Drones and other unmanned weapons systems under international law
Leiden ; Boston : Brill Nijhoff, 2018
Developments in weapon technology have long been enhancing targeting precision and accuracy, while in parallel significantly diminishing the role of humans on the battlefield and “depersonalizing” armed conflict. While the first uses of an armed unmanned aerial vehicle during armed conflict appears to date back to the mid-1800s when hot-air balloons were mounted with bombs, as described in the introduction to this book the first direct attack by aerial drone took place in 2001. Unmanned aircraft are held to entail lower acquisition and maintenance costs to have greater endurance and persistence; and to initiate force faster after target identification than their manned equivalents, all at significant distances from, and vastly reduced risk to, the operator. Despite these perceived advantages, there has also been concern about the compliance of armed drones with international law, including under the law of armed conflict (loac). This chapter explains when an armed conflict exists, describes the fundamental loac rules governing the conduct of hostilities in an armed conflict, and assesses the ability of armed drones to comply with those rules. As discussed in chapter 2, the rules governing the use of force for law enforcement purposes are considerably more protective than loac rules on the conduct of hostilities. As reviewed in the previous chapter, jus ad bellum is the law governing the resort to force by one state against another. The ad bellum legal regime does not displace loac rules, which apply independently and irrespective of whether the resort to force is lawful under jus ad bellum.
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