Killer Robots

Stop Killer Robots: the campaign’s outreach to the UN

Members of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots met for a major outreach event in Geneva in May, supporting the delivery of the UN expert report on lethal autonomous robotic weapons at the Human Rights Council.

The campaign’s outreach targeted governments, media, civil society and UN representatives, hoping to start a broad international discussion on the issue of “killer robots” and bring together as many countries and parties as possible.

Featuring: Christof Heyns and campaign representatives Mary Wareham and Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch, Peter Asaro of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, and Beatrice Fihn, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Shot and edited by Sharron Ward, for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots

The delivery of the 22-page report by Professor Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, was also a platform for the first-ever debate about the challenges posed by these fully autonomous weapons at the Human Rights Council.

“To avoid future harm states must take action now to stop the creation of weapons that would choose and fire on targets on their own without meaningful human supervision or control,” said Dr. Peter Asaro of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, a founding member of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. “As the UN report warns, ‘If left too long to its own devices, the matter will, quite literally, be taken out of human hands.’”

Beatrice Fihn, representing the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, told the Human Rights Council:

“We believe that human control of over the use of violent force is essential for ensuring the protection for civilians. The campaign is calling for a comprehensive ban on fully autonomous weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without meaningful human intervention. This prohibition should be achieved through an international treaty on these fully autonomous weapons as well as through national laws and other measures.

“The campaign welcomes the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on ‘lethal autonomous robotic weapons.’ We share the multiple moral, ethical, legal, policy, technical, and other concerns that the report raises with respect to these weapons.

We agree that the central question that must be asked is “whether it is not inherently wrong to let autonomous machines decide who and when to kill.” We note that the UN report describes this question as an “overriding consideration” and states “if the answer is negative, no other consideration can justify the deployment of [lethal autonomous robotics], no matter the level of technical competence at which they operate.”

It is now governments’ turn to step up and implement the report’s recommendations – as a first step towards a ban of such weapons.

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