UK & World News

  • 12 May 2014, 14:20

'Ban Killer Robots' Before They Even Exist

Fully autonomous weapons - or 'killer robots' - should be banned before they even exist, an international lobbying group has said.

The Campaign To Stop Killer Robots, which is a coalition of 51 organisations from 24 countries, has made the argument on the eve of a meeting which will begin at the United Nations in Geneva on Tuesday.

It will be the first multilateral meeting on the future of such weapons.

The group has called for an international treaty banning the research and development of killer robots before technology moves too far forward.

To coincide with this intervention Human Rights Watch - one of the group's founding members - has released a report claiming that autonomous robots would violate basic human rights.

It concluded: "Deficiencies in judgement, compassion, and capacity to identify with human beings could lead to arbitrary killing of civilians during law enforcement of armed conflict operations.

"Robots could not be punished, and superior officers, programmers and manufacturers would all be likely to escape liability.

"Finally, as machines, fully autonomous weapons could not comprehend or respect the inherent dignity of human beings."

The debate in Geneva will take place during an informal gathering of experts on the fringes of the well-established UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

A report of the debate will then be presented at a later meeting in November.

The argument for autonomous robots tends to centre around the ability to spare the lives of soldiers or others putting themselves in the way of the enemy.

So far, drones are the closest the world has come to autonomous weapons, however they have never operated free of human control.

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