front cover

Lawfully Using Autonomous Weapon Technologies

Author: Jonathan Kwik, TMC Asser Instituut, The Hague, The Netherlands



  • Pages: x + 348 pp.
  • Publisher: T.M.C. ASSER PRESS
  • Distributor: Springer
  • ISBN: 978-94-6265-630-7
  • E-ISBN: 978-94-6265-631-4

This monograph provides a practical and operational perspective to the question of how to lawfully employ autonomous weapon systems (AWS) from the point-of-view of the technology's end-users: field commanders. While there is international consensus that targeting rules such as proportionality and precautions must be respected when using AWS, there is legal and practical ambiguity as to how to translate this normative commitment into practice. How are commanders in the field, when guns are already blazing, expected to exercise command-and-control when ordering AWS-attacks, and ensure that their targeting obligations remain fulfilled?

The book discusses how commanders can use existing targeting frameworks to ensure that their use of AWS remains in compliance with the rules governing the conduct of hostilities. It invites the reader to step into the shoes of the military commander with all the operational pressure and uncertainty inherent to this position, and explores amongst others:

  • How to maintain control of AWS throughout a targeting cycle;
  • How to make informed and reasoned deployment decisions by analysing information related to the technical parameters of the AWS, the characteristics of the operational environment, and enemy countermeasures;
  • Under which circumstances AWS may not be used under targeting rules, such as indiscriminate attack, proportionality and the duty to cancel/suspend;
  • What extra precautionary measures unique to AWS technology can and should be employed;
  • When it is militarily desirable to employ AWS over other alternatives; and
  • Under what circumstances criminal liability may be attributed for AWS-related harm.

It offers both academic and practical outputs: new legal and doctrinal insights on the technology that is useful for future legal developments, and workable recommendations and efficient flowcharts that can be adopted by commanders, military organisations or policymakers to ensure IHL-compliant deployment of AWS.

Dr. Jonathan Kwik is a researcher at the T.M.C. Asser Institute in The Hague specialised in artificial intelligence and targeting law, and is a member of the Board of Experts of the Asia-Pacific Journal of International Humanitarian Law.

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