Humanitarian law & human-free weapons

‘[S]uggestions that cyber means and methods of warfare exist in an extra-normative space beyond the reach of IHL are completely counter-normative.’

Michael N. Schmitt, contributing a post to a series on “International Humanitarian Law & New Technologies” sponsored at Intercross, the blog of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Schmitt, who heads the U.S. Naval War College International Law Department and is a Senior Fellow at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, is among the experts who maintain that Intercross ID logo_0international humanitarian law enjoys what he calls “inherent adaptability”; therefore, consideration of what uses of new technology are lawful ought to occur within the frame of that body of law. It’s the stance he took on release of the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare (2013), about which I previously posted, and to which he refers in his Intercross post. Schmitt does not argue that IHL is static. Rather, he predicts that some legal concepts may be “reinterpreted”; for instance, what constitutes an “attack” within cyberspace. What I’ve titled “human-free weapons” – that is, autonomous or robotic weapons, able to make targeting decisions without human intervention – pose particular interpretive challenges. Schmitt notes others’ posts in the series and “join[s] the ICRC in calling for further informed examination of the issues the systems arise.”

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