyer from the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.