Weapons of War, Tools of Justice: Using Artificial Intelligence to Investigate International Crimes

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Lindsay Freeman
Publication Date
March 23, 2021
Publication Type
Book Chapter
International Criminal Law, International Humanitarian Law, Technology, Technology, Law, & Policy Program


Just as the internal combustion engine revolutionized warfare in the early twentieth century, artificial intelligence is shaping warfare in the Digital Age. Fuelled by data rather than gasoline, artificial intelligence (AI) derivative technologies are driven by innovation in both the military and civilian sectors. Today’s defence scientists and engineers, like their predecessors, develop physical equipment and weapons, but instead of simply making them more powerful and lethal, they are also making them more intelligent and connected. As AI is increasingly integrated into military tools, the digital footprints of modern battlefields will grow exponentially, generating new sources and types of data that will fundamentally alter war crimes investigations. This article examines emerging military applications of AI in order to identify what opportunities and challenges these tools might offer international criminal investigators. Will more sensors and smart devices on the battlefield benefit or burden the investigation of war crimes? Moreover, will intelligent machines add to the fog of war or help us see through it?