Drüben auf dem Völkerrechtsblog beschäftigt sich eine Reihe von interessanten Beiträgen mit autonomen Waffensystem und der Frage nach ihrer rechtmäßigen Anwendung und Regulierung.
Ausgangspunkt der Debatte ist die Frage, ob autonome Waffensysteme in der Lage sind die – im humanitären Völkerrecht zentrale – Verhältnismäßigkeit des Einsatzes von Gewalt abzuwägen und inwieweit die Entscheidung eines Menschen nötig ist, um solche Gewalt auszuüben.
Autonomous weapon systems do not possess the capability of having recourse to what the public conscience would dictate. Robots need guidance by way of pre-programming. However, especially the Martens Clause illustrates that considerations which cannot be pre-programmed must always be taken into account. Autonomous systems, for these reasons and as a matter of law, cannot be entrusted with the performance of proportionality assessments under IHL.
Not only can autonomous weapon systems be used in compliance with the proportionality requirement, they are already being lawfully used today. The crucial question is therefore not whether the use of autonomous weapon systems should be prohibited as per se unlawful, but rather how best to regulate their use.
In full consequence, this means that they can only legally conduct attacks which are not likely to cause incidental damage to civilians or civilian objects, that is, attacks that are likely to affect solely combatants or military objectives. The assessment of whether or not this is the case concerning the individual attack at hand is then to be made by the system using the above-mentioned simulation programs.
It is therefore to conclude that a general prohibition of the use of autonomous weapon systems can, at least, not be based upon the principle of proportionality.
With regard to weapon systems of the future, we think that a certain semi-autonomous or automatic mode is from a technical perspective unavoidable. A system operating in an area far away from the operator must be capable to react on an imminent attack and can therefore not wait for the satellite signal. But nevertheless the decision to launch an attack must be made by a human being him- or herself.