Do we need new rules to govern warfare in the 21st century?

03 March 2014

I Stock_danku_MQ-1_Predator
© Istock/Danku

Questions raised by the development and use of drones for remote warfare were tackled at the latest in the Oxford Martin School's 'Blurring the Lines' seminar series, which examines the changing dynamics between man and machine.

Dr Alexander Leveringhaus, James Martin Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, and Dapo Akande, Co-Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Human Rights for Future Generations, looked at the legal and ethical issues around drone use, exploring the notion of 'asymmetric warfare' and the use of such weapons outside established zones of combat.

Mr Akande said: "There has been a lot of controversy about drones in the media. Is the problem the technology? Does it de-sensitise people to the consequences of their actions? Is the technology particularly harrowing to the affected population because there's no-one to fight against?

"To my mind the single biggest issue with drone warfare is the fact that it tends to blur the dividing line between the framework of law in the context of peaceful situations and the framework that we think ought to apply in armed conflict. There are very different legal and ethical standards."