‘Killer robots’

GENEVA, Switzerland — The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots welcomes the recent historic decision taken by nations to begin international discussions on how to address the challenges posed by fully autonomous weapons. The discussions, May 13-16, here mark the beginning of a process that should lead to an international ban on these weapons to ensure meaningful human control will exist in targeting decisions and use of violent force.

Robotic weapons systems should not be making life and death decisions on the battlefield.

Last November, states parties to the Convention on Conventional Weapons agreed to convene for their first meeting to discuss questions related to “lethal autonomous weapons systems,” also known as fully autonomous weapons or “killer robots.”

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots believes that robotic weapons systems should not be making life and death decisions on the battlefield. That would be inherently wrong, morally and ethically.

These weapons have not yet been developed, but technology is moving rapidly toward increasing autonomy, according to the campaign. It predicted that fully autonomous weapons are likely to run afoul of international humanitarian law.

The campaign said serious technical, proliferation, societal, and other concerns make a preemptive ban necessary.

Convention on Conventional Weapons

A total of 117 states are party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, including nations known to be advanced in developing autonomous weapons systems: United States, China, Israel, Russia, South Korea, and United Kingdom.

The agreement … could lead to a Protocol VI prohibiting fully autonomous weapons.

Adopted in 1980, this framework convention contains five protocols, including Protocol I prohibiting non-detectable fragments, Protocol III prohibiting the use of air-dropped incendiary weapons in populated areas, and Protocol IV, which preemptively banned blinding lasers.

The agreement to begin work in the Convention on Conventional Weapons could lead to a Protocol VI prohibiting fully autonomous weapons.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots supports any action to urgently address fully autonomous weapons in any forum. The decision to begin work in the Convention on Conventional Weapons does not prevent work elsewhere, such as the Human Rights Council.

Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

The agreement to begin an international process on these weapons came just seven months after the launch of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a global coalition of 45 non-governmental organizations in 22 countries that is coordinated by Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch.

The campaign calls for a pre-emptive and comprehensive ban on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons.

Since the topic was first discussed at the Human Rights Council on May 30, last year, more than 40 countries have spoken publicly on fully autonomous weapons. All these nations that expressed interest and concern at the challenges and dangers posed by fully autonomous weapons.

Develop national policies

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots urges nations to prepare for extensive and intensive work both within the Convention on Conventional Weapons and outside its context. We urge states to develop national policies, and to respond to the call by Prof. Christof Heyns, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, for national moratoria on fully autonomous weapons.

The new process must be underscored by a sense of urgency, according to the campaign.

For more information, including states that have spoken on the issue, resources and speakers, go to the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

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