Overview

Thursday, Feb. 24
New America Foundation
1899 L St. NW #400
Washington, D.C.

Sponsored by the Center for Law and Global Affairs and the Center for Law, Science & Innovation at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, the New America Foundation and the American Society of International Law

Many commentators have raised questions about the legality of the use of unmanned drones by the United States, especially where attacks occur outside of clearly defined zones of conflict. However, far less attention has been paid to the complex legal processes used by the U.S. military in determining the lawfulness of specific drone attacks based on the Law of Armed Conflict. To the degree that drones and remote targeting technologies gather accurate data and deliver focused attacks, they could enable the United States and others to more appropriately respect the internationally accepted principle of minimizing harm to civilians enshrined in the Geneva Conventions. Nevertheless, the significant asymmetries of power of drones undermine rule-based conflict and may threaten the viability of more humane visions of war. Furthermore, as these technologies increase in use, lethality and independence, armed conflict may become an arena in which thinking machines operate with ever greater autonomy, raising important legal questions about decision making and accountability.

This conference brings together international lawyers, journalists, military officers, social scientists, foreign policy experts and others to discuss current and future legal issues surrounding the use of drones and emerging military technologies. Since more than 40 countries in the world are reported to have access to drones or to use drones, there is a pressing need to create effective legal mechanisms for their management and regulation. Given past success at controlling other military technologies such as chemical weapons, nuclear weapons and land mines, it is possible to imagine and develop domestic and international legal regimes that control these technologies as part of a broad-based, forward-looking commitment to international security.

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