• Fully autonomous weapons, also known as "killer robots," would be able to select and engage targets without human intervention. Precursors to these weapons, such as armed drones, are being developed and deployed by nations including China, Israel, South Korea, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. It is questionable that fully autonomous weapons would be capable of meeting international humanitarian law standards, including the rules of distinction, proportionality, and military necessity, while they would threaten the fundamental right to life and principle of human dignity. Human Rights Watch calls for a preemptive ban on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons.

    Human Rights Watch is a founding member and serves as global coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

  • The United Kingdom’s Taranis combat aircraft, whose prototype was unveiled in 2010, is designed to strike distant targets, “even in another continent.” While the Ministry of Defence has stated that humans will remain in the loop, the Taranis exemplifies the move toward increased autonomy.

    Governments should pre-emptively ban fully autonomous weapons because of the danger they pose to civilians in armed conflict.


Killer Robots

  • Aug 21, 2014
    This month marks 100 years since the beginning of World War One. For many working to advance humanitarian disarmament, it is a time to reflect on the changing nature of warfare over the past century and consider whether the dire situation faced by civilian victims of warfare is likely to get any better in the future. How will civilians be affected by the introduction of increasingly autonomous military technologies that place human soldiers ever further away from the field of operation and perhaps one day remove them altogether?
  • Jun 10, 2014
    Fully autonomous weapons, which could select and fire on targets without meaningful human intervention, have the potential to revolutionize the nature of warfare, bringing greater speed and reach to military operations. In the process, though, this emerging technology could endanger both civilians and soldiers.
  • May 23, 2014
    New weapons that could revolutionize killing are on the horizon. Lethal autonomous weapons systems, also called fully autonomous weapons or “killer robots,” would go beyond today’s armed drones. They would be able to select and fire on targets without meaningful human intervention. In other words, they could determine themselves when to take a human life.
  • May 16, 2014
    Governments are increasingly recognizing the potential dangers posed by fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots,” Human Rights Watch said today. The first multilateral meeting on the weapon systems concluded on May 16, 2014, at the United Nations in Geneva.
  • May 15, 2014
    Human Rights Watch appreciates the discussions we have had yesterday and today on the international humanitarian law implications of lethal autonomous weapons systems. With all due respect, however, we want it to be clear that there are legal experts with different points of view than those on the panel. We see the weapons’ inability to comply with existing law as a major problem and the possibility of adopting new law as the best solution.
  • May 15, 2014
    This session raises two areas of great concern to Human Rights Watch: the accountability gap created by fully autonomous weapons and the human rights implications of the weapons.
  • May 13, 2014
    Human Rights Watch is one of the founders of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, and Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch is the global coordinator of the Campaign. We welcome discussions on fully autonomous weapons in any forum, and we hope, for example, that there will continue to be work on this issue in the Human Rights Council.
  • May 13, 2014
    This paper seeks to advance the discussions about fully autonomous weapons by elaborating on the call for a ban and addressing head on the main arguments against such a ban. In so doing, it seeks to add depth and nuance to the case against these weapons.
  • May 12, 2014
    Fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots,” would jeopardize basic human rights, whether used in wartime or for law enforcement, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today, on the eve of the first multilateral meeting on the subject at the United Nations.
  • May 7, 2014
    For more than a decade, serious concern has been raised about civilian victims of drone strikes, yet there is still little transparency or accountability, and the attacks continue. A strike in December on a wedding procession in Yemen killed 12 men and wounded at least 15 other people, including the bride.