Autonomous weapons systems: the permissible use of lethal force, international humanitarian law and arms control

Herbert, Carmen Kendell (2017-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY: This thesis examines both the ethical and legal issues associated with the use of fully autonomous weapons systems. Firstly, it addresses the question of whether or not an autonomous weapon may lawfully use lethal force against a target in armed conflict, given the constraints of International Humanitarian Law, and secondly, the question of the appropriate loci of responsibility for the actions of such machines. This dissertation first clarifies the terminology associated with autonomous weapons systems, which includes a discussion on artificial intelligence, the difference between automation and autonomy, and the difference between partially and fully autonomous systems. The structure is such that the legal question of the permissible use of lethal force is addressed first, which includes discussion on the current International Humanitarian Law requirements of proportionality and distinction. Thereafter a discussion on potential candidates for responsibility (and consequentially liability) for the actions of autonomous weapons that violate the principles of International Humanitarian Law follows. Addressing the aforementioned questions is critical if we are to decide whether to use these weapons and how we could use them in a manner that is both legal and ethical. The position here is that the use of autonomous weapons systems is inevitable, thus the best strategy to ensure compliance with International Humanitarian Law is to forge arms control measures that address the associated issues explored in this dissertation. The ultimate aim in asking the associated legal and ethical questions is to bring attention to areas where the law is currently underequipped to deal with this new technology, and thus to make recommendations for future legal reform to control the use of autonomous weapons systems and ensure compliance with the existing principles of International Humanitarian Law.

AFRIKAANS OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek die etiese sowel as die regskwessies wat met die gebruik van ten volle outonome wapenstelsels verband hou. In die besonder handel dit oor die vraag of ’n outonome wapen regmatig dodelike geweld teen ’n teiken in gewapende konflik mag gebruik in die lig van die beperkinge van die internasionale humanitêre reg, sowel as die vraag oor by wie die verantwoordelikheid vir die aksies van sulke masjiene behoort te berus. Hierdie verhandeling begin deur die terminologie op die gebied van outonome wapenstelsels te verklaar, wat insluit ’n bespreking van kunsmatige intelligensie, die verskil tussen outomatisasie en outonomie, en die verskil tussen gedeeltelik en ten volle outonome stelsels. Wat struktuur betref, kom die regsvraag oor die toelaatbare gebruik van dodelike geweld eerste aan bod, met inbegrip van ’n bespreking van die huidige vereistes van proporsionaliteit en onderskeid ingevolge die internasionale humanitêre reg. Daarna volg ’n bespreking van moontlike kandidate vir verantwoordelikheid (en gevolglik aanspreeklikheid) vir die aksies van outonome wapens wat internasionale humanitêre regsbeginsels skend. ’n Ondersoek na hierdie vraagstukke is noodsaaklik om te besluit of ons hierdie wapens enigsins behoort te gebruik, en of ons dit op ’n regmatige sowel as ’n etiese manier kan gebruik. Die standpunt in hierdie verband is dat die gebruik van outonome wapenstelsels onafwendbaar is, en dus is die beste strategie om wapenbeheermaatreëls in te stel om die verbandhoudende kwessies wat in hierdie verhandeling verken word, die hoof te bied. Die einddoel met die verkenning van die verbandhoudende regs- en etiese vraagstukke is om die aandag te vestig op gebiede waar die reg tans onvoldoende toegerus is om hierdie nuwe tegnologie te hanteer, en om dus aanbevelings te doen vir toekomstige regshervorming om die gebruik van outonome wapenstelsels te beheer en voldoening aan bestaande internasionale humanitêre regsbeginsels te verseker.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/102687
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