Q1/2019 - Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (GGE LAWS)
The GGE LAWS‘ 2019 work program comprises five core issues, including an investigation how to bring LAWS in line with international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Convention of 1948. At present there are no concrete plans for a codification in form of a moratorium or an international treaty.
Japan proposed in a working paper to initially concentrate on drafting a “political declaration”. On the one hand, they said, there was consensus about the guiding principles, the relevance of international law and the necessity of human control about LAWS. On the other hand, the parties involved were far away from having a uniform understanding of what “autonomous” and “lethal” weapons systems actually meant or an idea of the precise form of “human control” that should be exerted.
Russia explains in its working paper that there is no need to draft new instruments of international law for LAWS. In Russia’s opinion the existing international legal norms, including the Geneva Convention of 1948 and the relevant supplementary Protocols, suffice to cope with the challenges of LAWS.
The 4th session of the GGE LAWS ended on 29 March 2019. The discussion results will be presented in our report on the 2nd quarter of 2019.
At a high-calibre conference of experts titled “2019.Capturing Technology. Rethinking Arms Control”, which was held in Berlin on 15 March 2019 under the auspices of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, legal, political and technical aspects of autonomous weapons systems were discussed.
In a three-page declaration presented at the close of the conference, the foreign ministers of Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany requested that the development of new autonomous weapons systems must be fully integrated in the existing architecture of international disarmament agreements and arms control. According to this declaration, the new weapons systems give rise to questions such as the relevance of international law, the degree of human surveillance and control of the new, lethal autonomous weapons systems that is required, and to ethical considerations.
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned in his opening speech of a militarisation of cyber space: “The next war will no longer be waged with mega bombs alone, but also with megabits and megabytes. But what does this mean for transparency and for disarmament if the malicious object is nothing more than a code that can be copied and sent around the world in a flash? This constitutes nothing less than an attack on humanity itself, on human dignity, and on the heart of our constitution.” Maas called for internationally binding norms for autonomous weapons systems: “We need rules for autonomous weapons systems. Killer robots that lord over life and death on the basis of anonymous datasets and entirely beyond human control are already a frighteningly real prospect today.