International humanitarian law (IHL) is meant to protect those not taking part in hostilities during armed conflict. However, wars today are increasingly fought in urban settings, and civilians rather than the military bear the brunt of armed violence.
The use of explosive weapons in populated areas can disproportionately affect civilians, even more dangerously so in combination with chemical and nuclear charges. Autonomous weapon systems and combat robots add their own set of legal and ethical questions, in particular the degree of human control required. Has IHL evolved to keep up with these developments, and where are the successes and set-backs?
The fight against terrorism raises different issues, such as the impact that such operations may have on neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian action. Counterterrorism legislation needs to take into account not only security but also existing international law, which includes both IHL and human rights law.
What are the challenges for human rights and international humanitarian law, when projecting the way today’s wars are fought further into the future?