Autonomous weapon systems and accountability : putting the cart before the horse
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Melbourne journal of international law, Vol. 20, issue 1, July 2019, 30 p.
Source : https://law.unimelb.edu.au/mjil/issues/issue-archive/201 (last accessed on 31.05.2022)
Arguments that in many scenarios there will exist an ‘accountability gap’ where civilians are unlawfully killed through the use of an autonomous weapon system (‘AWS’) have been advanced to justify either the prohibition or restriction of AWS. This article examines the accountability problem through a critical review of the literature on accountability and AWS in order to identify why some experts say there will be no accountability gap while others argue there will, why some do not see this as a problem and others do, and why some consider this is a problem that has a solution while others see it as irresolvable. It is demonstrated that in large part these differing conclusions are the result of varying assumptions and preconditions. Without questioning the inherent value of accountability in the broad, it is argued that solutions to the debate over AWS will not be found in international criminal law, which should not be used as a backdoor to address perceived shortcomings in international humanitarian law. It is further argued that no analysis of the accountability problem will provide meaningful guidance as to whether the international community needs to prohibit or restrict AWS given that, one way or another, international criminal law can be amended to plug the accountability gap, if this is the desired policy outcome.
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