Rights Group Calling on UN to Ban the Use of ‘Killer Robots’

Amnesty International has joined other rights groups–including Human Rights Watch–in calling for the United Nations to institute an outright international ban on the use of “killer robots”, which they define as fully autonomous weapons systems.

“Killer robots are no longer the stuff of science fiction,” Rasha Abdul Rahim, a researcher on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights at Amnesty International said. “From artificially intelligent drones to automated guns that can choose their own targets, technological advances in weaponry are far outpacing international law.”

The prominent rights group is pushing countries to formulate a plan and start taking action at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) meeting taking place from August 27-31 in Geneva.

According to Amnesty’s plea to the UN, a majority of the states at the last CCW meeting in April argued for retaining human control over weaponry and the use of forces, as well as offering support to international laws banning the use of lethal autonomous weapons systems.

But a laundry list of powerful nations opposed any legally binding limitations placed on the use of autonomous weaponry, many of whom already develop and deploy lethal autonomous robots, including France, Israel, the US, Russia, and the UK.

Amnesty and other rights groups pushing the ban argue that fully autonomous weapons will not be able to comply with international law with the full range of complex decision making as humans.

They warn that killer machines will not be able to “analyse the intentions behind people’s actions, to assess and respond to often dynamic and unpredictable situations, or make complex decisions about the proportionality or necessity of an attack.”

They are also cautioning states at the UN against using autonomous weapons for not only the battlefield but also in law enforcement.

“The use of fully autonomous weapons in law enforcement without effective and meaningful human control would be incompatible with international human rights law, and could lead to unlawful killings, injuries and other violations of human rights. We are calling on states to take concrete steps to halt the spread of these dangerous weapons, both on the streets and on the battlefield, before it’s too late.”

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