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(Geneva) – Countries at an international conference on conventional weapons agreed on November 14, 2014, to further discuss concerns raised about fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots,” Human Rights Watch said today. However, greater urgency is needed to address the threat these weapons pose.

The 118 nations that are part of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) agreed by consensus to reconvene at the United Nations in Geneva on April 13-17, 2015, to continue deliberations that started earlier in 2014 on questions relating to “lethal autonomous weapons systems.” These weapons have not yet been developed, but technology is moving rapidly toward increasing autonomy.

“By continuing the talks, countries are acknowledging the many concerns raised by autonomous warfare, but the technology is moving faster than the international response,” said Mary Wareham, arms advocacy director at Human Rights Watch and coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. “These talks should lead to a new international treaty to ensure that humans retain control of targeting and attack decisions.”

The states parties to the CCW include countries known to be advanced in autonomous weaponry, such as the United States, China, Israel, Russia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Adopted in 1980, this framework convention contains five protocols, including protocol IV, which pre-emptively banned blinding lasers.

Human Rights Watch supports any action to urgently address fully autonomous weapons in any forum. Continued work in the CCW could prove significant in addressing the dangers posed by these weapons.

Human Rights Watch is a co-founder of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, an international coalition of nongovernmental groups launched in April 2013 that seeks a pre-emptive ban on weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention. 

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