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Spring 2023 Seminar

New Technologies and the Law of War

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

Changes in contemporary warfare are challenging the fundamental principles of its regulation and their application in practice. From the increasingly asymmetrical relationship in drone warfare against non-state armed groups, through cyberconflict involving both states and corporations, to the gradual move towards fully autonomous weapons, this seminar will offer an in-depth doctrinal analysis of how new weapons technologies are affecting the regulation of war. The course will place special focus on the law of targeting and will cover challenges across international humanitarian law (the law of armed conflict), international criminal law, and international human rights law.

These will include the principles of distinction and proportionality associated with urban warfare, non-state armed groups, and civilians “directly participating in hostilities”; weapons technology and the obligation “to take all feasible precautions to protect the civilian population”; the challenges of proving violations of international humanitarian law and the law of war crimes, including the question of intent, the ex post facto divination of the mind of the commander, and the questions of evidence, including through the use of Open Source Intelligence. The technologies considered will include those involved in remote targeted killings and the individualization of war; the evolution of cyber-weapons; finally, the evolution of artificial intelligence towards fully autonomous weapons. The latter will allow the course to relate the practical and doctrinal analysis to the fundamental questions posed by the mechanization of judgement in the conduct of war.