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Intervention by Estonia delivered at the 2017 Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) under Item 6


2017 Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS)

Intervention by ESTONIA

Item 6: Examination of various dimensions of emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems, in the context of the objectives and purposes of the Convention

Panel 3: Legal/ethical dimension

Geneva, 14th November 2017

Thank you Mr Chairman,

I should start by thanking all of the panellists for their very informative presentations, which greatly assist our deliberations.  

I would like to make one comment and to ask one question.

The comment relates to the observation that Estonia was giving legal personality to robots. Appreciating the need to improve the law applicable to self-driving vehicles, the Estonian Government has commissioned an independent legal study to canvass the various options for regulation. One of the options identified by the experts in an interim report of that study indeed mentions giving some degree of independent legal capacity to robots. I should emphasise, however, that the study is still in progress, and no decision has been made as to which regulatory model to adopt. 

The question concerns the ICRC's focus on autonomy in relation to the critical functions of weapons systems. This appears to be a sensible approach in that the targeting decision would raise the most serious IHL questions. That said, Article 57(1) of AP provides that "In the conduct of military operations, constant care shall be taken to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects." Would this in the opinion of the panellists have implications for other functions of autonomous platforms? In particular, would it have implications for the capacity of autonomous navigation that might potentially cause harm to civilians or civilian objects? 

Thank you, Mr Chairman!


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