About | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline

45 Denv. J. Int'l L. & Pol'y 1 (2016-2017)
Accountability Gap: Autonomous Weapon Systems and Modes of Responsibility in International Law

handle is hein.journals/denilp45 and id is 7 raw text is: 


                              *THOMPSON   CHENGETA

         If the nature of a weapon renders responsibility for its consequences im-
         possible, its use should be considered unethical and unlawful as an ab-
         horrent weapon.


     The  development  of unmanned   systems that are remotely controlled and those
with increased autonomy   in making the decision to target or kill humans has been a
worry  to the international community for more  than a decade now. The  idea to de-
velop  Autonomous   Weapon   Systems  (AWS)-machines that, once activated, are
able to make  the decision to kill humans without further human  intervention-has
sparked  heated debates across the globe.2 The old adage, technology  is a double-
edged  sword' has never, in the history of weapons development,  been more  perti-
nent than it is with AWS.  On  the one hand, there are claims that AWS  promise  a
potential to save lives-to make   a change to the unacceptable  current state of af-
fairs in armed conflict and elsewhere-where force is used.4 On the other hand,
however,  there are compelling reasons to believe that the deployment of AWS  will
result in the violation of the right to life, dignity, and other important rights.5

* LL.D, University of Pretoria, LL.M., Harvard Law School, LL.M., University of Pretoria, LL.B.,
Midlands State University., Expert Member, International Committee for Robots Arms Control.
     1. Christof Heyns (Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions),
GAOR,  1 80, U.N. Doe. A/HRC/23/47 (Apr. 9, 2013) [hereinafter Heyns, Extrajudicial, Summary or
Arbitrary Executions].
     2. There is no internationally agreed definition of AWS. However, a large number of scholars
give the above definition. See, e.g., id 1 38. The report cites almost similar definitions provided by the
US Department of Defense and Human Rights Watch. U.S. Dep't of Def., Dir. 3000.09, Autonomy in
Weapon  Systems, at 13 (Nov. 21, 2012), http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/300009p.pdf;
Bonnie Docherty, Losing Humanity: the Case Against Killer Robots 1, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH (Nov.
19, 2012), https://www.hrw.org/report/2012/11/19/losing-humanity/case-against-killer-robots [hereinaf-
ter Docherty].
     3. We have to realize that science is a double-edged sword. One edge of the sword can cut
against poverty, illness, disease and give us more democracies, and democracies never war with other
democracies, but the other side of the sword could give us nuclear proliferation, biogerms and even
forces     of       darkness.    Michio       Kaku      Quotes,      BRAINYQUOTE,
http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/michiokaku574536.html (last visited Sept. 17, 2016).
     4. See Ron Arkin, Lethal Autonomous Systems and the Plight of Non-combatant, GA. INST. OF
TECH., AISB Q., no. 137, at 2 (July 2013), https://unoda-web.s3-accelerate.amazonaws.com/wp-
tent/uploads/assets/media/54B1 B7A6I6EAl DIOC 1257CCC00478A59/file/ArticleArkinLAWS.pdf.
     5. See, e.g., Robert Sparrow, Robotic Weapons and the Future of War, in NEW WARS AND NEW


What Is HeinOnline?

HeinOnline is a subscription-based resource containing thousands of academic and legal journals from inception; complete coverage of government documents such as U.S. Statutes at Large, U.S. Code, Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. Reports, and much more. Documents are image-based, fully searchable PDFs with the authority of print combined with the accessibility of a user-friendly and powerful database. For more information, request a quote or trial for your organization below.

Short-term subscription options include 24 hours, 48 hours, or 1 week to HeinOnline.

Contact us for annual subscription options:

Already a HeinOnline Subscriber?

profiles profiles most