The regulation of new weapon technologies in modern warfare under international humanitarian law will be the subject of a round table to be held in San Remo, Italy, this week.
Hosted by the International Institute of International Humanitarian Law and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from 8 to 10 September, the conference will also tackle the humanitarian impact of such weapons.
"The world of new technologies is neither a virtual world nor science fiction. In armed conflict, the new technologies can cause death and damage that is all too real," said Jakob Kellenberger, the president of the ICRC. "It is important to discuss the issues raised by their development, to assess their humanitarian consequences and to ensure that they are not prematurely employed under conditions where respect for the law cannot be guaranteed."
Cyber technology, remote-controlled weapon systems and robotic weapon systems are some of the new weapon technologies that will be at the core of discussions. Delegates will discuss whether it is it possible to ensure that attacks through cyber space are controllable and not indiscriminate and the status of those who operate drones thousands of miles away from the battlefield. Whether robots could be capable of the level of discrimination required under international humanitarian law will also be tackled.
Kellenberger said that while there is little doubt new technologies are changing the landscape of war, just as air warfare had to comply with the existing framework of international humanitarian law when it was introduced in the 20th century, so too must the new technologies of the 21st century comply with fundamental rules governing the means and methods of warfare.