• 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 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.

Reports

Arms

  • Apr 1, 2015
    The airstrikes by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that hit a displaced persons’ camp in northern Yemen on March 30, 2015, raised grave concerns about violations of the laws of war. The airstrikes killed at least 29 civilians and wounded 41, including 14 children and 11 women. They hit a medical facility at the camp, a local market, and a bridge, according to initial reports from the World Health Organization.
  • Mar 28, 2015
    The Saudi Arabia-led coalition of Arab countries that conducted airstrikes in Yemen on March 26 and 27, 2015, killed at least 11 and possibly as many as 34 civilians during the first day of bombings in Sanaa, the capital, Human Rights Watch said today. The 11 dead included 2 children and 2 women. Saudi and other warplanes also carried out strikes on apparent targets in the cities of Saada, Hodaida, Taiz, and Aden.
  • Mar 19, 2015
  • Mar 19, 2015
    Government and Russia-backed rebel forces repeatedly used cluster munitions in eastern Ukraine in January and February 2015, killing at least 13 civilians, including at least two children. The use of cluster munitions in populated areas violates the laws of war due to the weapon’s indiscriminate nature and may constitute a war crime.
  • Mar 14, 2015
    There is credible evidence of the use of banned cluster bombs in at least two locations in Libya since December 2014.
  • Feb 24, 2015
    The Syrian government has carried out hundreds of new indiscriminate attacks over the past year with air-delivered munitions, including improvised weapons such as barrel bombs. The attacks have had a devastating impact on civilians, killing or injuring thousands of people.
  • Feb 16, 2015
    Donetsk: ‘Did they come to an agreement?’ Sergey, my driver, asked anxiously as soon as I got into the car at 8 a.m. on Thursday. We had several hours of driving ahead of us so I read aloud from my Twitter feed to him during the trip. ‘Looks like they did … oh, wait … they went back. Proposed terms are not acceptable, Poroshenko says.’ Sergey’s face fell. He crossed himself, swore out loud, then apologised. ‘I just want this to be over. Can’t they have some vodka in Minsk, shake hands and stop doing this to the people?’
  • Feb 13, 2015
  • Feb 10, 2015
  • Feb 4, 2015