Part of the ANU College of Law Research Seminar Series 2021 series
This seminar will focus on three different autonomous weapons’ types, explore how two of them came to be subjected to outright bans under international law, and evaluate whether a pre-emptive ban on the third is desirable, and if so, whether such a ban is possible. Over the late 1990s into the 2000s, innovative international civil society coalitions joined forces with middle powers to argue successfully that key principles of International Humanitarian Law – proportionality and distinction – were violated by both Anti-Personnel Landmines and Cluster Munitions, and as such pioneered means to ban them. Civil society groups are again calling for a ban on a far more technologically-sophisticated weapons type known as Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS). While fully autonomous weapons are not yet built, and there is fierce legal, ethical and technological debate over what ‘autonomy’ means, there is also some question as to whether creating pre-emptive law is viable even if it is morally defensible, especially given the increasingly tense strategic environment.