The ‘robots don’t rape’ controversy

Authored by: Maziar Homayounnejad , Richard E. Overill

Routledge Handbook of War, Law and Technology

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  May  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138084551
eBook ISBN: 9781315111759
Adobe ISBN:


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The idea that ‘robots don’t rape’, whereas human soldiers might, has been a formally acknowledged by a Special Rapporteur in the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council 1 and adduced by various experts at the UN’s Meetings of Experts on LAWS. 2 The argument is distinctly pro-autonomous weapons systems (AWS), and should be seen as part of the broader narrative on the apparent virtues of robotic warfare. These focus on the absence of the human frailties and imperfections that often lead to erroneous targeting, or even the commission of war crimes; 3 hunger, tiredness, hatred, fear, anger, frustration, resentment and the instinct for revenge are all included in this. 4 It is therefore argued that removal of such distinctly human traits from the battlefield can enhance respect for international humanitarian law (IHL) and, especially, for the principle of civilian immunity. 5

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