Merel Ekelhof is a PhD researcher at the VU University Amsterdam, a visiting researcher at the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict (HLS PILAC) and a research fellow at the Centre for the Politics of Transnational Law. Her research – commissioned by the Netherlands Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs – examines the effect of increasingly autonomous technologies on military decision-making with a specific focus on the application of the law of armed conflict and human control in the targeting process.
Ms. Ekelhof presents her work to and regularly engages with governments, humanitarian organizations, UN agencies (i.e. CCW), military services, international organizations (i.e. NATO), research institutes, the media and NGOs on issues related to autonomous weapons. In 2018, she spoke on autonomous weapons at the U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon. In 2017 and 2016, she presented at the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Expert Meeting on Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWS) in Geneva, and in 2016 at the International Committee of the Red Cross Expert Meeting in Versoix. Since 2015, she serves as an adviser to the government of the Netherlands on autonomous weapons.
Her research focuses on the intersection between targeting law, autonomous technologies and military decision-making. She specialized in military decision-making through her fieldwork and the completion of several military and civilian courses and exercises with regard to advanced targeting, weapons law and the future of targeting. Ms. Ekelhof holds an LL.B in International and European Law from the University of Groningen and an LL.M in Law and Politics of International Security from the VU University Amsterdam.
“AI with AI: Lethal Autonomy and the Military Targeting Process,” CNA podcast, Episode 16a & 16b, 9 February 2018 [podcast]
“Lifting the Fog of Targeting: “Autonomous Weapons” and human control through the lens of military targeting,” Forthcoming in Naval War College Review [academic]
“Autonome Wapensystemen: Wat we moeten weten over de toepassing van het Humanitair Oorlogsrecht en de menselijke rol in militaire besluitvorming,” Forthcoming in Ars Aequi, March 2018 [Dutch journal]
“Complications of a Common Language: Why it is so Hard to Talk about Autonomous Weapons,” in Journal of Conflict and Security Law, April 2017 [academic]
“Staar niet blind op de ‘Terminator’: waarom een VN-verbod op autonome wapens onrealistisch is.” In Atlantisch Perspectief, (5), 11-16. [Dutch journal]
“Human Control in the Targeting Process,” in R. Geiss (Ed.), Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems: Technology, Definition, Ethics, Law & Security (pp. 66-75) Berlin: Federal Foreign Office, 2016 [chapter]
“Human Control in the Targeting Process,” Contribution to the ICRC expert meeting on Autonomous Weapons Systems, 15-16 March 2016 [conference paper]
“‘Are you smarter than Professor Hawking?’ Higher Forces and Gut-Feelings in the Debate on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems,” EJIL: Talk!, 27 April 2016 [blog]