New capabilities in warfare: an overview of contemporary technological developments and the associated legal and engineering issues in Article 36 weapons reviews
30-06-2012 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 886, by Alan Backstrom and Ian Henderson
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The increasing complexity of weapon systems requires an interdisciplinary approach to the conduct of weapon reviews. Developers need to be aware of international humanitarian law principles that apply to the employment of weapons. Lawyers need to be aware of how a weapon will be operationally employed and use this knowledge to help formulate meaningful operational guidelines in light of any technological issues identified in relation to international humanitarian law. As the details of a weapon’s capability are often highly classified and compartmentalized, lawyers, engineers, and operators need to work cooperatively and imaginatively to overcome security classification and compartmental access limitations.
Keywords: weapon, international humanitarian law, law of armed conflict, warfare, IHL, LOAC, Geneva, additional protocol, weapons review, autonomous, target recognition, reliability.
Alan Backstrom, BEng, MEngSci, is an automotive engineering quality manager. He has extensive experience working with original equipment manufactures, system suppliers, subsystem suppliers, and component suppliers, with a particular focus on major design validation techniques, warranty analysis, and accident investigation.
Group Captain Ian Henderson, AM, BSc, LLB, LLM, PhD, is a legal officer with the Royal Australian Air Force.