February 28 Tuesday

War Torts: Addressing the Actual IHL Accountability Gap

  • Tuesday, February 28, 2023 at 12:10PM - 1:30PM
  • SLB Room 120
  • Open To The YLS Community Only
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Article after article bemoans how new military technologies — including cyberoperations, drones, autonomous weapon systems, and artificial intelligence — create new “accountability gaps” in armed conflict.

Certainly, by introducing geographic, temporal and agency distance between a human’s decision and its effects, these technologies expand familiar sources of error and complicate causal analyses, making it more difficult to hold an individual or state accountable for unlawful harmful acts. But in addition to raising new accountability issues, novel military technologies are also making more salient the accountability chasm that already exists at the heart of the international humanitarian law (IHL): the relative lack of legal accountability for unintended, “awful but lawful” civilian harm.

While many proposals focus on regulating particular weapons technologies to address concerns about increased incidental harms or increased accidents, this is not a case of the law failing to keep up with technological development. Instead, technological developments have drawn attention to the accountability gap built into the structure of IHL. In doing so, new military technologies have highlighted the need for accountability mechanisms for all wartime civilian harms.

Rebecca Crootof is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Richmond School of Law. Dr. Crootof's primary areas of research include technology law, international law, and torts; her written work explores questions stemming from the iterative relationship between law and technology, often in light of social changes sparked by increasingly autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, cyberoperations, robotics, and the Internet of Things. She is interested in the ways legal regimes respond to and shape technological development, particularly in the armed conflict and national security context.

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