The use of remotely controlled pilotless planes (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs), both armed and for surveillance, more usually known as drones, is now common. Over the last decade their employment for military purposes and for counterterrorism has grown exponentially and they are starting to be used in law enforcement.
This conference looked in detail at the application of international law to drone strikes, as well as issues related to the present and future technology of armed drones and the human rights impact of drone strikes. It sought to avoid conflation and confusion between international law relating to the inter-state use of force (jus ad bellum), international law applicable to armed conflict (jus in bello), and international law applicable to law enforcement, including counterterrorism operations. The conference did not address the use of armed robots. A background paper to inform the discussions, drafted by the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, was sent to all participants in advance of the conference.