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Regulating the use of unmanned combat vehicles: Are general principles of International Humanitarian Law sufficient?

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 10:47 authored by Meredith HaggerMeredith Hagger, Timothy McCormackTimothy McCormack
Some weapons are prohibited by a specific multilateral treaty regime and others by customary law. Neither source of prohibition applies to unmanned combat vehicles (UCVs). In the absence of a specific legal prohibition, UCVs can lawfully be deployed in armed conflict provided their use is consistent with so-called general principles of international humanitarian law (IHL). These general principles limit or restrict the circumstances in which UCVs can lawfully be deployed. In combat operations militaries utilising UCV technology are closely scrutinised and generally do try to ensure compliance with IHL. The real concerns lie with dubious usage of UCVs in covert operations where the IHL framework seems to provide a conveniently permissive legal regime, there is an apparent absence of any effective review of compliance with IHL and no accountability for alleged violations of the law. In some circumstances it is highly questionable whether IHL is the applicable legal framework.


Publication title

Journal of Law and Information Science








Faculty of Law


University of Tasmania Faculty of Law

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Copyright 2011 University of Tasmania

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Socio-economic Objectives

Justice and the law not elsewhere classified