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Regulating a game changer: using a distributed approach to develop an accountability framework for lethal autonomous weapon systems

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Tanya Krupiy


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The artificial intelligence capabilities of lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWSs) will revolutionize warfare. States have identified an imperative to create an accountability framework to address situations where use of a LAWS triggers an international crime. Indeed, the advent of LAWSs necessitates that we rethink how we attribute criminal accountability and how we understand traditional legal notions used for locating accountability. If the goals of international criminal law are to be promoted, the notion of moral agency should not be redefined to include LAWSs. Rather, there is a need for a distributed approach to accountability that ascribes responsibility to a senior political leader, a senior defense official responsible for promulgating policy on LAWSs, a weapon manufacturer, a weapon designer, a military commander, and an operator. The basis for this assertion is that a LAWS is in a matrix of relations with these individuals, meaning that they operate in an interdependent manner. These individuals are additionally in a matrix of relations with each other and their conduct is interconnected. The criteria for locating accountability should be whether the individual exercised authority in the circumstances over: (1) the LAWS either directly or through another person and (2) over the manner in which the LAWS was integrated with the operator. The context of LAWSs calls for a wider understanding of what constitutes an exercise of authority than the definition the doctrine of command responsibility encapsulates. The conclusion proposes a legal test for locating accountability for international crimes that arise from LAWSs.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Krupiy T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Georgetown Journal of International Law

Year: 2018

Volume: 50

Issue: 1

Pages: 45-112

Print publication date: 09/09/2018

Online publication date: 09/09/2018

Acceptance date: 01/10/2017

ISSN (print): 1550-5200

Publisher: Georgetown University Law Center