Automated Justice: Social, Ethical and Legal Implications


Over the last decade, the use of algorithms, big data, and artificial intelligence has led to the emergence of various “autonomous systems” designed to replace humans in many domains. However, especially in the field of international and national justice, the increased capacity of autonomous systems to act independently with or without limited human control raises important legal and ethical concerns.

The general objective of the proposed research is to investigate how judicial systems change on national and international level with the increased use of autonomous systems. Our goal is to analyze how automation could be beneficial on the one hand and what risks it poses to human rights and other fundamental values on the other.

The research project Automated Justice: Social, Ethical and Legal Implications (J5-9347 (B) ARRS) is funded by the Slovenian Research Agency.





We will focus on four concrete issues of international and national equity provision that have changed significantly with the automation process.

First, artificial intelligence, big data and algorithms are used to manipulate public opinion and the behavior of the entire population, which has a significant effect on democracy (as observed in the recent UK and US elections). The first work package will focus on an analysis of the changes in the political democratic framework brought about by the use of large personal data collections, algorithmic data mining and the predictive power of digital platforms.

Second, autonomous systems, e.g. penal tools have led to significant changes in the criminal justice system with the intent to speed up proceedings and increase objectivity. The second work package will firstly examine the differences between the principles regulating automated justice and traditional criminal law principles (e.g. the presumption of innocence) and consider their compatibility. We will further explore how algorithm-driven solutions that are routinely used in the US would fit the continental legal systems of EU countries, including Slovenia. Finally, we will try to build an algorithmic decision-making model that could be used in sentencing decisions in Slovenian courts, focusing on assessing the process and steps in making such a tool and its potential advantages and disadvantages.

Third, autonomous weapon systems are used in armed conflicts, and raise a number of legal issues in the jus and bello and jus ad bellum regimes. In our third work package, we will analyze the incompatibility of autonomous weapon systems with the requirements of international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of differentiation and proportionality, and the possibilities for further development that could change this.

Fourth, the automated monitoring systems, that include satellites and other air and ground monitoring devices, are used to predict natural disasters, monitor environmental degradation, and influence environmental policy-making. Our final work package will answer questions on how to prevent conflicts over the sovereignty of countries, that can result from the use of such autonomous monitoring systems, especially when it gets to a violation of the sovereignty of countries and the misuse of data obtained through such systems.

Overall, the project will provide a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the impacts of autonomous systems on selected issues of international and national justice provision. We will strive to understand the dynamics of the resulting changes, combine them with relevant theoretical concepts, develop new ones and expand our understanding of automation. In addition, the process of developing a penal model will allow us to understand the problems associated with its design and to distinguish potential vulnerabilities in its development, as well as to provide academics, policy makers and the general public with suggestions on how to tackle automation risks.


Technological advancement is taken for granted in our post-modern era, however, reflections on its impact on various areas of human life typically lag behind. This project will contribute to the up-to-date evolution of criminological and legal science that is highly needed due to the ongoing technological revolution. The collaboration with computer science will allow us to test and develop future common endeavours in the field.

The results will be beneficial to the Slovenian, European and global academic context. The questions we will address as well as the knowledge we will produce, are inherently global. We will further the exchange and dissemination of the project’s insights via international academic collaborations, such as publications and events. Moreover, the project will allow for an improved collaboration of Slovenian and international scholars via fostering existing research networks, in particular with a view to submit joint applications for grants in the Horizon 2020 perspective, COST Actions and for DG Justice and Consumers calls. Throughout the research we will transfer findings to our students at universities home and abroad where we conduct courses (all levels law, criminology and security studies).

More specifically, firstly, in by examining threats to democracy in WP2, we will contribute to the development of studies of social control and to the development of constitutional law. Moreover, the outcomes will foster broader discussions in political science and legal theory. Secondly, our research in WP3 will contribute to the development of criminal law and a reassessment and potential redefinition of criminal law principles originating in the 19th century. Moreover, we will offer answers to a broad array of questions of feasibility and legal applicability of algorithm-assisted automated justice in continental European systems. Finally, in WP3 we will attempt an academic approach towards building an algorithmic model of decision making with constant observations of the phases involved in its creation. We will explore the potential benefits of using such a tool in sentencing, as well as its potential weaknesses, which is rather unlikely to be accounted for in non-academic, commercial projects where such tools are typically developed. Thirdly, in WP4 will provide new knowledge on the degrees of autonomy of the most advanced autonomous weapons systems, the limits of meaningful human control over such systems, and the limitations of such systems to comply with international laws of conflict. In particular, we will provide new guidelines on how to improve the regulation of such weapons systems. Finally, the WP5 will provide new insights into the under-researched issues surrounding the use of automated monitoring systems and their impact on the principle of state sovereignty. This will be one of the first projects focusing on these issues.

Project team

  • ZAVRŠNIK, Aleš (editor), BADALIČ, Vasja (editor). Automating crime prevention, surveillance, and military operations. Cham: Springer, cop. 2021. XIII, 248 str. ISBN 978-3-030-73275-2.
  • ZAVRŠNIK, Aleš. Algorithmic Justice: Algorithms and Big Data in Criminal JusticeSettings. European Journal of Criminology, 18.9.2019,
  • ŠARF, Pika. Zagotavljanje kibernetske varnosti v okviru Skupne zunanje in varnostne politike Pravnik : revija za pravno teorijo in prakso, ISSN 0032-6976. [Tiskana izd.], 2020, letn. 75, št. 1/2, str. 89-110, 117-118. ID 17186897
  • Križnar. P.: Kazenske sankcije in algoritmi: Kaznovanje v1.0, Revija za kriminalistiko in kriminologijo, letn. 70, št. 1, 2019. ID: 3695082
  • Križnar. P.: Načelo (ne)enakosti pri izrekanju kazenskih sankcij, Pravna praksa, 38(38/39), 2019. ID: 16957265
  • ZAVRŠNIK, A. Empatična tehnologija in vladavina algoritmov. Pravna praksa, 19.7 2018, 37(28/29). ID 16240977
  • ZAVRŠNIK, A. Pravna subjektiviteta umetne inteligence. Pravna praksa, 8.11.2018, 37(43). ID 16506961
  • ZAVRŠNIK, A. Napad na informacijski sistem: 221. člen. V: KOROŠEC, D. (ur.), et al. Veliki znanstveni komentar posebnega dela Kazenskega zakonika. Uradni list RS: PF. 2019, knj. 2, s. 676-708. ID 16746321
  • ZAVRŠNIK, A.; ŠARF, P. Zloraba informacijskega sistema: 237. člen. V: KOROŠEC, D. (ur.), et al. Veliki znanstveni komentar posebnega dela Kazenskega zakonika. Uradni list RS: PF. 2019, knj. 2, s. 918-943. ID 16749905



Prispevki na mednarodnih konferencah 
• ZAVRŠNIK, A. Algorithmic Justice, konf. Cyberspace2019, 27-28.11.19. ID 2176590
• BADALIČ, V. Humans, autonomous weapons systems & the assault on key principles of international humanitarian law, European group for the study of deviance and social control conference, 4-6.9.19, Barcelona. ID 2187598
• PLESNIČAR, M.M. Delivering justice in an age of algorithims. V: Redesigning justice. Oxford: Howard League for Penal Reform, 2018. ID 2068814
• PLESNIČAR, M.M.; ŠARF, P. Big data, A. I. and algorithms and the fight against impunity, konf. The fight against impunity in EU law, 14-15.2.19, Turino. ID 2138958
• ZAVRŠNIK, A. konf. Artificial intelligence and human rights: Legal challenges, Academy of European Law, Bruselj, 15.4.19. ID 2132046
• ZAVRŠNIK, A. Automated Justice: implications for human rights, konf. European group for the study of deviance and social control, 22.-24.8.18, Ljubljana. ID 2064206
• BADALIČ, Vasja. The New Definition of Imminent Threat and Its Impact of the Use of Armed Force: prispevek na 75th Annual Meeting American Society of Criminology, November 13-16, 2019, San Francisco, CA. [ID 2178638]
• PLESNIČAR, M.M, ŠARF, Pika. Shaming the shamers : a case study of an online campaign and its social significance : prispevek na simpoziju Vigilant audiences: an international symposium on scrunity, denunciation and shaming in digital media use v organizaciji Department of Media and Communication, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, 3.-4. oktober, 2018. [ID 2068302]  

Prispevki na domačih konferencah

• ZAVRŠNIK, A. Pogled Sveta Evrope na uporabo umetne inteligence v kazenskem pravosodju, 11. konf. kazenskega prava in kriminologije, 4.-5.12.18, Portorož. ID 2098254
• Šarf, P. in Križnar, P.: Vpeljava algoritmov v kazenski postopek, 11. konf. kazenskega prava in kriminologije, 4.-5.12. 2018, Portorož.
• ZAVRŠNIK, Aleš. Umetna inteligenca – implikacije za človekove pravice. Jesenska šola Pravo pred izzivi digitalne (r)evolucije, Pravna fakulteta, 25.-27.9.2019, Ljubljana. ID 2153550
• ZAVRŠNIK, Aleš. Umetna inteligenca in kazenska odgovornost, 45. Dnevi slovenskih pravnikov, Portorož, 10.-12.10.2019. ID 2172238
• ZAVRŠNIK, Aleš. Izbrane dileme algoritmične pravičnosti, Simpozij za pravno in socialno filozofijo 2018, Pravna fakulteta, Ljubljana, 5.10.18.ID 2080078 
• ŠARF, P.: Avtomatizacija nadzora na območju svobode, varnosti in pravice, 12. konf. kazenskega prava in kriminologije, Portorož, 3.-4.12.19. ID 2163278
• Križnar. P.: Načelo (ne)enakosti pri izrekanju kazenskih sankcij, Jesenska šola Pravo pred izzivi digitalne (r)evolucije, Pravna fakulteta v Lj., 25.-27.9.19
• PLESNIČAR, M.M., SKOČAJ, D. Odločanje človeka vs. odločanje stroja, Jesenska šola Pravo pred izzivi digitalne (r)evolucije, Pravna fakulteta v Lj., 25.-27.9.19. ID 2154062
• GORKIČ, Primož. Prikriti preiskovalni ukrepi po ZKP N: predavanje na Izobraževalnih tožilskih dnevih Portorož, 2. dec. 2019. ID 17066321
• GORKIČ, Primož. Informacijska tehnologija in temeljni postulati kazenskega prava : prispevek na 12. konferenci kazenskega prava in kriminologije, Portorož, Grand Hotel Bernardin, 3. in 4. december 2019. ID 2163534  

Okrogle mize

• BRODNIK, A.; GROZNIK, A.; ZAVRŠNIK, A.; VEBERIČ, J.; GRILC, P.: Avtonomna vozila: informatika, ekonomija, pravo in zavarovanje, XVII. dnevi civilnega in gospodarskega prava, Portorož, 25.-26. 4.19. ID 2139214
• BRATKO, I.; ZAVRŠNIK, A.; SKOČAJ, D.; RIBIČIČ, C.: Umetna inteligenca, avtonomna orožja in možnost prevzema oblasti, Pravna fakulteta v Ljubljani, 10.10.18. ID 2080334

  • BADALIČ, V. Sprijazniti se moramo s tem, da ljudje tuje okupacije ne sprejemajo. Dnevnikov objektiv. 22.2.20, 70(43). ID 24764210
  • ŠARF, P. Zasebnosti smo se prostovoljno odpovedali, (Odbita do bita). Ljubljana: RTV SLO, 2020. ID 2203214
  • ŠARF, P. Vsakokratno branje drobnega tiska bi nam vzelo 8 let življenja, (Odbita do bita). RTV SLO, 2020. ID 2202958
  • ŠARF, P. Prevzeti moramo del odgovornosti, ker nam ni vseeno za zasebnost, (Odbita do bita). RTV SLO. ID 2203470
  • MARTIČ, Z.; RIBIČIČ, C.; BRATKO, I.; ZAVRŠNIK, A.: Nevarnost umetne inteligence. RTV SLO, 2018. Akcènt. ID 2079310
  • ZAVRŠNIK, A. Algorithmic justice., Univerza v Lublinu, 30.5.19. ID 2139470
  • ZAVRŠNIK, A. Algorithms and criminal justice, Univerza v Strasbourgu, 29.1.19. ID 2139726
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