Autonomous Weapon Systems: Implications of Increasing Autonomy in the Critical Functions of Weapons

Discussions among government experts have indicated broad agreement that “meaningful”, “appropriate” or “effective” human control over weapon systems and the use of force must be retained, but there has been less clarity on the type and degree of control necessary from a legal, ethical and policy perspective. The ICRC has called on States to set limits on autonomy in weapon systems to ensure that they can be used in accordance with international humanitarian law (IHL) and within the bounds of what is acceptable under the principles of humanity and the dictates of the public conscience.

In view of the incremental increase of autonomy in weapon systems, specifically in the “critical functions” of selecting and attacking targets, the ICRC has stressed that experience with existing weapon systems can provide insights into where the limits on autonomy in weapon systems should be placed, and the kind and degree of human control that is necessary to ensure compliance with IHL and ethical acceptability.

Read the full report from the ICRC here.