Despite the global Covid-19 pandemic, the debate on lethal autonomous weapons systems within the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) at the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva, which has been going on since 2014, took place last week. With only a handful of diplomats present, the meeting was held in a hybrid format. While the pandemic and its restrictions might have been a factor that hampered progress in the debate, it went along better than many had expected. However, there were hardly any new arguments in the debate and the prospects of a regulation of LAWS did not really increase. Now is the time to make sure the deliberations build more substance because it should be in every state’s interest to avoid a technological arms race.
The death of fugitive Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, killed in a US raid in northwest Syria on Saturday, sparked little controversy among international leaders and the media. It is understandable that the international community is relieved after the death of al-Baghdadi, one of the most sought after international terrorists. After all, the Islamic State has committed mass atrocities, war crimes and other brutal and inhumane acts under his leadership. However, the operation that led to al-Baghdadi’s death should not be taken lightly. If we don’t address cases of targeting operations with enough scrutiny, they might serve as a blueprint for a further normalization of targeted killing practices in the future.