A Legal Framework for Regulating Autonomous Weapon System Deployments

Pollard, Michael James (2021) A Legal Framework for Regulating Autonomous Weapon System Deployments. Doctoral thesis, The University Of Buckingham.

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The principle aim of this research is the creation of a unique legal framework to regulate the use of the emerging technology referred to as Autonomous Weapons Systems (AWS). To date, the formulation of such a framework has not been possible due primarily to the abject lack of certainty as to what an AWS is. Despite this, AWS are particularly controversial primarily because in order for them to operate humankind must delegate battlefield life-or-death decision making responsibilities to machines. In 2019, amidst increasing calls for absolute prohibition to be placed upon their use, a group of governmental experts (GGE), assembled by the United Nations (UN), did endorse a set of (non binding) “guiding principles”. These were intended to help shape future weapons development. However, they are woefully superficial, and notably muted as to exactly what types of weapons they should be applied to. This thesis seeks to compensate for the existing lacunae in several novel ways. First, it develops an unparalleled, multi-dimensional, definitional tool. This is referred to throughout as the Template. Unconventionally, the Template allows for individual classification based first, according to a weapons type, second to the matter of whether the AWS is to be deployed defensively or offensively, and third in regard of whether an AWS is to apply a lethal, or non-lethal force (noting the latter two axes represent a particularly contentious element of the existing discussion). It is only by consulting the Template that the researcher is able undertake the second thesis aim, which is the realisation of an unrivalled, comprehensive, and independent analysis as to the lawfulness of AWS deployments – doing so according to the jus ad bellum, the jus in bello, and international human rights law. From these separate, though inextricably intertwined examinations, various rules are distilled. These are significantly dissimilar to any such rules which have preceded them, not least because each is grounded, or in some other way related to, an existing legal obligation. In closing, the researcher presents these rules holistically as set guiding principles which efficaciously provide the absent legal framework for regulating individual AWS deployments. Ultimately, this body of research unequivocally supports the researcher’s hypothesis that AWS are not inherently unlawful. However, by endorsing the guiding principles, states can greatly restrict or eliminate many of the inherent dangers of utilizing this revolution in military affairs, while still harnessing many of their advantages.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Autonomous Weapons Systems (AWS) ; United Nations (UN) ; the Template ; international human rights law.
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
K Law > KZ Law of Nations
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Divisions: School of Law
Depositing User: Freya Tyrrell
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2024 11:44
Last Modified: 06 Mar 2024 11:44
URI: http://bear.buckingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/624

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