International crimes against the Rohingya which has been perpetrated against them for decades continues even after the alarming events of August 2017 that forced over a million Rohingya to flee in to Bangladesh. Since that time there has been little progress made to achieve a long term solution for the Rohingya people. Continue reading
Author: Dr. Thamil Venthan Ananthavinayagan, PhD (NUI Galway), LL.M. (Maastricht University) Lecturer for International Law at Griffith College, Dublin/Ireland
In 2016 the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (hereafter: the Working Group) visited the United States of America (hereafter: USA), one of the many special procedures under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council, in order to assess the treatment and situation of people with African Descent in the country. With their report, the Working Group concluded that
[C]ontemporary police killings and the trauma that they create are reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynching. Impunity for state violence has resulted in the current human rights crisis and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
The current atmosphere in the USA reveals a quite blunt manifestation of a deeply divided and troubled society, a society that is haunted by its past and offers a bare view of the remnants of slavery that preoccupies the public discourse and society’s consciousness. Continue reading
Author: Dr. Garima Tiwari
Artificial intelligence has led to an emerging need for regulation of weaponry that is now being developed for deployment in conflict zones. This post will raise and re-iterate the issues relating to the International Humanitarian Law and Artificial Intelligence.
Issac Asimov gave the following famous Three Laws of Robotics in his science fiction “Runaround” [i] and then added a “Zeroth Law,” to supersede them which said: “A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.”[ii] This was 1942 and today in 2018 fiction does seem far from reality. Technology has advanced and law is following up. Yet, these new mechanized agents of war based on AI have led to a a new need for assessment of technology in light of the existing international humanitarian law (IHL).
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) defines an autonomous weapons system (AWS) as: “any weapon system with autonomy in its critical functions. That is, a weapon system that can select (i.e. search for or detect, identify, track, select) and attack (i.e. use force against, neutralize, damage or destroy) targets without human intervention”.[iii]
The main concern here emerges from the autonomous nature of these weapons being “without human intervention”. The very decision to “kill” using AI invokes an analysis under IHL as to the “lawfulness of use of force”. This burden of deciding who is responsible ultimately lies on humans[iv] and may raise issues of superior/command responsibility. Already, such weapons have caused civilian collateral harm is different regions.[v] What would be the impact if these were fully autonomous weapons? What happens if an autonomous weapon system commits a grave breach of international humanitarian law? Who would be liable? Further, would states be comfortable in deploying their troops before AWS? While programming may initially comply with IHL principles, but in the era of super-intelligence and machines with learning capabilities, this would essentially require exceptions and deeper probe.
- Principle of distinction: civilian versus combatants and even civilian versus civilian who participates in hostilities. [Person and Property]
- Principle of Proportionality: This means that the anticipated loss of civilian life and damage to property incidental to attacks must not be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage.
- Principle of military necessity: This means that the target must be necessary and essential for securing the submission of the other party and there should not be any illegality in attacking it.
Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols prevent harm to civilians and only combatants are considered to be the legitimate target of an armed attack. Further, IHL requires that the attack should have a valid purpose and must be necessitated for the military needs. Unless the target qualifies as a “military objective” and the commanding officer(s) assesses the overall collateral damage versus advantage ratio, a target may not be attacked.[vii] The question therefore is, can an AWS -even though initially programmed by a human—understand the nature and urgency of attacking the targets and distinguish between civilian and military entities in conflict?[viii] ICRC analysed the civilians who engage in conflict situations and suggested that it may be difficult to differentiate them from those who do not participate in hostilities. [ix] Machines may not be able to actually differentiate varying situations being subjective in nature.
Human Rights Watch, in “Losing Humanity-The Case of Killer Robots” [x] asks for, “a pre-emptive prohibition on their development and use.” The report asserted that AI weaponry would lead to higher risk in wars. Another view is given by Prof. Schmitt who vehemently asserts that AI weapons may follow the IHL more and that, “International humanitarian law’s restrictions on the use of weapons would nevertheless limit their employment in certain circumstances. This is true of every weapon, from a rock to a rocket.” [xi]
Each new AWS will have to be tested on their compliance to IHL principles. Changing modes of warfare, may require adaptable means of regulation. Who can produce and use AWS may be a starting point. This means a greater burden lies on those working on policy and designing of the systems based on AI so that they comply with IHL principles. The fiction is no more a fiction and law has to urgently find solutions that are futuristic, adaptable and not redundant when it comes to fast changing technology.
[i] Read Three Laws of Robotics (1942) at https://www.ttu.ee/public/m/mart-murdvee/Techno-Psy/Isaac_Asimov_-_I_Robot.pdf
[ii] Technology Review, “Do we need Asimov’s Laws, MIT Technology Review”, [May 16, 2014] at https://www.technologyreview.com/s/527336/do-we-need-asimovs-laws/
[iii] International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Views of the ICRC on Autonomous Weapon Systems, 11 April 2016, p. 1, at https://www.icrc.org/en/document/views-icrc-autonomous-weapon-system.
[iv] See Interview with Paul Scharre, Senior Fellow and Director, Future of Warfare Initiative, Center for New American Security, [Washington, D.C. , Jan. 29, 2016].
[v] J.G. Castel and Matthew E. Castel, “The Road to Artificial Super-intelligence: Has International Law a Role to Play?”, Canadian Journal of Law and Technology Vol 14, No 1 (2016)
[vii] For an excellent analysis on the issue read Alan Schuller, “At the Crossroads of Control: The Intersection of Artificial Intelligence in Autonomous Weapon Systems with International Humanitarian Law” [May 30, 2017]. 8 Harvard National Security Journal 379 at https://ssrn.com/abstract=2978141.
[viii] Herbert Lin, “Will artificially intelligent weapons kill the laws of war?” [18 September 2017] at https://thebulletin.org/will-artificially-intelligent-weapons-kill-laws-war11124
[ix] N. Melzer, “Interpretive guidance on the notion of direct participation in hostilities under the international humanitarian law”, Geneva [21 December 2010] at https://www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/other/icrc-002-0990.pdf
[x] Human Rights Watch, “Losing Humanity-The Case of Killer Robots”, [November 19, 2012] at https://www.hrw.org/report/2012/11/19/losing-humanity/case-against-killer-robots
[xi] Michael N. Schmitt, “Autonomous Weapon Systems and IHL: A Reply to the Critics”, Harvard National Security Journal Features  at http://harvardnsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Schmitt-Autonomous-Weapon-Systems-and-IHL-Final.pdf
Since August 2017, the plight of the Rohingya people has re-captured the attention of the international community. The United Nations and other parties have been slow to label the ongoing situation in the Rakhine region genocide. However, recent statements by UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide indicate a significant change in international rhetoric. The current crisis was a result of the alleged attacks by a rag tag group known as the ARSA which occurred in August 2017. The military responded to these attacks which resulted in thousands fleeing. The disproportionate response by the military and various mobs have continued to perpetuate genocide and crimes against humanity resulting in a humanitarian emergency. Continue reading
Women are said to be more vulnerable and therefore are more likely to suffer sexual violence. For that reason, the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols specifically safeguards the rights and safety of them and this measure constitutes a positive way to protect those rights and avoid the perpetration of sexual crimes. However, and despite the legislation is clear on prohibiting sexual violence, a big problem related is the misconception on gender roles as well as the male protection within the law. Continue reading
Author: Laura Nacyte*
In December 2016, the trial against Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of Uganda’s rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), commenced before the Trial Chamber IX of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Remarkably, the defendant is the first person at the ICC to face the charge of forced marriage. The latter was brought in addition to other charges of sexual and gender-based crimes, including rape, sexual slavery, enslavement, and forced pregnancy. Although not a separate offence under the Rome Statute, forced marriage is prosecuted as an ‘other inhumane act’, a crime against humanity, pursuant to Article 7(1)(k). Continue reading
Author: Regina Paulose
In 1927 the US Supreme Court heard the case of Carrie Buck, a “feeble minded” woman, who was locked up in a state institution. The laws in Virginia gave the superintendent of the institution authority to determine that if it was in the “best interest of the patients and of society” the inmate may be sexually sterilized. The US Supreme Court voted in favor of Virginia’s statute on forced sterilization. Continue reading