Hague Academy Model United Nations on Drone Warfare and International Law

Directed energy weapons,  drones, self targeting bullets, mobile tactical high energy lasers, military robots, spy weapons, weapons undetectable under an x-ray scan, remote controlled insect armies,  self driving tanks, robotic mules, thermal camouflage, surveillance technologies and autonomous unmanned systems are some examples of the high tech weapons and military technology that are now used during warfare.

The use of these technologies is transforming warfare and is blurring boundaries between armed conflict and peace, public and private sector. Unmanned, remote-controlled robots and vehicles have been deployed more and more often for the detection, identification and killing of enemy combatants and surveillance purposes. The use of this state of the art military technology raises serious ethical and legal questions:  (when) is the use of drones acceptable? What would be an adequate international framework for the applications of drones in conflicts? How should legal accountability for civilian casualties by drone attacks be determined? Both private contractors and states now deploy drones. Does the production and trade in drones need to be regulated?

Consequently in the last few years, drone attacks have often made headlines in the news and have been the subject of debates about the legality of military action during times of peace. As the use of drones is expected to further increase in the coming years, current domestic laws and bilateral agreements will need to be altered in order to deal with this trend. There will also be a need for multilateral agreements within the UN framework and an in depth study of the applicability of international humanitarian law to the use of military technology.

Though autonomous unmanned vehicles have been used since World War I, the use of drones (armed with missiles and bombs) has increased since the last decade. Especially the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Israel have made use of this new form of weaponry in recent conflicts. The opinions about the use of drones differ strongly. Opponents claim that the deployment of drones for preemptive strikes and targeted killings has caused civilian causalities, including children, and that it violates international law governing military operations outside war. Proponents for example argue that the use of drones is legal since they are carried out strictly against known terrorist strongholds.

On Saturday the 19th of July, together with the United Nations Association The Netherlands (THIMUN), the Association of Attendees and Alumni of The Hague Academy of International Law will organise a Model United Nations on drone warfare and international law. The Model United Nations will be organized for the students of The Hague Academy of International Law. The Model United Nations will be a simulation of the UN Security Council. All participants will be part of a delegation of 4 – 6 members presenting a country. During the Model United Nations, delegations will write a resolution on the subject of drones and international law. This year the Peace Palace will entertain one additional team from outside the program; the Royal Military Academy (Koninklijke Militaire Academie) will als send a delegation to participate in the debate.

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