• Many urgent arms-related challenges should be addressed to protect civilians affected by conflict and its deadly legacy.  Antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions have been prohibited outright, but the ban treaties need to be universalized and complied with fully.  Militaries use a wide-range of explosive weapons—artillery, rockets, mortars, air-delivered bombs and more—in populated areas, frequently causing indiscriminate harm to civilians. Incendiary weapons cause painful and cruel injuries, yet they continue to be used. The development of fully autonomous weapons—“killer robots”—that could select and engage targets without human intervention need to be stopped to prevent a future of warfare and policing outside of human control and responsibility. Human Rights Watch investigates these and other problematic weapons systems and works to develop and monitor international standards to protect civilians from armed violence.

  • The next generation of weapons in military arsenals could be "killer robots," machines that would select and destroy specific targets without further human intervention. But if a robot broke the law, who would be held responsible? Would the programmer, manufacturer, military commander, or robot end up in court?
    Programmers, manufacturers, and military personnel could all escape liability for unlawful deaths and injuries caused by fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots,” Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report was issued in advance of a multilateral meeting on the weapons at the United Nations in Geneva.

Reports

Arms

  • Jun 22, 2015
    Both the government of Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists have used cluster munitions in eastern Ukraine since mid-2014, causing numerous casualties, damaging infrastructure, and leaving a deadly legacy of unexploded submunitions that will endanger civilians for years to come until and unless they are cleared and destroyed.
  • Jun 18, 2015
    Tens of thousands of civilians are killed and injured every year from the use in populated areas of explosive weapons, such as mortars, rockets, artillery projectiles, and aircraft bombs, including barrel bombs.
  • Jun 18, 2015
    Extensive civilian casualties caused by the use of explosive weapons in towns and cities around the globe show the urgent need for countries to agree to curb the use of these weapons in populated areas, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
  • Jun 3, 2015

    The Syrian government renewed its use of apparent toxic chemicals in several barrel bomb attacks in Idlib governorate in April and May 2015, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch interviewed local doctors and first aid responders to the sites of three attacks and analyzed photographs and videos of weapon remnants. The attacks were in violation of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, the laws of armed conflict, and a 2015 United Nations Security Council resolution.

  • May 31, 2015
    Banned cluster munitions have wounded civilians including a child in attacks in Houthi-controlled territory in northern Yemen.
  • May 28, 2015
    What would happen if countries took a step beyond remote-controlled drones and used weapons that targeted and killed people on their own, without any human intervention? Who would be responsible if one of these weapons made a fatal mistake, and who could be punished? The answer is no one.
  • May 18, 2015
  • May 13, 2015
    Pro-Houthi forces have launched apparently dozens of artillery rockets from northern Yemen indiscriminately into southern Saudi Arabia since May 5, 2015. At least 12 civilians have been killed and over a dozen others wounded, Saudi government sources said. Residents of the Saudi border city of Najran confirmed official government and media accounts that the strikes damaged both military and civilian structures there.
  • May 6, 2015
    The Sudanese government’s persistent indiscriminate air attacks in the Nuba Mountains area of Southern Kordofan are killing and maiming children.
  • May 5, 2015
    When it comes to banning “killer robots,” the United States is going to take some convincing. That was one major take-away from April’s multilateral meeting on the matter where a US delegation joined 90 other nations at the United Nations in Geneva to discuss what to do about the development of “lethal autonomous weapons systems.”