PhD Candidate in Public International Law

The Asser Institute in The Hague is a research centre for international and European law. Its mission is to contribute to the development of international and European law by conducting independent fundamental research, policy-oriented research, and applied legal research, as well as by initiating and facilitating academic and expert meetings, (professional) education, and public events with a view to disseminating knowledge of international and European Law. The Institute is dedicated to building a strong research community and creating an environment that facilitates critical-constructive reflection.

The Asser Institute invites applications for a:

PhD Candidate in Public International Law with a focus on law and technologies in the military context 

Full-time (38 hours per week)
Starting date: 1 September 2020

The PhD researcher will join the NWO-MVI funded interdisciplinary research project DILEMA on Designing International Law and Ethics into Military Artificial Intelligence.

Project description

The DILEMA project explores the conditions and modalities that would allow to leverage the potential benefits of AI technologies in the military while abiding by the rule of law and ethical values. An interdisciplinary research team will work in dialogue and together with partners to address the ethical, legal, and technical dimensions of the project. The research team will investigate why it is essential to safeguard human agency over certain functions and activities, where it is most critical to maintain the role of human agents in order to ensure legal compliance and accountability, and how to technically ensure that military technologies are designed and deployed in line with ethical and legal frameworks. More information about the project is available at:

Within this project, the Asser Institute invites applications for a PhD researcher with a background in international law, to investigate the international legal framework applicable to military AI technologies. The PhD candidate will deliver an in-depth study (resulting in a doctoral thesis) on compliance with, and accountability for violations of, international law in the development, procurement, and deployment of military AI technologies. The PhD candidate will also work in collaboration with other members of the DILEMA research team, and contribute to developing policy and technical guidance on military AI.


  • Conduct fundamental research within the DILEMA project, resulting in a doctoral thesis;
  • Publish articles in high-level academic journals;
  • Present research at international conferences;
  • Assist in the organization of research and dissemination activities within the DILEMA project;
  • Work together with the other team members of the DILEMA project;
  • Contribute actively to the Asser research community;
  • Engage with research groups of the University of Amsterdam.


The successful candidate will meet the following requirements:

  • A master’s degree in international law;
  • Very strong analytical and writing skills;
  • A demonstrated interest in, and high motivation for, academic research;
  • A strong research interest in international law and technologies, artificial intelligence, and military affairs;
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of a team;
  • Fluency in English.


  • The employee will be appointed at the University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Law School, and seconded to the Asser Institute.
  • The initial appointment is for one year. Subject to a positive assessment, the appointment will be extended for three additional years.
  • The gross full-time monthly salary will be in accordance with the salary scales of the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities, scale P, ranging from €2,325 to €2,972 gross per month (full-time). Secondary benefits at Dutch universities are attractive and include 8% holiday pay and an 8,3% end-of-year bonus.
  • In the context of this project, the employee will be subject to a security screening and clearance.


To apply to this position, please submit:

  • A motivation letter;
  • A curriculum vitae (maximum 2 pages);
  • A research proposal (maximum 800 words, excluding references) describing the research the applicant intends to pursue within the framework of the DILEMA project, in particular how the applicant intends to address the topic of compliance and accountability in the development, procurement, and deployment of military AI technologies;
  • A writing sample (e.g. a single-authored research paper or an excerpt of the applicant’s Master thesis) of maximum 40 pages;
  • The name and contact details of two referees (referees will only be contacted at a later stage).

Submit your application in PDF format by email to, to the attention of the Selection Committee. Further information on the position and the project may be obtained from Dr Berenice Boutin (, Senior Researcher and DILEMA Project Leader, and Prof. Dr Janne Nijman, Academic Director of the Asser Institute (

The deadline for application is 15 April 2020.

Acquisition for this job offer is not appreciated.