Lethal Autonomous Weapons: the Challenge of Accountability

Date/Time: 10/12/2015  08:30 - 10:00

Location: PRIO

Technological advances in weaponry mean that decisions about the use of force on the battlefield could increasingly be taken by machines operating without human intervention. Such technology has in recent years been labeled “lethal autonomous weapon systems” (LAWS) and “killer robots”, and raises questions as to whether an independently operating autonomous weapon  system can operate in accordance with International Law, and who would be held responsible and accountable for any violations.

This breakfast seminar deals with some of the specific issues and policy dilemmas which have surfaced as part of the recent diplomatic process on lethal autonomous weapon systems and taken place under the auspices of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

To better understand the legal implications of such processes and to draw conclusions for policy making on technological advances in weaponry, this seminar addresses the following questions:

  •  The state of current debate: What are the political and diplomatic processes and central issues?
  • How can existing weapons fit into regulation of a prohibition?  Many current weapon systems are capable of autonomously selecting and attacking targets, how could they be included in future instruments?
  • What is legal accountability?  What are the challenges for ensuring accountability for violations of international humanitarian law (IHL), and how can respect for IHL be guaranteed?
  • National reviews of weapons as a response to LAWS: What are the possibilities and limits on unilateral and legal approaches (such as the article 36 mechanism) to LAWS?

Programme and speakers:

08:30                 Breakfast​ & coffee

08:40                 Welcome & introductions

  • Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert (Chair, PRIO) and Kristin Bergtora Sandvik (PRIO)

08:50                 Presentation by Panelists

  • ​​Kjølv Egeland (ILPI): The State of Play: the Killer Robots Campaign and CCW. Diplomatic process and political discourse.
  • ​​Nic Marsh (PRIO): Approaches to regulating current technology.
  • Espen Persønn Flagstad (Norwegian Red Cross):  Lethal Autonomous Weapons – Compliance with IHL and legal accountability for breach of IHL from a Norwegian Red Cross perspective.
  • Lars Morten Bjørholt (Judge Advocate General): Legal Account​ability for LAWS: what is and isn’t  there?
  • Knut Sverre (Norwegian Red Cross): The Road ahead: Are improved article 36 reviews the answer?

09:40               Q & A session ​

Registration via the PRIO event portal.

N.B. This breakfast seminar will be held in English and is organized by the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS), in collaboration with the PRIO research groups on Humanitarianism and Law and Ethics.

Contact info:  Eric Cezne- ericez@prio.org

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