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Campaign Urging to Stop Killer Robots

Call Growing for Treaty to Ban Killer Robots

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Technology, robot, inventions
The mock killer robot was displayed in London in April 2013 during the launching of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which calls for the ban of lethal robot weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention. (VOA)

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is urging the United Nations to begin talks on a legally binding treaty to ban the use and development of lethal autonomous weapons systems. Representatives from more than 70 countries are attending a weeklong meeting of the Convention on Conventional Weapons, or CCW, to recommend future work on this issue.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is a global coalition of 76 organizations in 32 countries. Members include Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Mines Action Canada and the Nobel Women’s Initiative. It began in April 2013 to pre-emptively ban lethal autonomous weapons systems, better known as killer robots.

Activists say momentum is building for states to negotiate a ban on the devices when the CCW holds its annual meeting in late November; however, the recommendation for further action is required during the current CCW meeting.

Since the last meeting in April, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots reports 26 countries have joined the call for a ban. It says China is agreeable to a partial ban on the use of these weapons, though not on their development, and Russia has announced its support for a non-binding agreement.

Robots
Robots. Pixabay

Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch, the coordinator of the campaign, says this is putting pressure on the United States and other countries to support a ban on fully autonomous weapons.

“All of the ingredients are there for states to take action now,” Wareham said. “It is just a matter of who is willing to be the bad guy and try and block this, and that is what we will know at the end of the week. … The CCW operates by consensus, and it is always an awkward thing to witness. We will find out on Friday if any country wants to block the consensus for the proposed mandate.”

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The proposed mandate is to negotiate a legally binding agreement by the end of 2019. During the last meeting, France, Israel, Russia, Britain and the United States emerged as potential spoilers — they all explicitly rejected moves to prohibit these weapons systems.

Activists say legally binding arrangements must be enacted to ensure human control over lethal fully autonomous weapons. To do otherwise, they say, would violate international ethical standards. They say it is not possible to hold killer robots accountable for acts that would amount to war crimes if triggered by a human. (VOA)

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Possibilities of UN Banning Killer Robots Looking Growingly Remote

Representatives from about 80 countries have been meeting on lethal autonomous weapons systems since 2014

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robots, UN
People take part in a 'Stop killer robots' campaign at Brandenburg gate in Berlin, Germany, March 21, 2019. VOA

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots warns chances of achieving a U.N. treaty banning the development, production and use of fully autonomous lethal weapons, also known as killer robots, are looking increasingly remote. Experts from some 80 countries are attending a weeklong meeting to discuss the prospect of negotiating an international treaty. Representatives from about 80 countries have been meeting on lethal autonomous weapons systems since 2014.

They have to decide by November to begin negotiations on a new treaty to regulate killer robots. Nobel peace laureate Jody Williams says Russia has been in the forefront of a group of countries, including the United States and Australia, trying to block movement in this direction. At the opening session, she tells VOA that Russia argued for drastically limiting discussions on the need for meaningful human control over lethal autonomous weapons.

“It is very unlikely as they finish up this year that there will be a mandate to meaningfully deal with meaningful human control, which is fundamental in our view to how you deploy such systems,” Williams said. “There would be no utility in continuing to come here and hear the same blah, blah, blah over and over again.”

UN, robots
Peter Asaro, left, of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, and Jody Williams of the Nobel Women’s Initiative speak to reporters at a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Aug. 27, 2018. VOA

Williams said the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots may have to resort to civil activism to get an accord banning killer robots. She said such tactics successfully achieved international treaties banning land mines and cluster munitions outside the United Nations framework.

But for now, the activists are not giving up on persuading U.N. member countries to take the right course. They said delegating life-and death decisions to machines crosses what they call a moral red line and should not be allowed to happen.

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They said they have strong support for their stance from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. In a statement to delegates attending the meeting, he warned of the dangers of giving machines the power and discretion to take lives without human involvement.

He called this morally repugnant and politically unacceptable. He said these weapons should be prohibited by international law. (VOA)