(Geneva) – 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.
During the meeting, numerous governments expressed support for the need to ensure meaningful human control over targeting and attack decisions in warfare, Human Rights Watch said.
“There is now widespread recognition that ‘killer robots’ need to be urgently addressed,” said Mary Wareham, arms advocacy director at Human Rights Watch and coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. “The call for a preemptive ban on fully autonomous weapons systems has become a central feature of the debate.”
Fully autonomous weapons have not yet been developed, but technology is moving toward increasing autonomy. Such weapons would select and engage targets without further intervention by a human.
A total of 87 countries participated in the four-day Convention on Conventional Weapons meeting of experts on lethal autonomous weapons systems. The participants considered the technical, ethical and societal, legal, and operational concerns that the weapons raise.
At their next annual meeting, on November 14, the 117 nations that are part of the Convention on Conventional Weapons will need to decide whether to continue the process.
Human Rights Watch supports urgent action to address fully autonomous weapons in any forum and urges governments to agree to more formal and substantive work to negotiate a new Convention on Conventional Weapons protocol to preemptively ban the weapons.
The adoption in 1995 of an international protocol banning blinding lasers is a compelling example of a weapon being preemptively banned before it was fielded or used, Human Rights Watch said.
Human Rights Watch is a co-founder and coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, the global coalition of 51 nongovernmental organizations in two dozen countries that was created in April 2013. On May 12, 2014, 20 Nobel Peace laureates issued a joint statement endorsing the campaign’s call for a pre-emptive ban on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons.