• Fully autonomous weapons, also known as "killer robots," would be able to select and engage targets without human intervention. Fully autonomous weapons do not exist yet, but they are being developed by several countries and precursors to fully autonomous weapons have already been deployed by high-tech militaries. Some experts predict that fully autonomous weapons could be operational in 20 to 30 years. These weapons would be incapable of meeting international humanitarian law standards, including the rules of distinction, proportionality, and military necessity. The weapons would not be constrained by the capacity for compassion, which can provide a key check on the killing of civilians. Fully autonomous weapons also raise serious questions of accountability because it is unclear who should be held responsible for any unlawful actions they commit. Human Rights Watch calls for a preemptive prohibition on fully autonomous weapons.

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

  • 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.

Featured Content

Reports

Arms

  • Apr 10, 2014
    The Mine Ban Treaty has been successful in no small part because it has been characterized by the adoption of creative, flexible, and adaptable informal structures and mechanisms to carry out its work. It has operated this way in order to maximize the humanitarian impact of the treaty.
  • Apr 9, 2014
    Statement made by Steve Goose at the intersessional meeting of the Mine Ban Treaty in Geneva
  • Apr 8, 2014
    Memorandum to Mine Ban Treaty Delegates, April 2014
  • Apr 7, 2014
    The requirement to develop national implementation measures to give full effect to the Convention on Cluster Munitions is absolutely vital, but it has not been given the priority it deserves by many States Parties.
  • Apr 4, 2014
    The Syrian government’s extensive use of cluster munitions has caused numerous casualties, damaged infrastructure, and is resulting in a deadly legacy of explosive remnants of war that will pose dangers to civilians for years to come. Human Rights Watch has identified at least 224 locations in 10 of Syria’s 14 governorates where cluster munitions have been used between July 2012 and March 2014.
  • Apr 4, 2014
    She was just six when a landmine exploded beneath her in a Cambodian rice paddy, destroying her right leg. We met when she was barely a teenager as she started advocating a ban on the weapon responsible and went on to play a central role in the international campaign that resulted in the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.
  • Apr 2, 2014
    The Obama administration should conclude its years-long review of US policy on antipersonnel landmines with a decision to ban the weapon and join the international ban treaty, Human Rights Watch said today, on the eve of the International Day for Mine Action.
  • Mar 28, 2014
    We are writing to urge you to promptly conclude the policy review on banning antipersonnel landmines so that the United States can announce the results by the Third Review Conference of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which opens in Maputo, Mozambique on June 23, 2014.
  • Mar 27, 2014
    We write to urge you to vote in favor of the Human Rights Council Resolution on ensuring use of remotely piloted aircraft or armed drones in counter-terrorism and military operations in accordance with international law, including international human rights and humanitarian law, A/HRC/25/L.32.
  • Mar 24, 2014
    New satellite imagery, videos and eyewitness accounts reveal the indiscriminate nature of the government’s large-scale air campaign on opposition-held parts of Aleppo since November 2013, Human Rights Watch said today. The attacks on populated areas in Aleppo and its countryside continue despite a UN Security Council resolution on February 22, 2014, demanding all parties cease “indiscriminate employment of weapons in populated areas, including shelling and aerial bombardment, such as the use of barrel bombs.”