Thompson Chengeta: Non-Resident Fellow


Dr. Thompson Chengeta studied law at Harvard Law School (LLM), University of Pretoria (LLD & LLM) and Midlands State University (LLB). Thompson is a non-resident fellow at the Institute of International and Comparative Law in Africa, University of Pretoria. Currently, he is a European Research Council Fellow on Drone Violence and Artificial Intelligence Ethics. Based at the University of Southampton, Thompson undertakes research and project-related leadership of Work Package 5 on autonomous weapon systems. Work Package 5 is part of the research project on “Emergent Ethics of Drone Violence: Toward a Comprehensive Governance Framework (DRONETHICS)” led by Professor Christian Enemark and funded through the European Research Council (ERC) Horizon 2020 Consolidator Grant scheme.
Thompson also serves as a legal expert member of the International Panel on the Regulation of Autonomous Weapons  – an independent and interdisciplinary panel of international experts working in the framework of the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. He also serves as an international law expert for the International Committee for Robots Arms Control. He also provides legal expertise to the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and a number of African States on disarmament issues.

Thompson is also an Associate Researcher at the South African Research Chair in International Law (SARCIL), University of Johannesburg where he is also a founding editor of SARCIL Blog on international law. Thompson also teaches in the LLM/MPhil (Human Rights & Democratisation in Africa) presented by the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria. He is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at Midlands State University where he teaches in the LLM Constitutional and Human Rights Law Program. In 2018, Thompson was a Visiting Scholar at the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford.

Thompson has lectured and presented seminars in public international law, international humanitarian law, international human rights law, international criminal law, constitutional law, criminal Law, Roman-Dutch law and jurisprudence at institutions such as Midlands State University, Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School, Emory Law School, University of Johannesburg and University of Pretoria.
He has published in the above-mentioned fields in peer-reviewed journals such as the Harvard International Law Journal, European Journal of International Law, Brooklyn Journal of International Law and the New York University Journal of International Law and Policy. The United Kingdom Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has previously relied on Thompson’s research output on the topic of armed drones and international law. On the topic of autonomous weapon systems and international law, Thompson’s research is listed in the Harvard Law School Program on International Law and Armed Conflict’s bibliography.

For a number of times, Thompson has presented to the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts and also to state delegates at the United Nations on the topic of autonomous weapon systems and the law. Thompson also speaks to journalists, media houses and the general public on the topic of autonomous weapon systems and international law.

Since 2012, Thompson authors the hypothetical cases of the Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition that is organised by the Centre for Human Rights and the United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Previously, Thompson has worked on the mandate of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial killings and has experience with the OHCHR and the International Criminal Court.

Thompson’s current research projects are on autonomous weapons systems; violence, law and Artificial Intelligence; the ethics of use of force through artificial intelligence applications. He has forthcoming books on international law and autonomous weapon systems (2019) and populism, constitutionalism and international law (2020).

Research Awards

  • 2018 University of Johannesburg Research Excellence and Academic citizenship Award
  • International & Comparative Law Quarterly Annual Lecture for the article The Right to Life and the International Law Framework Regulating the Use of Armed Drones in Armed Conflict or Counter-Terrorism Operations, University of Cambridge (with Professor Christof Heyns, Professor Dapo Akande and Dr Lawrence Hill-Carthowne).
  • University of Cambridge law article of the year 2016 (with Professor Christof Heyns, Professor Dapo Akande and Dr Lawrence Hill-Carthowne).

Killer robots in our future? eNCA on autonomous weapon systems interview

[last updated: 2 April 2019]