Lethal Autonomous Robots and the Accountability gap in international criminal law
Abstract: Lethal autonomous robots (LAR) have revolutionized weapon-technology and warfare with their predicted ability to both select and kill targets without human involvement, permission or control. The lack of control in LAR will challenge many aspects of international law, amongst them international criminal law (ICL). It has been argued that in between the deployment and use of LAR and criminal accountability under ICL there opens a gap, named by scholars the accountability gap. This thesis explores the accountability gap between LAR and ICL, describing where it is and what it looks like. The thesis also assesses the proposed actions to overcome the accountability gap in the light of ICL’s goal of ending impunity by accountability from a deterrent and retributive perspective. The thesis finds that the accountability gap between LAR and ICL exists in all forms of accountability available in the ICC-statute, as no form of accountability is fit to deal with the unforeseeability and non-human nature of LAR. In the assessment to overcome the accountability gap, the thesis finds that it’s not possible to include LAR as its own entity for accountability under the ICC-statute, as actions to overcome the accountability gap has to identify a human subject as accountable to work from a deterrent and retributive perspective. The thesis argues that trying to overcome the accountability gap by a definition of meaningful human control will cause a grey area of accountability between technology that falls within and outside of the definition. This area is still an accountability gap, and the thesis therefore argues that a ban of LAR is the better alternative to overcome it. It is found that a comparison between LAR and the regulation for child soldiers is perhaps too controversial to be used and that strict liability is not applicable to the situations where LAR would be used. The thesis concludes that it is of lesser importance to ICL how the actions to overcome the accountability gap look. As long as the actions identify a human subject to hold accountable ICL will work as intended and the accountability gap between LAR and ICL will be overcome with the goal of ending impunity still intact.
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