Centre for Internet & Society


 Link to full report:  https://cis-india.org/internet-governance/legal-and-policy-implications-of-autonomous-weapons-systems

Wars have been a part of human existence from the very beginning. However, the evolution of civilization has led to the evolution of wars. As a society, our discourse is now centred around on how this new generation of wars is best fought rather than whether at all to fight them. This inevitability of war has further led countries to develop means and methods of warfare, for inevitability of war is only acceptable when it is accompanied by the inevitability of victory. Autonomous Weapon Systems (AWS) or Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) have, in recent times, sparked a global debate regarding what is being called the future of technology: artificial intelligence. In the backdrop of revolutionizing wars, AWS are being developed by certain countries to gain an edge over the others, forcing others to participate in the arms race of the 21st century in order to prevent asymmetric development of warfare. The international community must now contemplate the legal, moral and ethical implications of further developing existing automated weapons and giving them more autonomy than ever before. 

 It is to ally such concerns that a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) was convened by the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (UN CCW) in December 2016, clearly demonstrating the global interest in the issue at hand. The Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects or the UN CCW was established with the aim of restricting weapons considered to cause unnecessary suffering and impact civilians disproportionately and indiscriminately. 

This paper is divided into 4 Chapters. 

Chapter I authored by Anoushka Soni defines and differentiates between certain key terms imperative for a better understanding of autonomous weapon systems in all its technicalities. Further, the Chapter also provides a broad overview of the difference in existing state practice by reviewing the lack of universality of a definition for autonomous weapons. 

Chapter II also authored by Anoushka Soni analyses autonomous weapons from the perspective of international humanitarian law. It first contemplates the prima facie illegality of autonomous weapons, and subsequently focuses on their lawful use with regard to the principles of distinction, proportionality and military necessity and the conclusion provides a normative look at the way forward. 

Chapter III authored by Elizabeth Dominic goes into the question of accountability and redress and evaluates models of criminal and civil liability in case autonomous weapons systems go wrong.

Chapter IV authored by Elizabeth Dominic  evaluates the role of the private sector in the development, trade and policy framework on autonomous weapons systems around the world.



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