Human Rights Watch seeks treaty banning 'killer robots'

Joanna Estrada
August 12, 2020

HRW said a "growing number of countries" sensed a duty to act on stopping fully autonomous weapons.

Human Rights Watch said Monday it was seeking a new global treaty to halt the race towards fully autonomous weapons, claiming a growing number of countries wanted an outright ban.

Although it does not name the United Kingdom among the countries calling for an outright ban on autonomous weapons, the report says the United Kingdom policy is that there must always be "human oversight" when using such weapons, but notes it is developing some "autonomous solutions" in weapons systems.

She said 97 countries' active engagement in the CCW talks demonstrates growing concerns about removing human control from the use of force that can involve a variety of weapons, including drones. The majority of the countries agreed that decision-making and human control are important to the legality and acceptability of weapons systems.

The research by Human Rights Watch said 30 countries had now expressed a desire for an global treaty introduced which says human control must be retained over the use of force.

The report shows that rising concerns over fully autonomous weapons, also known as lethal autonomous weapon systems and Wareham it illustrates how these "have risen up the multilateral agenda".

A growing number of policymakers, artificial intelligence experts, private companies, global and domestic organizations, and ordinary individuals have endorsed the call to ban fully autonomous weapons. "All countries need to respond with urgency by opening negotiations on a new global ban treaty". From 2014 to 2019, countries have participated in several meetings of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

Decisions at the CCW are taken by consensus, so a few or even a single country can block progress measures on the regulation of killer robots, and the USA and Russian Federation lead the blocking. According to the report, the countries calling for the ban include: Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China (use only), Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Djibouti, Ecuador, El Salvador, Egypt, Ghana, Guatemala, the Holy See, Iraq, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, the State of Palestine, Uganda, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

Yet, a small number of military powers - most notably Russian Federation and the United States - have blocked progress towards regulation, while they also invest heavily in the military applications of artificial intelligence and developing air, land, and sea-based autonomous weapons systems.

The non-governmental organisation (NGO) said 30 countries are now explicitly seeking a ban, after compiling an overview of 97 nations with a stated position on the use and development of what it termed "killer robots". HRW's report was prepared ahead of this year's first CCW, which was slated for August 10 but has now been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Experts said that the world must come together to stop the killer robots, which could pose a grave threat to humanity.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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